Jeffrey Archer: doing his best

August 21, 1991: Jeffrey Archer is as vigorous and combative—and funny—as they come. He plays his upper-class enthusiasm and superiority with enormous aplomb. We’re supposed to be talking about his new book, As The Crow Flies. He won’t give me an answer when I ask him to describe himself, but when I question his son’s assessment of him as “romantic” he agrees whole-heartedly.

“Oh, definitely,” he says. “The prime minister accused me of that the other day. ‘Basically, Jeffrey,’ he said, ‘you’re like me, a romantic.’” The prime minister in question is John Major, and Archer has sworn not to write another word until next fall’s election is over and Major is safely reinstalled.

We differ for a while over whether or not Major’s return would be a good thing (Archer is the former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, and I’m, well, of a different persuasion) though I tell him that my mother would certainly approve, even if I wouldn’t.

We eventually move on to his book. It took 19 hand-written drafts, he says (he can’t type) and “I’m damned if I’m going to have anybody say this time that I could have done better. I couldn’t have done better, because I’m not good enough. I’ve never spent so much time trying to get it absolutely right. Never.”

As I leave, I ask him to sign my copy of the book. “Certainly not,” he says, “you pinko, Guardian-reading leftie. I’ll sign it for your mother.” And he does. Great fun.

 

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