Three no.1 Bestsellers – Thanks Mrs Browne!

O’Brien Press Publisher Michael O’Brien talks about the rise and rise of Mrs Browne!

When Pat Egan, acclaimed entertainment agent, approached me in 1993 with a comic book proposal based on the characters in Brendan O’Carroll’s RTE 2FM radio series Mrs Browne’s Boys, I was hooked. They radio segments were only five minutes long, but the characters were vibrant and funny: we all realised they had all had rich lives that were worth exploring and telling.

Brendan’s career then took a major lift with his first appearance (of many!) on Gay Byrne’s Late Late Show on RTE TV – hugely entertaining and memorable.

Brendan and I pledged together that we would make The Mammy a bestseller and take Agnes Browne to number 1 in the charts: to do this took nerve, belief and a lot of creative thinking! We did everything: a striking 36 copy display for every bookshop in Ireland, posters, radio adverts and a big launch in the Tivoli Theatre.

The Mammy was published on 4 September 1994 – we printed 10,000 copies – it reprinted another 10,000 a month later and another 10,000 in December, hitting the no.1 slot and holding it for 36 weeks.

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Angelica Huston loved the books and characters and made her directorial debut with Agnes Browne. The film set was Ringsend Village and I met Angelica there with her three ‘accent advisors’ from Moore Street: the real McCoy! It was really colourful and exciting. In November 1999, we added a film tie-in cover – freaturing Angelica Huston playing Agnes Browne – for an amazing ninth printing: another 10,000 copies. At the star-studded premiere in The Savoy and Angelica insisted on having a photo taken with the book publisher (me!).

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We encouraged Brendan to tell more of Agnes’ story: the story continued with The Chisellers (October 1995: 25,000 first printing) and The Granny (October 1996: 25,000 first printing. All three books were no.1 bestsellers.

Brendan recorded audio versions of both The Mammy and The Chisellers. Originally on audio cassettes, they are now available on CD and as audio download.

But that’s not all! Through our attending major book fairs – Frankfurt, London, NY – in tandem with our international rights agents –a we sold the trilogy globally: USA, Australia, Spain, Belgium, Czech, France, Denmark, Poland, China, etc but the crowning glory is Italy, where The Mammy sold over 100,000 copies.

And then, of course, came Mrs Brown’s Boys, a hugely popular, multi-BAFTA Award Winning TV series. One of the most popular series on the BBC, it has brought Agnes and her family across the English-speaking world, leading to the recent Australia and New Zealand publication of the trilogy by to Hardy Grant, who are promoting the trilogy.

Brendan is a huge popular success that the critics love to hate. His play The Course was rejected by the Dublin Theatre Festival, so he produced it himself in the Tivoli: it ran for months. Mrs Brown’s Boys was derided before the public made it clear that they loved it: and who knows what the critics will say about D’Movie, coming to a big screen near you soon? It coincides with the 20th anniversary of the first publication of The Mammy and O’Brien Press’s 40th Anniversary, and we know it will be a massive hit with the public.

Congratulations Brendan, you deserve all your success!

Michael O’Brien

The Mrs. Browne Trilogy