Last Word

A twist in the tale

Updated: 2011-06-17 11:18

By Andrew Moody (China Daily European Weekly)

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A twist in the tale
There was one previous attempt to launch Archer's earlier books in China many years ago by Yilin Press but the company's licenses have now expired. The new Chinese publisher is keen to make up for lost time.

Pan MacMillan Asia, the author's main English-language publisher in the region, says his sales in China have increased 15 times this year but largely due to the increased opening-up of the country's publishing market.

Archer, who was made a member of the House of Lords by former prime minister Sir John Major in 1992, has never visited the Chinese mainland.

"I have been to Hong Kong several times and I would even go so far as saying that I am desperate to go to the mainland for a proper visit," he says.

His desire to go now has been partly fueled by a recent visit by his scientist wife Lady Archer, who is chair of Cambridge University Hospitals, one of the UK's leading medical institutions.

"Mary told me in great detail about what she was doing. I read her report, of course. She actually learnt a lot. It made me realize if she wanted to go out there, I should do the same," he says.

Apart from wanting to reach the China market, Archer is currently promoting his latest book, Only Time Will Tell, which will be part of five-book series called The Clifton Chronicles.

The series will follow the life of the central character Harry Clifton, who becomes a writer, through his 100-year life that ends in his death in 2020. Archer admits the Chronicles will be semi-autobiographical and he thinks giving a character such a long lifespan will be timely.

"By the time the fifth book is read, living to 100 will be fairly common. Looking at the obituaries this morning in the Daily Telegraph, one was 93 and others 91, 87, 89 and 71. At my age I look at these things more clearly," he says.

Archer divides his time between London, his home at Granchester, near Cambridge (the house where war poet Rupert Brooke used to live and regarded as one of the most idyllic in England) and a house he has had built in Mallorca, where he has a writing room cut out of the cliff. He travels to the Balearic island by low-cost airline Easyjet.

"I can be there from Cambridge in just two hours. I do all my writing now in Mallorca. All I can see when I am sitting in my study is just water. It is just heaven," he says.

Archer has had something of a rollercoaster life and career. He was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative MP at the age of 29 but resigned four years later when he nearly went bankrupt after investing in a fraudulent investment scheme.

To get out of a financial hole he wrote his first book Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less that set him on the course of his best-selling career.

"If you came to me now and said that you were in a bit of financial trouble and that you were going to write a book, I would say that was the last thing you should do and you would be better getting a job as a bus conductor," he says.

Archer still kept a hand in politics and was deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in the 1980s when Lady Thatcher - who he still sees regularly - was prime minister.

He was running for London mayor before his biggest ever setback, being sent to prison in 2001 for four years (of which he served two) for committing perjury in a previous libel trial.

That he has come back with seven further bestsellers, including two books of prison diaries, has displayed an indefatigability that even his harshest critics have had to grudgingly admire.

"If you make a fool of yourself and things go wrong, you get up and get forward. I can't see any point in sitting around and crying for the next 10 years. You need to move on," he says.


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