His greatest regrets are of missed opportunities, but he has perhaps had fewer than many others. The principal problem with old age, he remarks, is that it doesn’t last long enough. But, having confronted and written about his own mortality with a limpid, elegiac elegance, Mortimer has conquered the anxiety that William Dunbar’s poem ‘Timor Mortis Conturbat Me’ with its litany of writers cruelly struck down by the Grim Reaper occasioned in him. Everything, he says, is perfectly fine.
In any case, he half-wheezes, half-chuckles, "Alan Bleasdale tells a story about a novelist friend who was sitting next to a girl who was reading his novel on the tube. He knew that in a few pages there would be a good joke so he sat there all the way to Cockfosters waiting for a laugh which, of course, never came." If he travelled by tube, Sir John would not, it is safe to say, need to wait too long for the laugh to come.
Telegraph obituary here.