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as the crow flies

 

A Master Story-teller Dazzles with a Complex and Fascinating Tale

As the Crow Flies By Jeffrey Archer

  Jeffrey Archer’s own life story is as unusual and intriguing as any of the convoluted tales he weaves with such skill in his many best-selling novels. In 1974 when he was a Conservative MP in Britain he was the victim of an investment fraud and lost his fortune. He and his wife Mary had to sell their mansion and move to a small home.

  Faced with imminent bankruptcy for many thousands of pounds, he turned in desperation to authorship. His very first novel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny less, was in instant hit. He was not yet 35. Today he is a multi-millionaire and although he is now in his 70s he is writing what may prove to be his most ambitious creation so far – a five volume work entitled The Clifton Chronicles.

  Then came an event which led to him being publicly shamed, jailed for perjury and even banned from the Lords cricket ground –truly cruel and unusual punishment for a man so fervently devoted to the game of cricket.

  Archer had sued the British newspaper The Daily Star for defamation for saying that he paid a prostitute for services rendered. He said he gave her money as an act of compassion, not or payment for passion. He won the case and the newspaper paid him 500 000 pounds.

  Years later Archer was charged with lying about the affair with the prostitute and was sent to prison for four years—widely regarded as a sentence greatly disproportionate to the offence.

  All this, of course, is public knowledge. But no so widely revealed is the fact that Archer repaid the Daily Star the 500 000 pounds plus legal costs and interest – a total of more than one million pounds.

  Archer spent two years in jail, and, of course, he has written about that ordeal in his Prison Diaries. His skill as an author and his obvious flair for relating to people make his three volume diaries startlingly insightful to the criminal mind and to the way in which British prisons are run.

  In As the Crow Flies, a novel of 789 pages (in its e-book form) Archer is in peak form, creating a veritable universe of characters and the dramatic events which shape their lives, loves and destinies.

  His central character is Charlie Trumper, of Whitechapel in London’s East End who inherits his grandfather's fruit and vegetable barrow, as well as his enterprising spirit, which gives Charlie the drive to lift himself out of poverty.

  Success, however, does not come easily or quickly, particularly when World War I sends Charlie into combat in France. This gives Archer the chance to introduce the class conflict which still bedevils life in Britain – as testified by the fact that Andrew Mitchell has just had to resign as Tory Chief Whip for calling police officers “plebs” (which he denies doing).

  Young Charlie catches one of his officers, Guy Trentham, in an act of cowardice and possibly murder. They become daggers drawn, and after the war, as Charlie’s business flair and energy propel him up the ladder of success, he encounters Trentham again.

  The blue-blood rotter –perhaps cad would be a more era-appropriate word--has his eyes on Becky, Charlie’s beautiful and clever Jewish business associate and has his way with her before leaving for a three year stint in India.

  Charlie marries Becky, now pregnant, and the plot thickens, as it always does when Archer is directing.

  This is just the beginning of an entirely engrossing novel of remarkable depth and sweep as the action moves from Britain to Europe, to America and Australia, and across many decades until Charlie Trumper is a man in his seventies and he has succeeded in building what he calls the “biggest barrow in the world” in the heart of posh Chelsea. Meanwhile characters have been born and died, have lied and loved and cheated and achieved.

  When I finally put down my Kindle as I reached the last page, I felt a tug at my heartstrings as though I was saying goodbye to well loved friends.

  Jeffrey Archer is the supreme story teller and he writes with an insight and awareness which reveal him as a human being of warmth and deep understanding of the human condition. --Prospero

  I salute him with my rating of five golden stars. 5-Star Rating

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