So Jeffrey, Are You Often Mistaken for Harrison Ford (and What Advice Would You Give to Conrad Black) ? Bouncing Back: Jeffrey Archer Meets Petronella Wyatt

Daily Mail (London), April 3, 2008 | Go to article overview

So Jeffrey, Are You Often Mistaken for Harrison Ford (and What Advice Would You Give to Conrad Black) ? Bouncing Back: Jeffrey Archer Meets Petronella Wyatt


Byline: Petronella Wyatt

MERCIFULLY, Jeffrey Archer has not asked me to meet him in amulti-storey car park.

One of the inventive Tory peer's misdemeanours was an extra-marital fling inthe late Nineties with actress Sally Farmiloe, who claimed they had 'wild sex'in his Mini in a public parking lot.

Instead, I am invited to Archer's penthouse overlooking the Thames, where hefamously entertained every Conservative grandee in the land with Krug champagneand shepherd's pie.

But those days are gone. Since he was imprisoned in 2001 for perjury (he servedtwo years out of four) Archer has kept an unusually low profile, refusing togive interviews and unable to renew his connections with the Tory party afterDavid Cameron said bluntly that there was 'no future for Archer in Torypolitics'.

Now, however, he seems to have regained his old bounce. Archer's new book, APrisoner Of Birth, reached number one in the best-seller lists within days ofbeing released and is expected to eclipse even his most famous novel, Kane AndAbel, published in 1979.

Archer, who is wearing a purple-striped shirt and a simian grin, ushers me intohis cavernous drawing room. 'Number one after just three days!' he says in thatbrisk, compelling voice. He has a disconcerting habit of talking to people asif they were a public meeting.

At 67, Archer is as lithe as a snake, resembling a sort of athletic, youngerversion of Paul Daniels. Only heavy facial lines, that make his forehead looklike the Rocky Mountains, tell of past tribulations.

Excitedly, he tells me that A Prisoner Of Birth is the story of a man unjustlyimprisoned in Belmarsh (where Archer served some of his sentence) but whoescapes to wreak vengeance on those who framed him.

THE plot is lifted straight from Alexandre Dumas's famous novel, The Count OfMonte Cristo. I wonder, uncharitably, if Archer is only truly inventive when itcomes to his own life. (His detractors claim his books have to be re-writtenfrom beginning to end.) 'But of course it's a modern version of The Count OfMonte Cristo!' he declares. 'That is one of my favourite books.' To add to hisebullience, a newspaper ran a story last week claiming Archer had been mistakenby an airline steward for the Indiana Jones actor, Harrison Ford.

'Are you often mistaken for Harrison Ford, Jeffrey?' I enquire. (Alas, ironyhas often been lost on Archer.) 'No, actually,' he answers, scratching hishead. 'That was the first time. I was even offered VIP treatment,' he says.

At the height of his influence, it was all VIP treatment. Guests looking forthe bathroom in his London home would be told boastingly: 'Go past the Picassoand turn right at the Monet.' Archer's apartment is decorated in a style that Ican only describe as Third Reich meets Beverly Hills. 'My wife Mary was incharge of decor,' he says.

Ah, the 'fragrant' Mary. In 1987, when Archer sued the Daily Star for saying hehad slept with prostitute Monica Coghlan, it was his wife's cool loveliness inthe witness box that led to the judge's famous description of her.

Mary Archer, a brilliant Cambridge academic, has stood by him since theirmarriage in 1966. No one really understands why, including Jeffrey.

'I was in shock when she said she would marry me,' he muses.

The two live largely separate lives, but the arrangement appears to besuccessful.

She has said she has 'never been bored' and he says he gave her financialsecurity. They have two sons, Jamie, 34, a banker, and William, 36. 'Has sheever thrown anything at you?' I ask.

After all, Archer, though a devoted father and husband, is also an adultererwho finds the truth somewhat tedious. 'Mary,' he says reverently, 'has neverberated me, it's not her style.' His past fibs (having been an OxfordUniversity research graduate, when he got only a one-year diploma in education)are usually harmless.Then there is his background. …

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