|Publisher||Faber and Faber|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
The Last King of Scotland is a novel by journalist Giles Foden, published by Faber and Faber in 1998. Focusing on the rise of Ugandan President Idi Amin and his reign as dictator from 1971 to 1979, the novel, which interweaves fiction and historical fact, is written as the memoir of a fictional Scottish doctor in Amin's employ. Foden's novel received critical acclaim and numerous awards when it was published. In 2006, a loose eponymous film adaptation was released.
The protagonist is a fictional character named Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish doctor who goes to work in Uganda out of a sense of idealism and adventure, arriving on the day of the 1971 Ugandan coup d'état. He relates how he came to be the personal physician and confidant of Amin, the president of Uganda during the Second Republic of Uganda. The novel focuses on Garrigan's relationship and fascination with the president, who soon grows into a brutal and ruthless dictator. Garrigan consciously and repeatedly acts against his better judgment, remaining in Amin's employment until he is far past the point of easy escape physically and morally. Mesmerized by Amin's charm and charisma, he is gradually drawn complicitly into the corruption and brutality of Amin's rule (including his personal participation in the severance of British relations with Uganda, the murder of Kay Amin, the events of Operation Entebbe and the murder of Dora Bloch, and the Uganda-Tanzania War) with fatal results for his friends and colleagues, which Garrigan treats with a mixture of physical disgust; nonchalant, fatalistic acceptance of living under a totalitarian regime; and self-serving denial of culpability.
Drawing on his 20 years of living in Africa and his background as a journalist, Foden researched the events surrounding Amin's rise to power and downfall. He interviewed many of those who watched and participated in the Ugandan ruler's eight-year reign and evokes the form of a memoir by inserting fictional newspaper articles and journal entries, along with actual events.
In a 1998 interview with the online magazine Boldtype, Foden said he based parts of Garrigan's character on an associate of Amin's named Bob Astles. As a British soldier who worked his way into Amin's favour, Astles was much more "proactive" than Garrigan, according to Foden, and he paid the price by spending six and a half years in a Ugandan jail after the fall of his protector.
Astles compromised himself by his direct association with Amin's security forces. While Amin was in power, Astles was alternately either favoured or punished; he was imprisoned and tortured on at least one occasion. Foden drew in part on a lengthy interview with Astles in The Times by the journalist Paul Vallely, who spoke to Astles in a Ugandan jail after smuggling a message in to Amin's henchman in a Bible.
Another real-life figure who has been mentioned in connection with Garrigan is Scottish doctor Wilson Carswell. Amin's personal physician was, in fact, a Ugandan doctor called Paul D'Arbela.
The title of the book refers to Amin's declaring himself the "King of Scotland". Foden claims that the book is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth as a third-world dictator.