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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Jeffrey Archer's The Fourth Estate

Slightly related to the previous post: If you like political thrillers, the 1997 Jeffrey Archer novel, The Fourth Estate, is a good tale whose fictional characters are thinly veiled versions of real-world media tycoons Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch.

Archer is a good writer, as well as being a former member of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Most recently, he spent some time in a UK prison, which he chronicled in a book titled A Prison Diary (which I haven't read).

In a spectacle hardly noticed in the States, the 62-year-old Conservative Party member sued a newspaper for libel when it published a story that he had paid �70 to sleep with a prostitute and then paid her �2,000 to keep quiet. He was sentenced to four years in prison when a jury found that he had lied in court and had faked a diary to create an alibi for his case.

His crimes aside, in fiction Archer spins intrigue like Grisham, but is a far better writer. Not as good as Le Carre, but certainly in the tradition of that master and Forsythe. If you like any of these fellows, head over to your local used book store and pick up something by Jeffrey Archer.

I quite enjoyed Honor Among Thieves, a 1994 story about the theft of the Declaration of Independence by a President Clinton impersonator, backed by the mob, and financed by none other than Saddam Hussein. I know how it sounds. But Archer is simply a master of making even this sort of absurd plot seem entirely plausible.


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