Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jeffrey Archer's The Clifton Chronicles

Englishman Jeffrey Archer has created quite a resume in his 73 years:  former member of the House of Lords, graduate of Oxford, prison inmate, playwright, author.  He also almost went bankrupt even though he has sold over 250 million copies of his numerous novels.  Readers of a certain age will remember him for the wildly popular Kane and Abel.  Archer said he came up with the idea of the Clifton Chronicles when he was working on a 30th edition of Kane and Abel

He is now working his way through his five part Clifton Chronicles.  The first one, Only Time Will Tell, was this month's book club selection.  The setting is England in 1920 through the start of World War II.  The finale of the series will end in 2020 so this is a very ambitious undertaking. 

Only Time Will Tell, follows Harry Clifton, a poor son of a dockworker who gets an unexpected chance to attend an exclusive boys' school where he makes lifelong friends and learns the truth (?) about his father. The mystery is building in this saga that the titles hint at:  Sins of the Father (#2), Best Kept Secret (#3) and the March 11th release of No. 4 Be Careful What You Wish For.

Archer has said that Harry is loosely based upon his own life. "I was brought up in the West Country (southwest England) with a mother who had a very hard time because my father died young...".  The mysterious figure of Harry's mentor, Old Jack Tar (a favorite character in Only Time Will Tell), is based on a real person, a decorated British army officer.

Jeffrey Archer's own life may be the most interesting read of all.  From a Reuters interview, when Only Time Will Tell was first published, Archer had this to say about his worldwide popularity:  "I got a young kid with a stack of books tapping on my window as I was driving slowly into Mumbai.  I put the window down and the young man said "Would you like the latest Jeffrey Archer?" and I said "I am the latest Jeffrey Archer!".  

First Installment