Kingsley Amis, a two-time shortlistee, became the prize’s biggest fan when The Old Devils triumphed. The award, he decided, ‘was a wonderful indication of literary merit’.
Amis’s win raised many an eyebrow not just because it contained high levels of comedy but because the author was widely assumed to have passed his peak and become something of a caricature, fuelled by drink and misogyny.
Four of the five judges were women and they clearly saw beyond any personal quirks to a book about a group of bibulous elderly Welsh friends that is unsparing about the indignities of age but shot through with warmth and an unsuspected faith in the power of love.
Winner The Booker Prize 1986
By Paul Bailey
By Timothy Mo