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Lord Jeffrey Archer needs no introduction, though I will do my best regardless.

Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare, is a man whose name has in the past been synonymous with politics, perjury, and prison diaries.

At just 27 years of age, Jeffrey reached the London Council, joining Parliament at 29 – far too young, he says. Well-documented events led to his bankruptcy and subsequent resignation from Parliament. “Don’t imagine writing a book will get you out of trouble!” he quips.

From scandal to storytelling, Jeffrey is now best known for his collection of gripping novels, the most recent series of which is ongoing and for which he has a lot of plans in store that will see the protagonist accompany Jeffrey and his quill through his twilight years.

I had the absolute pleasure of cornering this charming author ahead of his slot at Gibraltar Literature Week, to chat all things books, inspiration, and why I need to quit my job…

* * *

Lord Archer, I’m going to fire some questions at you…

Fire away! Be brave!

You’re the author of 27 novels, 92 short stories, three prison diaries and three West End plays. Which do you prefer writing?

That’s a jolly good question. I think when I’ve done one, I want to do the other. But I haven’t been able to get any inspiration for short stories lately because of lockdown! I get the basis for my short stories talking to real people all over the world. I’ve had one short story over the last 18 months, when I would usually have five or six.

What was the inspiration behind your latest series of novels?

After The Clifton Chronicles came out – which I must say I was shocked by the success of – people wrote in to say that they would like to know more about the eponymous hero of Harry Clifton’s novels, William Warwick. So that planted a seed in my brain. I wanted to write a story about a detective, not a detective story, so I plucked William Warwick from his days at school, when he first wanted to join the Metropolitan Police. If I live long enough, I will take him right through to being Commissioner. For that to happen he has to progress through the ranks from Chief Inspector, to Superintendent, Chief Superintendent, Commander, and then, finally, Commissioner…so I’ve got to live for at least another four years. Don’t laugh! I’m 81!

And yet you don’t look a day over 50! When you wrote The Clifton Chronicles, did you do so with a non-official autobiographical element?

Emma was very much based on my wife, Mary. A very clever woman with a very distinguished career, living with this man, an author, Harry Clifton. My wife is, amongst other roles, Chairman University Trust Hospital, a Dame, and Chairman of the Science Museum (the first woman to have ever held this position).

We should be interviewing Mary instead! How much of your success is due to her?

I was with Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) recently, who said he could some Mary up in one word – ‘tolerant’.

That says it all! How much time do you spend on research for your novels?

It’s a tricky one, ‘time’, because I research human beings. My main researcher is a retired Chief Superintendent who left the Metropolitan Police in very sad circumstances – one murder too many. My other chief researcher is a Detective Sergeant who was in the drug squad for 30 years. Between them both, they keep me on the straight and narrow. They will see draft four, and they’ll say “You can’t write that Jeffrey…”. 

So they give you the facts, and you sprinkle your literary magic over the top.

I leave out the stuff that’s boring, take the stuff that’s good, and elongate it a bit! Human research is very important; and then I read a lot as well. It’s rare nowadays that I get a book and I think ‘Wow!’. 

What was the last thing you read that made you think ‘Wow’?

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Oh, you’d love it! Add it to your list. 

[At this point our interview was temporarily derailed by a slew of Archer fans – including one of our own ministers! – wanting a photo with the author himself.]

You’re too popular for your own good!

It’s wonderful. It happens all over the place. In India, I can’t even walk down the street! Over 100 million people have read Kane and Abel in India alone; it’s on its 134th reprint now – translated into 42 languages across 97 countries.

You’re known for your plot twists and cliffhangers – how do you create that kind of tension?

It’s a God-given gift.

I’ll keep that in mind for my own novel!

I say to journalists, if you’re going to come up against me, you have to give up what you’re doing now. You may be good, you may be better than I am, but you have to join in on the same track. If you want to be the prima ballerina, you can’t be doing something else. And I am the prima ballerina!

I’m coming for you! Where do you hole up to write your novels and plays?

My home in Mallorca. That’s where I usually go to write the first draft. 16 degrees in January, a study looking out over the sea; I’ll be going there to write my next book, and nothing will get in the way!

If you could redo life, come back as someone entirely different, what would you be and why?

I’d like to be a bar-room singer. I saw Sinatra perform in a room, as well as Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin…that’s what I’d like to do. Sinatra loved Kane and Abel. He was away a lot, travelling the world, and he said when he got his copy it was two weeks of his life where he could just be still and take it easy.

* * *

An accolade indeed, but then if 100 million people have read it, why wouldn’t Sinatra be one of them?

And so I left Jeffrey to be enveloped by a group of his avid readers once again, pondering my next move. Perhaps less ‘novel-in-Mallorca’ and more ‘Editor’s-letter-in-Gib-Mag’… But you’ll have to pick up January’s issue to be sure.

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The Gibraltar Magazine is your monthly business, entertainment, and lifestyle source. Providing the community with the latest breaking news and quality content since 1995. Every month, 100 pages are packed with gripping features from a cross- section of the Gibraltarian community in business, culture and leisure. We have pledged to support the wealth of local talent, constantly promoting young artists, musicians, authors and entrepreneurs and presenting what’s on around the Rock. In the business section, we focus on finance, property, and gaming industries. Embracing the latest technology and updating our website daily, we’re able to provide increased and up-to-the-minute information. The magazine has been operating for 25 years, which speaks volumes for our forward-thinking team who strive to take a fresh direction each month, as well as our loyal readership and confidence of advertisers.