Twenty-five years after his Booker prize‑winning novel was published, Swift reflects on how his story of a dark day trip to Margate became a celebration of life

When I wrote Last Orders in the early 1990s I was in my early 40s. My father had just died. The novel was my response and is dedicated to him. It was my first real recognition that “in the midst of life we are in death”, something that the pandemic now teaches us daily.

I’ve always felt that my literary journey began even when I was small, that the seeds of my desire to be a writer were sown in childhood. If it was no more at the time than an infant’s naive wish, it stuck and became lifelong. There were no writers in my family and I didn’t grow up in an environment that would have led me towards writing or anything artistic. My father was a minor civil servant in a dull office in London. In those days he might have called himself a “pen pusher”. In the war he’d been a fighter pilot. When my own puzzling urge to be a pen pusher of a different kind emerged he did not stand in its way. It was all my idea.

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