• Claire Squires


Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho was published in the UK by Picador in 1991. The subject of the novel, his third after Less Than Zero (1986) and The Rules of Attraction (1988), became infamous. In summary, it catalogues in frequently banal and occasionally lurid detail the life of Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street yuppie whose narrative is packed with the details of designer clothes, modish restaurants, and the torture and dismemberment of his (mostly) female victims.1 Ellis is an American writer, but the publishing history analysed here is principally of the UK publication and reception of his third novel. Nonetheless, it is worth noting the pre-publication trouble that the book ran into in the US. A report from The Times dated 19 November 1990 picked up the story:

A full-scale storm erupted in Manhattan’s literary village last week when Simon and Schuster, the publishers, decided to scrap the book just as it was about to be sent to the shops, on the grounds that it was just too shocking. Writers cried ‘censorship’, denouncing the publishers for caving in to the pressure of Paramount Communications, their new corporate owners […]

With advance publicity like that it took about a microsecond for Ellis to find a new publisher courageous enough to issue the book.2

The Independent on Sunday maintained The Times’s cynical tone in its report the following Sunday:

The end of the American Psycho saga turns out happy for all, depending on your point of view. Its original publisher are now the proud guardians of taste; Mr Mehta [head of Knopf] is the saviour of freedom of expression; and Mr Ellis is even richer.3


Publishing History Sunday Time Daily Telegraph Sales Team Book Award 
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    Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero (London: Picador, 1986; first published in the US in 1985), The Rules of Attraction (London: Picador, 1988; first published in the US in 1987).Google Scholar
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© Claire Squires 2007

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  • Claire Squires

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