Shocking to be bestseller on day one: Jeffrey Archer

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2011, 11:33 AM IST

The 70-year-old`s new epic saga, "Only Time Will Tell", was released March 4, and became a bestseller within a day, according to global survey figures released by Nielsen Bookscan.

"This book has broken all records. It got to the bestsellers` list in one day; I have never done that before. It came as a perfect shock. I drafted the book 14 times before I presented it to the publisher," Jeffrey Archer told IANS in an interview in the capital.

The book has been published in a special low price edition in India by Pan Macmillan.

A former British MP, Archer has completed 35 years as a writer in 2011; beginning his literary odyssey in 1976 with the cult crime thriller fiction, "Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less".

He achieved virtual literary immortality with, "Kane and Abel", followed by "The Prodigal Daughter", "First Among Equals", "Prison Diaries", an account of his tenure in prison for perjury, and half-a-dozen of short-story collections.

"Nearly 50 million Indians (including the diaspora) have read `Kane and Abel`. Being aspirational by nature, Indians see themselves either as protagonists Kane or Abel, who wanted to succeed at any cost," Archer said.

The 71-year-old was in the capital on the last leg of his 16-city India tour to promote his book that was launched formally at the Landmark Bookstore at the Ambience Mall here.

Archer says the future of publishing lies in India. "The average age of my reader is 25 and I have met readers as young as 12, 13 and 14 year-old."

Archer`s new novel is a five-volume chronicle of 100 years of the life of Harry Clifton, a Bristol lad.

"The series follows Harry Clifton`s birth in 1920 and takes 100 of his life to 2020. Book one covers the first 20 years of Harry`s life, it takes his birth from the back streets of Bristol, where he is a son of a docker.

"At the age of seven, he discovers that he has an amazing talent for singing that takes him out of the back streets on to Oxford. But in 1940, at the end of the first book, he has to decide whether he is going to stay on in Oxford or go to war to fight against Hitler`s Germany," Archer said, narrating the story in a nutshell.

"Only Time will Tell" traces its origin to "Kane and Abel", that Archer wrote in 1979 about two young men and their zeal to succeed.

"When I rewrote `Kane and Abel` in 2009 (trimming it to 27,000 words), I confess that I thought I can do one really big saga. And I needed a big hero. Harry Clifton was a good name; Clifton is a neighbourhood in Bristol," he said.

The writer realised "that one of the problems of having written 17 novels was that you have everything (in names)".

"I have done William, Jim, Jack, Charles and James. There was nothing left - but I had never done Harry," Archer said, when queried about the choice of Harry as a name.

Archer said his new book is "semi-autobiographical".

"I was brought up in that area around Bristol. But there is a lot fiction in the book."

However, Harry, like Archer, is "going to be a successful writer", he says. The five volumes are going to take "five years with one book every May," he said. "There will be a volume of short stories at the end of them".

However, Archer`s movie project in Bollywood is yet to see the light of the day. "But nothing stands in Bollywood. We have got two producers for a movie based on `Cast off`, my short story set in India. But the producers just talk, talk and talk. I am stuck with money," he said.

Recalling the making of his first book, "Not a penny ...", Archer said, "I had left the House of Commons without a job; having had my money stolen in a bad investment. I sat down and wrote my first book about four young man wanting to steal a bank. And it just caught the imagination," he recalls.

IANS

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