Alex Clark

Write to the end

The bestselling novelist on the Labour leader’s good points — and why he’ll keep writing to the end

Always go to a storyteller if you want a sparky answer to a question. What does Jeffrey Archer, bestselling author, member of the House of Lords, one-time candidate for Mayor of London and prison diarist, think will happen to American politics next? Comes the reply: Angelina Jolie. Or perhaps George Clooney. Or maybe even Tom Hanks. One of these, argues Archer, will run for president next time. ‘And why wouldn’t they win?’

He expands. ‘I’ve given in now. The days of spending your life in politics, learning politics, getting ready for high office, are gone. You can have it tomorrow. Macron got it in one minute.’

The words might seem rueful but the tone they’re delivered in is anything but. Archer is chipper, full of comic barks and growls, whizzing out anecdotes and judgments with theatricality, and declaring himself pretty happy with his lot. He has a new book out, a collection of short stories called Tell Tale, which also includes the first four chapters of Heads You Win, a novel to be released next year. His publishers, he tells me, ‘are saying it’s the new Kane and Abel’, his 1979 novel now in its 108th edition. Tell Tale includes versions of the stories that Archer collects from friends and acquaintances, not to mention those he finds himself sitting next to at dinner. ‘Some of them think their lives are truly amazing, so I often say to them: have you killed anybody? Recently? OK, keep going.’

Each new book is drafted — by hand — at the house he built himself overlooking the sea in Majorca; when he works on the numerous drafts that follow he does so from the Thames penthouse we’re sitting in, or from the folly at the end of his garden in Cambridgeshire. ‘Commuting is such a bore,’ he says, although he admires his wife Mary’s ability to work on trains.

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