The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden is the Whitbread Award-winning novel, now a major film.
Giles Foden, who grew up in Africa, is the chief reviewer for the Guardian. In 1998 Foden won the prestigious Whitbread First Novel Award for The Last King of Scotland, which was followed in 1999 by Ladysmith and in 2002 with Zanzibar - books which, according to Alan Massie writing in the Scotsman, 'establish him as the most original and interesting novelist of his generation'.
A vivid journey to the turbulent heart of 1970s Uganda, British journalist Foden's bracing first novel chronicles the strange career of a fictional Scottish physician, Nicholas Garrigan, who serves as the personal doctor and occasional confidante of dictator Idi Amin. Having sequestered himself on a remote island in Scotland, Garrigan reflects, through a fog of self-deception and regret, on his stint as Amin's sidekick, from their first unlikely encounter after a back-road accident (Amin's red Masarati sideswipes a cow) to his installation in the capital as the ruler's house physician. Enjoying the perks of this position, Garrigan ponders an affair with the British ambassador's wife, tends to Amin's sometimes comical afflictions (in a memorable scene, he coaxes a burp from the dictator as if he were a giant infant) and even admits to a "sneaking affection" for him. Garrigan grows so detached from the gradually mounting atrocities of the regime that it takes a visit to the dictator's torture chambers and a harrowing trek across the wartorn countryside for him to glimpse the extent of his own complicity. Expertly weaving together Amin's life story (intertwined with Scottish history for reasons that remain rather vague, though the novel's title is a moniker Amin gave to himself), Foden writes with steely clarity and a sharp satirical edge, allowing serious questions to surface about the ethical boundaries of medicine and the crumbling Western influence in Africa. Garrison is the perfect foil for Amin, whose overwhelming physical presence, peacockish rhetoric and cold-blooded savagery are so well captured as to make this novel more than a mesmerizing read: it is also a forceful account of a surrealistic and especially ugly chapter of modern history. Agent, A.P. Watt. First serial to Granta. (Nov.) FYI: Foden has been an editor of the Times Literary Supplement.