Best-selling British author Jeffrey Archer publishes The Sins of the Father in Britain today (Thursday), volume two of five-part family drama The Clifton Chronicles. Here he chats to EWN editor Alfredo Bloy from the author’s Mallorca home.
ARCHER does all his writing from Mallorca, a place the master story-teller goes to escape from Britain’s depressing winter.
“When I finish this interview we’ll be going for a hour’s walk in the sun and I can’t do that in England,” he says.
The first of the five-part The Clifton Chronicles, Only Time Will Tell, was published in May last year in Britain where it went to number 1. It was translated into 37 languages and published in 142 countries, but so far the Iberian Peninsula seems to be eluding Archer.
“It does very well in all of Europe except in Spain. It’s a mystery; we haven’t broken Spain,” says the 71-year- old author.
His new book The Sins of the Father kicks off in 1940 with Harry Clifton, the hero of the book, in prison in New York after being arrested for murder.
Harry’s girlfriend comes across to America on a liner to try to find him and get him out of jail. The Sins of the Father covers 1939 to 1947-48, during the Second World War.
Archer was born in London in April 1940, so the period in the novel coincides with his childhood. The story takes place in Manhattan and London, as well as some of the war zones of Europe.
“You’re bound to remember things that happened when you were a young person, and to take advantage of the fact that you have experienced things, that for other people are simply history and have to be read about,” he says.
“Indeed, in the next book which I am currently doing, you’re uncovering a period I can remember.” He admits he does not know how a novel will end when he starts writing it.
“The last one had a cliffhanger ending; this one has an even bigger cliffhanger ending and it didn’t come to me until the last couple of days of writing,” he says.
Historical novels are all the rage at the moment and Archer confesses a great deal of effort is made to ensure the events described are accurate.
“It’s important you do get your facts right.
“There was a gentleman that wrote in and said that I clearly didn’t realise that potatoes don’t float. Apples float and pears float, but potatoes don’t float.
So I immediately ran to a basin and got a pear and an apple and a potato in the basin and he was right, the potato sank,” he says.
Much has been written about Jeffrey Archer; the former schoolteacher is probably best known as an author of books which have sold in excess of 250 million worldwide, for his 18 years in the House of Lords and two in Her Majesty’s prisons.
Archer recalls an article in The Washington Post, which in its review of his 1979 novel Kane and Abel wrote: “Britain has found the new Dumas.”
Perhaps the least prophetic was a reporter at The Liverpool Post, who in a review of the same novel, wrote: “Don’t worry about this book, it’ll only last three weeks.”
Kane and Abel went on the sell 33 million copies globally.
“If you liked Kane and Abel, you’re going to be happy with The Sins of the Father,” Archer remarks.