Prince Harry: Jeffrey Archer admits he is afraid of the book
Jeffrey Archer has been an avid reader ever since his mother introduced him to Swallows And Amazons as a child. “It is a story with enduring appeal,” says Lord Archer today. “I was very lucky with my mother; parents are very important. If they just say, ‘Go watch TV,’ it’s very sad. Give away a book and you start to be a person.”
That’s why the author, who considers himself lucky to have grown up in a household of book readers, is backing the Daily Express Christmas campaign in association with the Give A Book charity.
Young Jeffrey progressed to Alice in Wonderland before his mother, Lola, a local newspaper columnist in her hometown of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, decided to take Jeffrey’s reading sessions in a new direction. and unexpected.
“After Alice, unusually, we went straight to PG Wodehouse,” recalls the author with a smile. And this, he insists, is not the only strange fact that concerns him and the creator of Jeeves and Wooster.
“The two most popular authors in India are Wodehouse and myself. Kane and Abel have been read by 100 million people in India, and they love PG Wodehouse,” he says.
He says he doesn’t know what the connection might be between his best-selling title, which has sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, and the fictional creations of Sir Pelham Wodehouse. But when pressed, he suggests: “I think I’m equated with being very British. In fact, I’m always amazed at how well my books sell abroad.”
Sharing books with his mother and grandmother, who were equally “great at reading”, led to a lifelong passion and ultimately his enduring and prolific career.
“I was lucky; my favorite teacher at school introduced me to Dickens,” he recalls. “A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, which is also set around Christmas, were the best.”
Jeffrey Archer wants everyone to read a book
Even at 82, Lord Archer still maintains a relentless writing regimen that takes place in two-hour increments throughout the day: he recites his routine at breakneck speed, with pride.
He is currently working on a new title in his William Warwick series. Titled Next In Line, it’s about an incident involving Princess Diana that “did or didn’t happen: readers can make up their minds,” he says.
He continues: “To be honest, I’m afraid to stop,” he says of a career in which his 42 titles have sold more than 275 million copies. “I do it because I love it. I’d pack up and go watch football if I didn’t, and I’ll stop the day I don’t enjoy it. But if you have an exciting idea, I want to stick with it.”
He doesn’t understand people who want to stop working.
“We are all living a great age; retirement will soon be at the age of 75. In my father’s day, you received a gold watch at 65 and died conveniently at 70. I remember the mayor of Weston-super-Mare holding a tea party for a lady who had reached the age of 100. Today, you would be hosting a tea party every day.”
However, he doubts that he himself will make it to a century.
“So many friends have died that I wake up every day, look out the window and say, ‘Great, I’m still alive.'” This declaration is uttered in a joyous bellow. Lord Archer is a great believer in getting books into the hands of those who need them most, even when it means losing royalties. “In India they steal my books”, he laughs.
“They buy them in London the day they come out, and they have them on the street three days later at a third of the price.
“I don’t give a damn. It’s wonderful that people can get them. I’d give away a million copies of Kane and Abel if I could give them to people who’d never read a book. Some would.” I want to read more.”
He says JK Rowling has done a “brilliant job” getting readings for an entire generation. “Once you have readers, you try to pick up crumbs from the table as an author. If you can get to the young and capture them, they’re yours.”
And unlike some successful literary figures, he’s always kind to his fans. “Every writer should be painfully aware that it is a great honor to have their book read. You can get off Twitter in a few seconds or watch a movie in 100 minutes, but it takes six hours to read a book. I’m always so grateful when someone says that you have read the latest because you have invested a significant amount of time in it”. Fanatics, in his experience, come in “two extremes.”
“This weekend was typical. I sat between a lady and a gentleman. The lady said, ‘Jeffrey, I’ve read it all,'” she mimics her swooning voice. “The guy said, ‘They tell me you’re a writer.'”
Archer’s Kane and Abel book
The power of books in the lives of those who need them most is something that clearly fascinates him. His favorite book is Beware Of Pity by Stefan Zweig.
“An Indian woman came up to me and said, ‘You’re my second favorite author.’ I asked her, of course, who her first author was, and I’ve read everything she wrote ever since.” Was her assessment correct? He laughs again: “He could never be as good as him. He was an Austrian Jew with an academic background and was a very good scholar, as well as an excellent storyteller.”
And he adds: “I have long believed that the secret to getting people to read is to get people to read, and what better way than to give a book as a gift? The greatest compliment an author can receive is: ‘Yours is the book that I read for the first time’.”
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR CHRISTMAS CAUSE:
Give A Book puts books in the hands of those who need them most.
A £5 donation will provide a book; £10 will add a backpack; while £25 will get you a complete pack of books. To support the Daily Express Christmas Campaign, please send donations (cheques only, payable to Give A Book) to: DX Give A Book Campaign, 112-114 Holland Park Avenue, London W11 4UA Or you can donate online via: giveabook.org.uk UK Registered Charity No. 1149664.
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