A satirical work, the novel centres on Mortimer Griffin, a middle-class Anglican from Caribou, Ontario who has built a successful career as a publisher and editor in 1960s London, England. When a Hollywood mogul buys Griffin's publishing house, Griffin is suddenly forced to confront the potential impact that not being Jewish may have on his career and his sex life.
Cocksure and Richler's contemporaneous essay collection Hunting Tigers Under Glass were jointly awarded the 1968 Governor General's Award (Fiction and Essays). The novel was considered by many critics, however, as an amusing jape rather than serious satire. Writing in The New York Times, Canadian writer Marian Engel called it "smart-alecky stuff [that] doesn't cut any deeper than the Sunday-paper set it's aimed at".
References to notable events and personalities
Mortimer Griffin watches as Kenneth Tynan uses the word "fuck" for the first time on British television during a BBC debate on censorship.