Jeffrey Archer launches five-novel saga

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The first instalment, “Only Time Will Tell”, has just been published, and follows Harry Clifton, whose angelic voice is his ticket into a good education and out of grinding poverty.

He befriends Giles Barrington, born into a wealthy family, and falls in love with his sister Emma, but a tragic twist of fate threatens his happiness and the story ends with World War II looming over the lives of the entire cast. “What I didn’t realise in my stupidity at the age of 71 and a quarter is what an incredible challenge it would be, because if you commit yourself to five books, there’s no way out,” Archer told Reuters in an interview.

“Luckily I have finished two of them by now… but I’ve had some sleepless nights,” he added in his luxury penthouse overlooking the Houses of Parliament in central London.
Archer first came up with the idea of the Clifton series when he was working on a 30th anniversary edition of “Kane and Abel”, one of his most popular novels published in 1979.

“I thought, ‘Do you know, I would like to do a saga that goes 100 years, so I decided on 1920 to 2020, one family, the Clifton family. But I then realised that I couldn’t do it in one book, and I felt it would work well in 20-year segments.”He has only a broad outline in mind of the direction the plot will take, giving him a sense of freedom.

“I am going to have to run into their (characters’) children ... and what’s more, I’m going to have to move into the 1950s and 60s and 70s so I’m going to have to bring that up to date too. That’s all I know, that’s the challenge, that’s the fun.”

Archer, who has sold more than 250 million books during his 35-year writing career, is as famous in Britain for his political career in the Conservative Party and two-year imprisonment as he is for his novels.

A favourite of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he served in parliament and was made a lord yet also went to jail in 2001 after lying in a libel trial against a newspaper which said he had had sex with a prostitute.

He produced a three-volume diary of his time behind bars and has continued to write full time since. “The Clifton Chronicles” are likely to keep him busy for the next few years.

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