Now published in 97 countries and more than 33 languages, Jeffrey Archer is firmly established, with international sales passing 275 million copies. He is the only author ever to have been a number one bestseller in fiction (nineteen times), short stories (four times) and non-fiction (The Prison Diaries).
Jeffrey has been married for 53 years to Dame Mary Archer DBE, who was until October 2012, chairman of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (incorporating Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie Hospitals).
In January 2015 Mary was appointed by the Prime Minister as Chairman of the Science Museum Group. They have two sons, William and James, two grandsons and a granddaughter, and divide their time between homes in London, Cambridge and Mallorca.
Find out more about Jeffrey Archer at PanMacmillan.com
While at Brasenose College Oxford, Jeffrey gained a Blue in Athletics, was President of the University Athletics Club, and went on to run the 100 yards in 9.6 seconds for Great Britain in 1966.
After Oxford, he was elected to the Greater London Council, and three years later at the age of 29, became Member of Parliament for Louth.
In 1976, Jeffrey and Mary were married in Oxford. Jeffrey served five years as an MP, but after investing heavily in a Canadian company called Aquablast on the advice of the Bank of Boston, when the company went into liquidation (and three directors were later sent to jail for fraud), he was left with debts of £427,727.
On the brink of bankruptcy, he resigned from the House of Commons. Aged 34, and determined to repay his creditors in full, he sat down to write his first novel Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less. Written at the home of his former Oxford Principal, it was taken up by the Literary Agent, Debbie Owen, and sold to 17 countries within a year. It was also made into a successful serial for BBC Radio 4, and was later televised in 1990 by the BBC.
His second novel, Shall We Tell the President?, published in 1977, was a fast moving thriller about a plot to assassinate Edward Kennedy while he was President of the United States, later up-dated by the author substituting Florentyna Kane, from The Prodigal Daughter, for Edward Kennedy.
With two bestsellers behind him, Kane and Abel came next.
The book told the story of two men, one Polish, an illegitimate son of a gypsy, the other rich and privileged from a wealthy Boston banking family. Abel Rosnovski survives countless setbacks, to the US and builds up a thriving hotel chain. William Kane inherits a powerful bank and makes it more successful. Their paths cross only once but the meeting causes them to become bitter enemies, each determined to destroy the other.
The novel became a number one best-seller in hardcover and paperback all over the world and has sold over 3.5 million in the UK paperback edition alone.
In this hugely productive decade, Jeffrey wrote three novels, two sets of short stories and two plays. His first collection of short stories was A Quiver Full of Arrows, that received major critical acclaim, and three of which were dramatised for the Anglia TV series Tales of the Unexpected.
A second book of short stories, A Twist in the Tale, was published 9 years later, that gained more plaudits from the critics including The New York Times: “Jeffrey Archer plays a subtle cat-and-mouse game with the reader, a collection of twelve short stories that end, more often than not, with collective whiskers twitching in surprise’. During this period, he also wrote The Prodigal Daughter, the sequel to Kane and Abel.
And then came the novel Jeffrey Archer was destined to write, with his detailed knowledge and past experience as a Member of Parliament, First Among Equals.
It followed the fortunes of four ambitious new MPs who took their seats at Westminster for the first time in the early 1960s. It became an award-winning television series for Granada.
A Matter of Honour was published in 1986, a tale about a letter that was never opened by the keeper, only to be passed on to his son after his death. It is the opening of this letter that changes one family’s lives forever.
Jeffrey Archer was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party from September 1985 until November 1986. And after the General Election in 1987, he wrote his first play Beyond Reasonable Doubt, which ran at the Queen’s Theatre in London’s West End for over 600 performances, and starred Frank Finlay and Wendy Craig. His second play, Exclusive, ran at the Strand Theatre for 100 performances, and starred Paul Scofield, Eileen Atkins and Alec McCowen.
In 1991, Jeffrey was co-ordinator for the Campaign for Kurdish Relief along with the British Red Cross, and which raised over £50m for the cause. He was made a Life Peer in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 1992.
Jeffrey’s next novel, published in June 1992, was As the Crow Flies, a saga that opens in the east end of London at the turn of the century. It follows the career of Charlie Trumper, whose progress from the teeming streets of Whitechapel to the elegance of Chelsea Terrace is only a few miles ‘as the crow flies’ but is an epic journey through the triumphs and disasters of the last century, as Charlie follows a thread of love, ambition and revenge to fulfil the dream his grandfather inspired.
Honour Among Thieves came next, in July 1993, and was a #1 best-seller from London to Tokyo. He followed this with a third set of short stories, Twelve Red Herrings, published in July 1994. The Fourth Estate, based on the lives of Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell, was published in 1996. In 1997, all of Jeffrey’s short stories were released in one volume as Collected Short Stories.
His tenth novel, The Eleventh Commandment, in which the action moves from the White House to a Russian Mafia Boss’s luxurious hideaway outside St. Petersburg, came out in May 1998, and spent 24 weeks on The Sunday Times Bestsellers List. This is also the decade he took up auctioneering, and between 1996 and 2019 has conducted over 600 charity auctions, which have raised more than 45 million pounds.
Jeffrey’s third play, The Accused, published by Methuen in October 2000, starred Edward Petherbridge, Michael Feast and Tony Britton. It’s a courtroom drama with a twist; the audience acts as the jury, and decide which of two different endings the play should have – guilty or innocent.
Jeffrey took on his first West End role, playing the part of the accused. The play completed a very successful nine-week regional tour, before playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket for a limited eight-week run. Having run a successful campaign for Mayor of London for two-and-a-half years, from 1997, Jeffrey Archer was selected as the official Conservative Party Candidate for London’s Mayor in October 1999 by an overwhelming majority.
In November that same year, he withdrew his candidacy, having been charged with perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. In 2001, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment, and was released in July 2003, having served two years.
During his time in prison, Jeffrey wrote three volumes of prison diaries: Volume I, Hell, a searing account of his first three weeks in the high security prison, HMP Belmarsh; Volume II, Purgatory, set in HMP Wayland, a C category prison; and the third and final volume, Heaven, about his final transfer to an open prison.
Jeffrey’s fourth book of short stories, To Cut a Long Story Short, was published in March 2000, and his novel, Sons of Fortune, in December 2002.
In 2006, he released False Impression, and a fifth collection of short stories based on tales from prison: Cat O’Nine Tales, was published in 2006, and included a special limited edition which was beautifully illustrated by the late, great, Ronald Searle. Jeffrey completed the Flora London Marathon on April 18th 2004, in 5 hours 26 mins, raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation UK, the British Heart Foundation, the Fund for Addenbrooke’s and the Facial Surgery Research Foundation. He was overtaken by a camel, a phone-box and a girl walking. He has no plans to repeat the experience.
A Prisoner of Birth, was published in March 2008 and topped the bestseller lists around the world, going to #1 in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India. It spent four weeks in the top 10 on The New York Times Bestsellers list. Jeffrey’s novel, Paths of Glory, the story of the first attempt to conquer Everest by George Mallory in 1924, and was published by Macmillan in March 2009 and also went to #1 around the world.
At the age of 70, Jeffrey undertook the challenge of writing a seven-book saga called The Clifton Chronicles. Book one, Only Time Will Tell, published in 2011, topped the charts around the world, spending 12 weeks at #1 in India.
Books two, The Sins of the Father (March 2012), three, Best Kept Secret (March 2013), four, Be Careful What You Wish For (March 2014), and book five, Mightier Than The Sword (March 2015), all went to #1 on the Sunday Times Bestsellers list, and to #1 in Australia, India, and South Africa.
Book six in the series, Cometh the Hour, also went to #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list in hardback, e-book and the combined list. The final book in the series, This Was a Man, was published in hardback in November 2016, and again went to #1 around the world.
Since then, he has written his 22nd novel, Heads You Win, an epic tale of fate and fortune, spanning two continents and thirty years. In 2019, Jeffrey launched Nothing Ventured, the first of a new series featuring Detective William Warwick.