So Jeffrey, Are You Often Mistaken for Harrison Ford (and Are You Still Friends with Maggie Thatcher)? Bouncing Back: Jeffrey Archer Meets Petronella Wyatt

Daily Mail (London), April 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

So Jeffrey, Are You Often Mistaken for Harrison Ford (and Are You Still Friends with Maggie Thatcher)? 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 novelist s misde -meanours was anextra-marital fling in the late Nineties with an actress called Sally Farmiloewho claimed they had wild sex in his Mini in a public parking lot.

Instead, I am invited to Archers penthouse overlooking the Thames in London,the place where he famously entertained every British Conservative Partygrandee with Krug champagne and shepherds 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 interviewsandunabletorenewhis connections with the Tory party after their current leader David Cameronsaid bluntly that there was no future for Archer in Tory politics.

Now,however,heseemstohave regained his old bounce. Archers new book,APrisonerOfBirth,reached numberone in the best-seller lists within days of being released and is expected toeclipse even his most famous novel, Kane And Abel, 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(theprisonwhere Archer served some of his sentence)but who escapes to wreak vengeance on those who framed him.

THE plot is lifted straight fromAlexandre Dumass 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 haveto be re-written from beginning to end.)

But of course its a modern version of The Count Of Monte Cristo! he declares.That is one of my favourite books. To add to his ebullience, a newspaper ran astory last week claiming Archer had been mistaken by an airline steward for theIndiana Jones actor, Harrison Ford.

Are you often mistaken for Harrison Ford, Jeffrey? I enquire. (Alas, irony hasoften beenlostonArcher.)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 Londonhomewould be told boastingly: Go past the Picasso and turn right at the Monet.

Archers apartment is decorated in a style that I can only describe as ThirdReich meets Beverly Hills. My wife Mary was in charge of decor, he says.

Ah,thefragrantMary.In 1987,whenArchersuedthe DailyStarforsayinghehad slept with prostitute Monica Coghlan, it was his wifes cool loveliness inthe witness box that led to the judges famous description of her.

Mary Archer, a brilliant Cambridge University academic,hasstoodbyhimsince their marriage 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 largelyseparate lives, but the arrangement appears to be successful.

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. Afterall,Archer,thougha devoted father and husband, is also an adulterer who finds the truth somewhattedious. Mary, he says reverently, has never berated me, its not her style.

His past fibs (having been an Oxford University research graduate, when he gotonly a one-year diploma in education) are usually harmless. …

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