Archer strikes the mark with verbal arrows

In style: Writer Jeffrey Archer signs an autograph  at the launch of his book  ‘Only Time Will Tell,’ in Bangalore on Wednesday. DH Photo

Archer is an eloquent but blunt speaker and would threaten to stop answering questions if a photographer continues shooting him.

That was him on Wednesday evening in Bangalore to release Only Time Will Tell, the first of the five-volume Clifton Chronicles which follow the life of Harry Clifton from his birth in 1920 through to the finale in 2020.

Archer, who is known for his critically acclaimed and bestselling novels, Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less (his favourite novel because it was written out of necessity for money), Kane and Able, First Among Equals, Paths of Glory, etc, was mobbed by his devoted readers with questions that ranged from the plots of his novels to his days in prison and so on.

Archer says he is puzzled by India and fascinated by the people's curiosity. Narrating a recent incident, he said: "I'm puzzled by your country. I was dining in a restaurant in Chennai, a guy came up and asked: 'Are you Jeffrey Archer?' I nodded but he kept on asking it again and again. Finally, he went away refusing to believe me," Archer said eliciting laughter from the audience at the overcrowded Reliance Timeout store.

The celebrated author says writing and storytelling are different traits, with the latter  a God-gifted endowment. Admiring Indian novelist R K Narayan, Archer said: "It's one of the unhappinesses of my life that I could not come to India to meet him."

On why he still writes every day in blocks of two hours each despite being the bestselling author, Archer said: "Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest batsman of my lifetime. He still practices every single day. It divides him from the rest. So do I."

Archer said he would never write a novel set in British India because he does not have full knowledge of this great country. "If I spent my whole life, I would understand its religions, languages, art, etc. But I can't do that. I love my country," he said.

Describing the day he was chosen to run for Parliament as the happiest in his life, Archer said that the most remarkable incident was when The New York Times called to congratulate him for becoming the bestselling author.

Describing Indian women as 'very pushy', Archer said they would play a crucial role in the days to come. On his days in prison, the novelist said: "It was an amazing experience. I met people I would never have met otherwise. I got great stories from them."

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