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EDITIONS
Friday, 13 December, 2002, 19:08 GMT
Archer publishers brush off errors
Jeffrey Archer book
New novel hit the shops this week

Jeffrey Archer's publishers have hit back at claims his latest novel is riddled with factual inaccuracies.

A demented rehearsal of Archer's own obsessive fantasies of riches, fame and political power

Evening Standard review

Macmillans publishers say they decided to rush out Archer's 11th novel, Sons of Fortune, in time for Christmas after receiving advance orders of more than 500,000.

The book was controversially written behind bars, with Lord Archer reportedly "working through the night" on revisions in his cell at North Sea Camp open prison.

Macmillans claim early sales show the disgraced peer, who is serving a four year sentence for perjury, has lost none of his popularity with readers.

'Classic Archer'

But reviewers have been less kind.

David Sexton, in the London Evening Standard, calls Archer's latest work "the most dismal reiteration yet of his sorry world view".

We are delighted that Jeffrey's readers recognise his talent and his loyalty to them

Richard Charkin, Macmillans publishers
And not "a novel in the normal sense", but rather "a demented rehearsal of Archer's own obsessive fantasies of riches, fame and political power".

Hugh Macdonald, in the Glasgow Herald, calls it "Classic Archer. The plot that does not wait for credibility to catch up, the dialogue that creaks like an arthritic knee, the characters that are so one-dimensional they disappear when they turn side on."

Inaccuracies

Boyd Tonkin, in the Independent, claimed the book was full of factual errors.

Among the gaffes he spotted were a description of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath as being by William Faulkner.

Lord Archer also describes Spain as having a "left-wing government" in 1976 - a year before free elections in the country following the death of General Franco.

In another passage, Archer says Henry Kissinger served as a national security adviser to Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam war, when in fact he was appointed by Richard Nixon in 1969.

'Interesting exercise'

But Jacqui Graham, Lord Archer's publicist at Macmillans, insisted Lord Archer was no more prone to factual errors than the average writer of popular fiction.

"If you conducted this exercise on writers in a similar area, not just necessarily our authors, but fiction writers in general, I think you would be surprised by how many mistakes are made.

"It would be an interesting exercise," she told BBC News Online.

She said writers were often more interested in getting on with the story on than in checking every fact.

And editors were often under "a lot of pressure" to get books ready for publication.

'Difficult circumstances'

Lord Archer did not have access to the same reference facilities as other authors, she added.

Macmillan had originally planned to publish Sons of Fortune in January, but says it brought forward the publication date after advance orders topped 500,000.

Foreign-language editions will appear throughout 2003.

Macmillan chief executive Richard Charkin said the novel showed Lord Archer had not lost his talent for "powerful and gripping story-telling".

"He also shows his determination to continue his writing profession in spite of strange and difficult circumstances.

"We are delighted that Jeffrey's readers recognise his talent and his loyalty to them," said Mr Charkin.

Courtroom scenes

In the book, Lord Archer returns to his favourite theme of warring brothers.

It tells the story of twins separated at birth who eventually meet as rival candidates for the Governorship of Connecticut.

They only learn their true identity when one, Fletcher Davenport, is injured in a road accident and needs a transfusion of rare AB blood and the other, Nat Cartwright, is the only man who can help.

The 500 page book, which is described on the dust jacket as "a chronicle of a nation in transition" includes extensive courtroom scenes, with falsely accused defendants escaping conviction after eloquent defence speeches.

Multi-million pound deal

Lord Archer's recent travails are also explained away in the publicity blurb.

"Jeffrey Archer, whose best-selling novels span from Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less to Kane and Abel and Eleventh Commandment, has sold over 120 million books throughout the world.

"In 1992 he was elevated to the House of Lords. In 2001 he was sentenced to four years in prison and his current address is HMP Hollesley Bay, Suffolk," the jacket informs readers.

The former Tory party deputy chairman is thought to have received 11m from Macmillan, in a deal reportedly negotiated from his prison cell.

The cash is to be held in trust until his release.

Archer's Prison Diaries, the first volume of which was published in October, were praised in some quarters as the best thing he has ever written.

See also:

29 Nov 02 | Entertainment
25 Oct 02 | Politics
09 Sep 02 | Politics
09 Jan 02 | Politics
19 Aug 02 | England
13 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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