Former politician Jeffrey Archer has been writing bestselling fiction for over 40 years. He talks to us about his inspirations and gives us a sneak peek into the world of his new novel. 

What’s currently on your bedside table (and why)?

Nutshell Ian McEwan

I’ve just finished Nutshell by Ian McEwan, and much enjoyed its originality. I think he’s one of the nation’s greatest writers.

I also have a pile of non-fiction books to read as research for my next novel—I can’t reveal what it’s about yet, but the books include ones on art and great collectors, Ukraine and New York, and… pizza!

 

Which books do you recommend to your friends?

Beware of Pity Stefan Zweig

One book which I’ve already recommended to many of my friends is Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity, which combines great storytelling with wonderful prose. It’s among my favourite books. If you’ve not come across the Austrian author, you have a thrill to look forward to, and I congratulate Pushkin Press on bringing him back to prominence.

A second book I thoroughly recommend is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I couldn’t have imagined that a book about two young girls growing up in Naples could possibly appeal to me, but it’s magnificently written. Ferrante does for Naples what Dickens did for London, and if you like it, there are three more in her series of Neapolitan novels to enjoy. 

 

Which book are you planning to take on your next journey?

Robert Harris Conclave

I’m looking forward to Robert Harris’s new novel, Conclave. A thriller is always a good read for a trip, and I’m interested to see what he makes of the Vatican.

Read our review of Robert Harris's Conclave

 

Tell us about your latest book

Jeffrey Archer This Was a Man

My latest book is This Was a Man, the seventh, and final book in The Clifton Chronicles series. It will bring to an end a story which opened in 1919, just after the First World War has ended, and follows the lives of Harry Clifton, his closest friends Giles Barrington and his sister Emma, who Harry falls in love with, over the next 80 years, taking in the great events of the day with several well-known figures having walk-on parts.

It’s been tremendous fun being taken over by these characters, and to immerse myself in the worlds of shipping, art, international espionage, banking and political intrigue.

 

Do you discuss your own work-in-progress with anyone?

I don’t talk about a work in progress until about the fourteenth draft when I discuss it with my editor. The only person to read it up until then is my PA, who types up my handwritten pages.

 

Which book made you want to write?

Not a penny more not a penny less

When I left Parliament in 1969 I was facing bankruptcy because of a bad investment, and I couldn’t get another job. I thought the story of how I lost my money would make an interesting novel, and so I sat down and wrote Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less.

It’s semi-autobiographical and is the story of four young men who, having all been robbed by one particularly unsavoury character, decide to work together and steal their money back. But they decide they must not take back more than what he took from them—not a penny more, not a penny less.

 

If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

An auctioneer. I conduct around thirty charity auctions a year, and love it.

 

Listen to Jeffrey Archer discuss The Clifton Chronicles on our monthly podcast:

 

This Was a Man by Jeffrey Archer is published by Pan Macmillan

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