Frederick Forsyth struggles to finish Booker Prize novels and says he often fails to make it past the first 50 pages.

Addressing the snobbery around literary fiction, the thriller writer offered a “less than diplomatic” answer.

“I think, well, if that is a Booker Prize-winning novel and I dip into it, and after 50 pages I think I don’t know what the hell I am reading – I’ve rather lost interest,” said Forsyth, whose best-seller, The Day of the Jackal, is being republished in a 50th anniversary edition.

“And I don’t think I have finished a Booker Prize for years and years and years.”

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, Forsyth also said that former politicians such as Bill Clinton should stick to the day job rather than venture into thriller-writing. Clinton is currently working on his second novel, co-written with James Patterson.

“I don’t go into politics. And I think they should stick to politics,” Forsyth said.

He was joined in the interview by Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series, who said snobbish attitudes towards thrillers and crime fiction had reduced in recent years thanks to the rise in Scandinavian offerings such as Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.

“I think that the kind of reader that feels a little embarrassed about reading what they think is downmarket stuff, they found that acceptable because it was foreign and the author had a long name with umlauts. And then that brought the attention back to British and American thrillers,”  said Child, who called The Day of the Jackal “a year zero, game-changing thriller, one of the most significant of all time”. 

Both men have retired from writing. 

Child, 66, said: “As a young person, I remember being so cross about the way that old people hung on too long. I am now the old person who is taking up all the space and the oxygen, and I need to get off the stage and let younger people have a go.”