Fifty years after the event, here is the first full account of an audacious publishing decision that - with the help of booksellers and readers around the country - forced the end of literary censorship in Australia.
Patrick Mullins is a Canberra-based academic and writer. He has a PhD from the University of Canberra, and his first book, Tiberius with a Telephone, a biography of former prime minister William McMahon, was published by Scribe in 2018.
"Anyone interested in Australian history, politics and books
generally will find much food for thought in this entertaining,
well-researched and carefully written history."
--Julia Taylor, Books+Publishing
"The finely detailed story of the legal fight in Australia
against the censorship of Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint."
--Sean O'Beirne, The Monthly
"Mullins's compelling account of these last days of the
old censorship regime skilfully draws on a rich range of sources,
including interviews with many of the key figures involved. He
gives an insight not just into how the system operated and the
politics involved, but also into a significant cultural moment in
--Amanda Laugesen, Inside Story
"Mullins has applied his skills in thorough research,
forensic examination of evidence and a light wit to the numerous
trials in different States which, in 1970-71, determined whether
sales of Portnoy's Complaint should be permitted in Australia."
--Mark Thomas, The Canberra Times
"[A] literary detective story with a difference."
--Craig Munro, The Australian
"The Trials of Portnoy, tells the true story of how
Portnoy's Complaint was declared illegal throughout the
Commonwealth, and how, eventually, it became a book we were allowed
to own and read...The real treat of The Trials of Portnoy though,
is to see how many people were willing to stand up in court and
make the always difficult argument for literature."
--Sean O'Beirne, The Monthly
"The Trials of Portnoy is full of the juice and drama and
hilarity of the courtroom...Patrick Mullins has written an utterly
diverting account of a bit of ancient Australian literary
--Peter Craven, The Saturday Paper
"Patrick Mullins' latest effort provides the most detailed
account yet of this embarrassing moment in our inglorious
--Chris Dite, Readings
"'[A] wonderful account of how a group of brave
publishers, booksellers and academics brought down Australia's
ridiculous censorship regime."
--Barry Reynolds, Herald Sun
"Mullins draws on his skills as an academic and writer to
give an extraordinary rundown on these trials...[The Trials of
Portnoy] could well become the ultimate academic guide to the
changes to censorship in Australia."
--Fiona Myers, The Weekly Times "An illuminating tale about book censorship in Australia...Publishers and bookstores are the heroes in this...entertaining account of a 'hard-won' battle."
--Kirkus Reviews Praise for Tiberius with a Telephone
"This is, as others have remarked, biography at its best:
diligently researched, with detail nowhere else examined, and a
demonstration of fine judgement concerning the crucial interplay
between personal disposition, role demands, and historical
--James Walter, Australian Book Review
"A welcome addition to prime ministerial biography...An
engaging and informative read."
--Troy Bramston, The Australian
"This is the most detailed investigation and explanation
of what happened...Completing a biography of this scope is an
enormous undertaking, and Patrick Mullins does it with considerable
skill...Mullins conveys the turmoil, the atmosphere of crisis, the
bickering and the bloodletting that marked this extraordinary
period of Australian political history."
--David Solomon, Inside Story