Open main menu

The Seven Minutes is a novel by Irving Wallace published in 1969 and released by Simon & Schuster. The book is a fictional account of the effects of pornography and the related arguments about freedom of speech.

The Seven Minutes
First edition
AuthorIrving Wallace
CountryUnited States
Political science
GenreLegal thriller
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Published in English
September 29, 1969

Plot summaryEdit

A novel entitled The Seven Minutes, purporting to be the thoughts in a woman's mind during seven minutes of sexual intercourse, is reputed to be the most obscene piece of pornography ever written, with massive public debate as to whether or not the book should be banned. A bookseller named Ben Fredmont sells The Seven Minutes to Jeffrey Griffith, a college student with no history of violence. The book is found in Jeffrey's possession after his arrest for committing a brutal rape and murder.

District Attorney Elmo Duncan takes advantage of the public interest in the case and conspires to publicly link the The Seven Seconds with the Jeffrey Griffith trial. His plan is to not only ban the book, but to make possessing it illegal on the grounds of public morality and safety. Ultimately he wishes to use this platform of moral decency to unseat the current governor in an upcoming election. Luther Yerkes, a wealthy businessman who has clashed with the incumbent governor, secretly funds Duncan's censorship campaign. This leads to the arrest of Ben Fredmont for providing the book to Griffith, as well as legal action leveled at the book's publisher Phillips Sanford as he refuses to cooperate in an attempt to locate the pseudonymous author of the book, "J.J. Jadway." Sanford claims that the real Jadway committed suicide in Europe years before due to despondency over the book's reception.

Sanford, believing the book is an artistic masterpiece and that legal action represents a dangerous precedent, calls upon his old friend, attorney Michael Barrett, to defend Fredmont. This results in a landmark obscenity trial in which numerous witnesses are called to speak on the difference between artistic expression and obscenity and the public good versus freedom of choice.

Unexpectedly, a woman named Constance Cumberland, head of a vocal society for public decency, takes the stand in the book's defense. Cumberland reveals that she wrote The Seven Minutes based on a powerful sexual experience that changed her life. At the time she wrote the book, it would have been damaging for her to reveal herself as its author, therefore she invented the name "J.J. Jadway" and had her publisher, Phillip Sanford, spread rumors of Jadway's death to protect Cumberland's identity. In fact, much of her campaign for decency is motivated by a desire to separate sexual openness and honesty, which she believes is a public good, from harmful exploitation. She also reveals that having spoken to Jeffrey Griffith in person, the real motivation for his crime was his own sexual insecurities, which she believes would not have been the case had he been in an environment where he did not feel shamed for seeking information about sex.

After Cumberland's testimony, the jury finds the book not obscene. The prosecutor vows to try the case again in a different part of the state, but Barrett states that is ridiculous to restrict what people are allowed to read in the privacy of their own homes or to use art as a scapegoat for much deeper societal issues.


In popular cultureEdit

The Olympia Press of Maurice Girodias, who was interviewed by Wallace during research for his book,[citation needed] published a novel, The Original Seven Minutes, whose author on the title page was J. J. Jadway, and whose content followed the indications in Wallace's novel. In other words, if Wallace's novel dealt with an allegedly obscene, fictional book, they claimed to be the publishers of that very book. Following legal action by Wallace, the book was withdrawn, and later republished as The Seven Erotic Minutes with the purported author's name and all references to Wallace removed.[1]

In the epilogue to the novel Eleven Minutes, Paulo Coelho cites Irving Wallace's book as a source of inspiration.


  1. ^ "Original Seven Minutes by JJ Jadway - Olympia Press, New York 1970". Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2012.