O'Brien to publish McGuinness novel

O’Brien Press is publishing renowned playwright Frank McGuinness’ début novel to relaunch its literary fiction imprint Brandon Books to a “worldwide audience”.

Arimathea by McGuinness (2nd September, £12.99) is set in 1940s Donegal and tells the story of a young Italian painter, Gianni, who comes to Ireland to paint the Stations of the Cross at the local church, and the Irish family who reluctantly take him into their home.

The young Italian arrives with dark skin, unusual habits, but also his solitude and his own peculiar personal history, and is a source of fascination for the entire community.

O’Brien Press publisher Michael O’Brien [pictured] said Arimathea is a “significant event . . . McGuinness is a huge name and an established brand”.

The award-winning, internationally acclaimed playwright’s works include “Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme”, “The Factory Girls” and “Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me”, as well as other plays, adaptations and screenplays, including most recently the 2013 stage production of James Joyce’s The Dead.

The relaunched Brandon Books imprint was taken over by O’Brien following the death of its founder, Steve MacDonogh, in 2010. O’Brien said that despite the fact that it has published more than 2,000 titles, this is its first time publishing literary fiction.

O’Brien and his father, Tom, a poet, founded O’Brien Books in 1974. “Since then, we have published in about 20 different genres, but not adult literary fiction,” he said. “Brandon Fiction will fulfil our ambition to see Irish creative writing secure a world audience from Dublin . . . there is so much literary talent, and we are the leading independent publisher.”

Two titles will follow Arimathea: Mary Morrissy’s The Rising of Bella Casey (12th September, £9.99 p/b) is a fictionalised tale following the real-life sister of playwright Sean O’Casey—in his autobiography, O’Casey claimed Bella had died a decade earlier than she did; and Hunting Shadows (12th September, £8.99 p/b), a crime fiction novel from Sheila Bugler set in south-east London. More titles are due to come from Brandon Books next year.

“People are negative about the future of literary publishing and the future of the book and are reducing their lists,” O’Brien said. “But we believe that we can achieve world reach with our list.

“Brandon Fiction will include acclaimed names and new talent in literary, contemporary, historical and crime fiction and will continue to honour Steve MacDonogh.”