Don't have the knowledge to write an Indian novel: Archer

Last Updated 19 March 2013, 07:44 IST

 Of late, he has been touring India at least once a year and launching his books here even before they are released in the UK, but celebrated British author Jeffrey Archer feels he's not qualified enough to attempt the 'Indian novel'.

"I just don't have the knowledge. I will be foolish to write about something I do not understand, I can’t fully comprehend," the 73-year-old writer, who was in India on a four-city tour for a special launch of the third book of "The Clifton Chronicles", told PTI in an interview.

"I am flattered that so many people want me to write the Indian novel. I can't do it. I like to do it but I can't do it," he says.

However, a story of a Delhi couple who fall in love while waiting at a traffic signal had featured a few years ago in "And Thereby Hangs a Tale", a collection of 15 stories he had gathered from incidents around the globe.

"Best Kept Secret" was released in India ahead of its UK publication day.

The author of bestsellers like "Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less", "Kane and Abel", "As the Crow Flies" and "First Among Equals" terms India as an amazing market.

"Indians love storytellers. You are a very large leadership. There are 200-250 million middle class readers in India. This is bigger readership than America. So India is an amazing market," he says.

Of the 1000 people who came to hear him speak in Bangalore, 80 per cent were under 20.

"I spoke in Dubai, addressed 1000 people, the average age of the people who attended was 40."

The former Tory MP comes back again and again because he "likes" the people.

"I am very excited by the speed the country is moving. Things are all changing in front of my eyes. And people too, the people are changing. The new generation of women are much more self confident and clearly can play a major role in Indian life.

"And you are becoming almost the largest middle class nation on earth. Clearly there are a lot of people in poverty, lot of people not employed and with no future. But because of the sheer size of India, the middle class is growing every day."

However, the traffic in India irritates him a lot. "... But I have got used to it. Bicycles on the outside lane, cows on the middle of the road and people just parking where they felt like. And often the slow lorries on the outside lanes."

What keeps him going?

"The fear of stopping... I can't stop. I got to work. I have a passion for work. And I have got to finish these five books ('The Clifton Chronicles'), any case. And then I got to write short stories and then possibly the biggest novel I had any idea about. I am driven," he says.

Archer, however, does not have any plans for his memoirs and says "The Clifton Chronicles" is very autobiographical.

"Lot of me and Harry, lot of my wife and Emma, my mother and Maisie. So it's pretty autobiographical and Harry is a writer."

He has great admiration for R K Narayan and Vikram Seth and love their writings.
What is his 'best kept secret'?

"Probably that I would have loved to have half a dozen daughters and or half a dozen granddaughters. I have got two lovely sons and a grandson. But that's not 'good enough'."

Published in India by Pan Macmillan India, "Best Kept Secret" bears all the hallmarks of a classic Archer thriller, keeping the reader guessing throughout with his fast-paced narrative and nail-biting cliff-hangers. It takes the reader on a breakneck journey from Bristol to the US and on to Buenos Aires in the mid 1950s.

Spanning the 20th century, "The Clifton Chronicles" is a gripping family saga of the trials and tribulations of the Clifton and Barringtons, two families at opposite ends of the social spectrum.

"Only Time Will Tell" is the first novel in "The Clifton Chronicles". The epic tale of Harry Clifton's life begins in 1920, with the words "I was told that my father was killed in the war."

A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father and expects to continue on at the shipyard, until a remarkable gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys' school and his life changes.

"Sins of the Father" is the second book in the series and begins from the time before Britain declares war on Germany.

In "Best Kept Secret", Harry Clifton is now a best- selling novelist and has built a new life with Emma Barrington and their son Sebastian. As they begin their married life together, they face danger and disloyalty not only from within the Barrington family but from a shady figure from Harry's past.

The cast of colourful characters includes the scheming Lady Virginia and a ruthless South American criminal, Don Pedro Martinez.

As in the first two novels, the drama is seen through the eyes of each of the main characters, highlighting how differently they perceive the action that unfolds before the readers' eyes.

This instalment of the mesmerizing saga brings us up to the 1960s, with another dramatic and unexpected ending with tragic consequences.

(Published 19 March 2013, 07:41 IST)

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