Former Wolverhampton lecturer Howard Jacobson has said it was "beyond belief" to win this year's Man Booker Prize for his novel The Finkler Question.
The author was a 10/1 outsider with some bookmakers but picked up the award and £50,000 prize money at a ceremony at Guildhall, central London.
The Manchester-born writer, who has written 15 novels, said: "I have waited a long time. I don't think I have any right to suppose that I should have won the Booker Prize but I was wanting to win the Booker Prize from the start.
"I'm not alone in that. All writers feel that, it's such a fantastic prize to win."
He admitted it was beginning to look like he would never win, said he was sick of being described as "under-rated", adding: "It is beyond belief for me because I was so accustomed to being somebody that was, to begin with, not liked by the Booker Prize."
He joked: "The shortlist felt like an embrace, I never expected the affair to be consummated."
The 58-year-old was educated at Cambridge University before teaching English Literature at Wolverhampton Polytechnic during the 1970s. He told the Birmingham Post in 2009 that it had been a "terrible period" in his life.
The Finkler Question tells the tale of two old schoolfriends and their teacher and deals with subjects including love, loss, male friendship and what it means to be Jewish.
Discussing his own lengthy career, Jacobson said: "I think I've got better and I've deepened. I never felt I could go near anything truly tragic because I didn't feel anything truly tragic had happened to me.
"I needed my father to die. He sort of knew that, he sort of said when he was ill, 'I'm giving you something now'."
He described the novel as the saddest he had written and said it had been affected by the deaths of several close friends.
He said: "These things get to you. What I wanted to do though is to feel that I can go on writing an entertaining novel even though the light deepens and darkens and this does become a very dark novel.
"It is a much darker novel than I thought I was writing."
He joked that the novel he was currently writing, about a novelist who failed to enjoy literary success, would need a "re-write".
Chairman of the judges and former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion said the book was funny but "so nearly adjacent to tragedy".
The five judges made their decision during a one-hour-long meeting which Motion described as "intense" and decided to award Jacobson the prize by a verdict of three to two.
Motion said: "You expect a book by Howard Jacobson to be very clever and very cunning and it is both of those things. It's highly articulate, everything works in it very well."