Sunday, August 31, 2008

Why Jeffery Archer, the world's Greatest Storyteller, got it right yet again.


O Jeff, how I adore thee and your scrunched up face that looks weirdly like Sting being bitten by a wasp. Bitten by a hundred little wasp teeth. You are so cute and angry looking like you know the whole world is wrong and you, yes YOU, Jefferey, are right in a thousand different ways that those eejits could never never understand.

My life for instance. When I was 16 our Ingerlish teacher went round the class & asked everyone what our favourite books were. There were lots of blank looks, jokes and mentions of Lords of the Rings & Playboy. O, boys in a boy's school - you are so silly! So, umm, immature. And that's fair enough. It's almost endearing. So it got to my turn and I confidently asserted, "Kane & Abel by Jeffery Archer is the favourite book. It's the best book ever written." I had no doubt about that. It made me stay awake at night it was so unputdownable. I flicked through the pages with glee.

It was virtually the first grown-up book I'd read - certainly the first by a male author. Prior to that there'd been Enid Blyton then a gap filled with war comics, not very funny comics, football comics and football magazines. There were no books for a 13-16 year old boy as far as I was aware.

Billy Bunter was a pile of crappy crappingtons about some greedy public schoolboyand just seemed a thousand years out of date. Jennings I liked but fuck Billy Bunter. Bah. You kids nowadays with your Melvin Burgess books about heroin abuse etc, you just don't know etc etc, my day etc.

I really don't think people used to write stuff for teens back in, ahem, my day. Or if they did, they didn't stock em at Woodsend library. But then the library got burnt down anyway, so there probably weren't any Billy Schmunter books after that anyway - or maybe that's why I burnt it down. I mean, that's why it got burnt down, but I digress massively...

Round my house it was basically a parade of female people: mother, sisters, sisters' friends living there on a permanent basis etc etc. And me. So telly-wise, for instance, I never got much of a go (in my memory - though my sisters might disagree). But weight of numbers meant that we watched Crossroads & Emmerdale Farm on ITV instead of Monkey & Star Trek on BBC2.

Amos in the Woolpack, yesteryear>>>

So I never developed an adolescent affection for sci-fi & fantasy. I can't join in pubby conversations about The Water Margin or Captain Spockie. I know a lot about Amos Brearley, but who wants to talk about that? "Do you remember that episode when Jack Sugden was having an affair with that barmaid behind his wife's back, and he was driving the tractor ... no, okay... "

Book wise, there were a few of em, hanging around the house. And in a haze of pre-internet boredness, I had a go at readin em. My mum was into Mills & Boon. So I gave a couple of them a go. A very quick go. But no. No sex, no car chases, no interest. I swore off M&B at a very early age (13). That left me with Barbara Taylor Bradford and Catherine Cookson - but, well the covers of them - with their proud ladies having unfortunate lives in the olden days, but struggling through... were enough to make me want to feign dyslexia.

Fortunately there were a few books hanging round written by the two greatest, most influential female authors of the 80s, Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper. Those I ate up. Especially Collins. I sunburnt myself to blistering painful insanity sitting in the back garden one sunny day reading *Hollywood Wives*. I think it was that one. My sister had purchased one of those reclining padded sun chairs. It looked comfy, it looked sunny. I sat on the nice chair wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and read. And read. And read.

5 hours later I noticed that my shins were just a little bit red. As were my arms. Sun cream was obviously something that girls bothered with...

5 hours later I was weeping as the suppurating boils on my arms continued to grow and my skin felt as hot and tight as... well, as if I'd been put on a kebab stick and shoved in a bonfire for an hour. Yeh, I was a mess. Thanks very much Jackie Collins with your lovely perma-tan & rip-roaring plot full of Hollywood hotties, drugs and occasional walk on parts for Mick Jagger and various other Hollywood people. That was odd. But did give the story an extra layer of verisimilitude - not that I would have known that word to say the time... as I wept with feverish sunstroke and hideously damaged legs. For a week after I walked like the Little Mermaid after she made her *love or tail decision*. It was funny, but not really, or at all.

**And then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling about. "You are but just in time," said the witch; "for after sunrise tomorrow I should not be able to help you till the end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear, and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you."

"Yes, I will," said the little princess in a trembling voice, as she thought of the prince and the immortal soul.** [from The Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen]

But Jeff is the point. God, I'm discursive. The current American election? Come on, you've heard of it (imaginary reader), haven't you? Well, heck, Jeff Archer predicted all of it. Really. No, reeellly. He did. He is a Lord after all, but I never thought he was a Time Lord. But it is all coming to pass, all his predictions. Back then people didn't rate Jeff Archer - sure he was no.1 in the book charts but the bookerati claimed that he was a shitty writer - God they were wrong!

The look on the face of my Ingerlish teacher when I told him the Archer truth was a combination of priceless & withering. It was wasp-chewing disbelief

!!!Jeffrey Archer!!!Author of the greatest novel ever written!!!

His head must have been full of exclamation marks!!!!!!!

O, Mr Walker, you slightly arty, more than slightly pretentious Ingerlish teacher, you! Who would think that we would ever have anything in common at that point. Me snotty nosed urchin child, you urbane, and clever in your chalk dabbed sports jacket. And now look at us! I read books! Amazin, huh?

But I still like Jeff for his early novels. He was the first grown-up male writer I ever read. He turned me on to reading The Mail on Sunday, when it gave away his novel, To Be The Best, in 4 collectable parts. If you haven't read it, it pretty much goes like this:

**Product Description Synopsis In the 1960s four new MPs take their seats at Westminster. Over three decades they share the passions of the race for power with their wives and families, men and women caught up in a game for the highest stakes of all. But only one man can gain the ultimate goal - the office of Prime Minster.** [Amazon.co.uk description]

It's hard to imagine how exciting that book was to a 17 year old Smiths fan in Flixton. No, it really is *hard to understand*. In fact it may have been a small let down after the heights of the earlier novels like K&A, The Prodigal Daughter, & Shall We Tell The President?

But from then on and for the next 5 years I was a confirmed Mail on Sunday reader. It had a colour magazine, it had boring political stuff, it had horoscopes, it had a nice colour magazine, it once gave away a Jeff Archer novel. Great. And at the age of 17 it was a big step up from my usual read on a Sunday - the News of the Screws - with its boobs, bonking and Woodrow Wyatt, the Voice of Treason. So thanks, Jeff, you were the making of me in more ways than you will ever know. You were like a surrogate father to me in a time of need; ever since I have wanted to write like you, but I know I will never manage it. Boo and many many hoos...

Point is: make a long story, even more unfeasibly long: this sexy Vice President lady candidate lady - Jeff was there first! He predicted it in The Prodigal Daughter, & Shall We Tell The President? In those novels, Florentyna Kane gets to be V.P. and then the old bastard of a President dies of a heart attack - and she is the 1st lady Presidentess. Virtually like it will be in real life! Probably. Almost wow!

Alaska Governer Sarah Palin, made out of Lego, yesterday >>>

But what is worthy of further study - is the fact that in the second *novel* - when Florentyna is president, there's a plot to kill her. And guess who one of the suspects is? Yes, none other than sarcastic Democrat Senator Joe Biden.


<<< Senator Joe Biden on the Pelham 123, yesteryear

The same Joe Biden, who is now the Democratic party's candidate for V.P. Opposite the lovely/scary GOP party candidate Sarah Palin (no relation to Michael)!

Hmmm? Hmmm? Make any sense yet? No, maybe not. But read the novels and it will. Jeff knows stuff. And according to Archer's novels from 1982 & 1987 - it goes like this:

  1. McCain wins
  2. Then dies
  3. Sarah Palin takes over
  4. Biden and a bunch of completely fictional characters are suspects in a plot to have her assassinated.
Yeh, damn skippy. IT COULD HAPPEN. You read it here first, but obviously, hopefully not...

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