Down the years, James Patrick Michael Donleavy has been portrayed in the Anglo-Irish press as a gentleman recluse with a roistering life of hard drinking, fisticuffs and harlotry behind him. It makes nice copy: the former ‘hell-raiser’ sequestered in his Georgian mansion in Westmeath, Ireland. James Joyce wrote about this country pile, Levington Park, in Stephen Hero having, apparently, stayed there as a boy while his father was working in nearby Mullingar. Yet while the ‘literary recluse’ shtick seems overstated, it may contain a germ of truth. After all, Donleavy has admitted himself that he rarely leaves his home, and once said that, of all his protagonists, the one he most resembles is the sadly humane George Smith from his paranoiac second novel, A Singular Man.