Steve MacDonogh: an appreciation

I first met Steve MacDonogh in 1974, when I started The O’Brien Press. During the 1960s, Steve was a key player in the founding of the Irish Writers Co-op, who first published the fiction of Neil Jordan, Robert Hogan, Leland Bandwell and other emerging talents. As new Irish publishing sprang up in the 1970s, Steve was like a mature tree in the forest of saplings. His brilliant publishing philosophy was put into action with Brandon Books, based in his beloved Dingle in Kerry; diverse, ethical and innovative, Brandon published Alice Taylor’s childhood memoirs, Gerry Adams’ fiction and radical literature, and Ken Bruen’s brilliant noir fiction – all to international acclaim.

I met Steve twice in the last month of his life, and each event exemplified his brilliance. At our Publishing Ireland International Committee meeting he explained his ideas on developing new markets in Asia (Korea, China and India) and shared his extensive knowledge of European and American publishing, where he had many friends. The other event was the launch of Joel Hynes’ novel in Dublin’s Gutter Bookshop, where Joel, like a young Brendan Behan, read his brilliantly brutal fiction. Steve had brought the award-winning Newfoundland writer to Ireland for a promotional tour. When I asked Steve why he published writing talent from the edges of the world, and in translation too, he simply said ‘It’s really important. Someone has to do it.’

In Frankfurt last month, Steve invited some publishing colleagues for a drink on the hotel ship on the Main. He was so happy to show us photos of his beautiful little daughter Lilya and his wife Meryem and her extended family in Morocco.

Steve’s sudden death on 17 November, at the age of just sixty-two, is a terrible, sad loss. It’s impossible to describe how much we will all miss you, Steve. Your wonderful publishing legacy lives on in your books like a great Arbutus tree, the native strawberry tree of Kerry – forever green.

Michael O’Brien
The O’Brien Press, Dublin