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Jeffrey Archer p1

Readersvoice.com aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. In this edition, Jeffrey Archer talks about his novel Only Time Will Tell, the first in a series of five novels about the 100-year life of a Bristol man.

To help me prepare for my interview with Mr Archer, about his latest novel Only Time Will Tell, a man loaned me a copy of A Prisoner of Birth. It’s a novel about a London man wrongfully convicted of the murder of his best friend; he’s the victim of a conspiracy. I liked the details of prison life in the book, which were realistic without being depressing. And the cross-examination in the final court scene was outstanding. But I especially liked the way the story ripped along. For Jeffrey Archer, story isn’t a dirty word.
The Archer fan was in his sixties, and had read almost everything Jeffrey Archer had written since the 1980s, and collected the hardback versions. His favorite was As the Crow Flies, but he was fond of And Thereby Hangs a Tale, Archer’s book of short stories, and A Prisoner of Birth. He said Mr Archer was a good yarnspinner.
I met the master yarnspinner at his inner city Brisbane hotel room. He opened the door and invited me in, gave me a glass of water, and we sat down. He noticed that my watch was the same brand as his. We talked about its simplicity of design and clarity. He was a courteous man.
He didn’t look tired, but I thought he must have been. He was almost 71, and had already done a lot of traveling, promoting his latest book Only Time Will Tell. “Seventeen cities in 27 days,” he said wistfully. He’d certainly been busy. I’d heard him on 4BC that morning fielding questions from his readers. Someone asked if he used researchers, and he said he did, but he would always visit cities he wrote about, to pick up the nuances of places. He’d certainly been exposed to a lot of nuances lately.
He’d already flown from England to India, where he was reportedly mobbed by fans at his Bangalore book launch. His readers number in the tens of millions in India. Then he’d gone to New Zealand, then Australia. After Brisbane, he was due to fly to Perth, then Adelaide, then back to England to relaunch the book. He said it was all right because he could see the end of the tour coming. It was due to be released in the U.S. in September, when he’d be on tour again.
Only Time Will Tell is the first in a series of five novels covering the 100 year life of Harry Clifton, a Bristol man. Each book covers 20 years of Harry’s life from 1920 to 2020. Naturally, the first novel covers his early years, growing up around the docks, where he is taken under the wing of Old Jack Tarr, a mysterious figure who lives in an old train carriage. It covers Harry’s rise, gaining scholarships to boarding schools like Bristol Grammar, being supported by his devoted and resourceful mother; as well as his seemingly ill-starred romance with Emma Barrington; up to the start of WW2. Mysteries abound, including the question of what really happened to Harry’s father who Harry was told was killed in WW1.
The series of five novels is one of Archer’s most ambitious projects, but he is equal to it. He is a highly organised writer, writing every morning at regular hours. Jeffrey Archer is known as a master story teller, too. “I like good story telling,” he said.

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-copyright Simon Sandall.