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Though largely set in the curiously featureless landscape of Britain in 2024, it also has substantial flashbacks to Texas in 2006, and an idealistic but bungled attempt to stage a headline-grabbing protest against George W Bush by disrupting his wife's speech to a children's literary festival.

Laura Bush – who, despite never quite meeting her over the garden fence in Austin, Crace admits he is disposed to believe isn't quite as supine as she has been painted ("she dated a Democrat and married Bush on the rebound") – ends up on the floor with blood pouring out of her nose.

Jim Crace is describing how, last autumn, he found himself living next door to Laura Bush.

"There was only this much space" – he stretches his arms out wide – "between us." Crace was renting a house in Austin, Texas, while spending a semester teaching at the city's university.

Part of me has been aware for a long time that my radical 17-year-old self would have despised the bourgeois literature that I have ended up writing.

So part of the mix for this book was to write something with an agenda that my 17-year-old self would like." The central character is Lennie Lessing, a jazz musician (Crace is a jazz fan) who is nearing his 50th birthday with the best days of his career apparently behind him and a paralysing addiction to screens.

All That Follows is an unashamedly political book and, in that sense, marks something of a departure for Crace. "I wanted to lose myself for a bit and I felt I could afford to be reckless.

I wanted to see whether I could pull off a book where I do the things which I don't normally do well. I'm not good at holding a mirror up at a real world. And so I thought, 'I want to have a stab at that.'" While successful writers will happily talk about wanting to try new things rather than repeat the same old formula, it is rare to find anyone making a short-list of their failings quite so bluntly as Crace does.

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"When I was a youngster," Crace recalls, "I was brought up in a very political background on an estate in north London.

As far as I knew, it wasn't an offence to be on the pavement." At least, he reflects with a warm laugh, he is now being politically courageous as a writer. Will it follow the direction of All That Follows, or return to more familiar territory? Of those who do, only one in every hundred gets a career out of it, so I count myself as immensely privileged.

The latter, he confirms, and then adds – very casually – that it will be his last book. I will have written 12 novels when I finish this next book and it's enough. Too often bitterness is the end product of a writing career. And I know that I am just as likely to turn bitter as anyone else.

He has never been one to generate headlines by sounding off in public or on literary stages.

Indeed, his profile is so low here that a Scottish paper recently referred to him as "the cult American writer".

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