The first volume of Jeffrey Archer's ambitious five-part saga The Clifton Chronicles was released in the United Kingdom yesterday. Only Time Will Tell tells the story of Harry Clifton, born in 1920, and spans the period from 1920 to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Archer, 71, spoke to Weekend Review from London. Excerpts:
The ending is devastating. Besides, you have adopted a style of storytelling which we have not come across in your earlier books.
Yes, you are right. I have not done that before. It was quite a challenge to write about seven human beings telling you the story from a different angle as the story moves on. Of course, the first one, Harry Clifton, born in the backstreets of Bristol, son of a docker, starts the whole thing off. And we watch him when he discovers at the age of 7 what an amazing talent he has. That changes his whole life. And the end of the first book, telling his entire story through seven people's eyes, was quite a challenge.
There is a risk, though, of repetitiveness. Of the reader having to read again something that has happened.
No, that's exactly why I moved the story each time so that couldn't happen. That's why I left clues that needed to be answered. That's why I left mysteries that would have to be solved, so that no one could ever say that. I hope you didn't feel that way.
I thought you actually carried it off well. But there was a risk of that happening.
(Laughs) Good! I accept there was a risk. But that's the challenge. You lay a sentence that makes the reader say what is going to happen. And then several chapters later, through a different viewpoint, you see the answer.
Recently, I interviewed Ken Follett after ‘The Fall of Giants', the first book in his ‘Century Trilogy', was published, which also chronicles a similar time period. Is there a trend in present British literature of writing sagas?
Yes, I am aware of that [The Trilogy]. But I am not aware of any trend or pattern. I decided when I rewrote Kane and Abel that I wanted to do a five-book chronicle, The Clifton Chronicles, over a period of 100 years, from 1920 to 2020. Because I wanted to write one big saga in the life of Harry Clifton and his family. I was not aware that anyone else was doing the same sort of thing.
The last book is going to come out in 2020?
The last book will be published about 2017-18 and I shall look to the future.
What is the title of the next book in the series?
At the moment, it is The Sins of the Father. There's a big debate going on about whether it should be Like Father, Like Son or The Sins of the Father. There are exceptions; I loved Only Time Will Tell straight away as a title.
But the second book, I think, is going to be called The Sins of the Father. It will take Harry, Giles, Maisie and Hugo right through the Second World War into the 1950s.
Reading the book, I thought there were too many nice guys. The only real villain is Hugo Barrington.
I think in a book you don't need too many villains!
All characters seem to love the protagonist, Harry, so much that their lives revolve around him.
Well, the book is about him and 100 years of his life. He is the hero and the centre of the book. So everybody is working … with him as the main character.
You visited 16 cities in 27 days in India, Australia and New Zealand to promote the book.
Yes. In fact, in Bangalore I was mobbed … They went mad! Bangalore loves books, there were 3,000 people waiting to see me. There were 1,500 in the shop, 1,500 outside. I was there for five or six hours. In the end the police had to come and get me out! I love India and they are wonderful to me. I go back there again and again. I mean, 50 million people have read Kane and Abel in India. The Indian people have been supporting me for 30 years. It's hard to find anyone there who hasn't read Kane and Abel. So it is a very special country for me. They think in England 2.1 people read one book and in America 2.3. In India they think 25 people read one book!
So while you are engaged in writing ‘The Clifton Chronicles', will you be writing anything else?
No, my whole life is focused on these five books. And taking Harry for 100 years; that will take me five to six years and I'm loving it.
The challenge now is to retain interest.
From Gulf News
You're right. I am in the middle of Book 2. The critics have been wonderful on Book 1. It is a tremendous challenge.
In the end it is all about storytelling.
Storytelling is a gift. If you look at R.K. Narayan, writing about India, it was a God-given gift he had. Storytellers are born; you can't be taught.
From : Gulf News