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The Last King of Scotland
by Giles Foden

Field-Tested by Jonathan Bell

in Bodmin, England

Giles Foden's debut novel drips with sweaty descriptions of an unrelenting tropical climate and a central theme of slow decay; be they the suppurating wounds created by the random, ceaseless violence, relationships that boil over and evaporate, or the mental state of the narrator and his nemesis.

The Last King of Scotland is the story of Nicholas Garrigan, Scottish expat, doctor, and ultimately, unwilling stooge to one of Africa's most infamous dictators. As the book progresses, Idi Amin's regime emerges and takes hold; reason, sanity, and basic supplies become scarce and the conditions worsen. All the while, the muddy waters of intrigue thicken around Garrigan's own predicament.

Entrenched African corruption, and the precarious, see-sawing personality of a dictator, were far removed from the serenity of the Cornish landscape in late spring. Our cottage was perched on the edge of a shallow hill, with an unseen road hissing down below us in the valley. To the east, the empty expanses of Bodmin Moor rose up, an area as close to wilderness as it is possible to get in Britain, a landscape steeped in legends ranging from the Arthurian era to the present day Beast of Bodmin, a quaint little slice of English cryptozoology. It would be an exaggeration to say that Amin's quixotic character loomed heavy over the vacation; during days of sandy beaches, buckets and spades, galleries, fish and chips, petting zoos and playgrounds, he was all but banished from my mind. But each night, when all was quiet outside, I would return in fascinated horror to his moldering country and the perverse fascination of a Scottish doctor. It was a relationship built on respect, even admiration, yet cruelly upended in the final chapters.

Jonathan Bell writes about architecture and automotive design for Wallpaper* and also edits Things Magazine and is an irregular contributor to The Morning News. He lives in South London with his wife and children.

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