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Upwardly mobile: Tom Conti as young Adam Morris in "The Glittering Prizes" 

What's that you're reading?"

"Frederic Raphael's new novel."

"Frederic without a K, isn't it?"

"Not even an MBE, as far as I know."

"After a lifetime of service to literature. Seems unfair."

"What's fair? That's pretty much the theme of the book — or rather the trilogy."

"They say all good things come in threes."

"In this case, they'd be right."

"Didn't he write The Glittering Prizes, that marvellous TV serial we all watched in the Seventies, about his Cambridge generation jumping in and out of bed with each other and then going on to..."

"...fame and fortune. That's the title of the second volume. Glittering Prizes was the first."

"As I recall, he sent them up rather deftly."

"Well, by now he's sending them up to the hereafter. They're in their own seventies and going to meet their Maker at regular intervals, but still outquipping each other whenever they meet. They're all so verbally dexterous they make Oscar Wilde sound like John Prescott."

"Quip while you're ahead."

"That sort of thing. It's both exhausting and exhilarating."

"Or just ex-Cambridge?"

"Maybe. Three years' soft labour and the rest of your life on parole."

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