Boozing is the defining feature of Hamilton’s life and work. Most writers enjoy the occasional tipple, and I certainly like to fancy myself as something of a semi-professional dipsomaniac, but he puts all but the most dedicated of us to shame. His brother Bruce calculated that in the 1940s, Hamilton would drink his way through three bottles of black market whisky a day, costing about Â£2,000 a year – enough to buy a fancy house.
Inevitably, such heroic drinking was to be his downfall – in his final years his writing became increasingly lifeless and his innards finally packed up for good in his late 50s. But, for more than two decades, he wrote some of the best fiction, and far and away the best pub fiction, I’ve come across.