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A Week to Remember: Happy Birthday, Jeffrey Archer!

Keith Chaffee, Librarian, Collection Development,
British novelist Jeffrey Archer
British novelist Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer was born on April 15, 1940. Archer is a British novelist and former politician whose own life has been colorful and eventful enough to be the stuff of fiction.

Archer entered Oxford in 1963 and studied for three years. During his years at Oxford, he began working as a fundraiser for various charities, and he continued that work after leaving Oxford, including working for the United Nations Association (UNA).

Archer began his political career in 1967 when he was elected to the London City Council. He was elected to Parliament two years later. When the Conservative Party was considering Archer as a candidate, they were strongly discouraged by Humphrey Berkeley, who had been the chair of the UNA during Archer's time there. He claimed that Archer had been guilty of financial malfeasance while at UNA. Archer brought defamation charges against Berkeley, and the story was mostly kept out of the press.

Archer faced a financial crisis in 1974 when he was among the victims of a fraudulent investment scheme. Needing more time to focus on repairing his personal finances, he resigned from Parliament and began writing his first novel. Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (e-book | e-audio) was published in 1976. It was a classic case of "write what you know," as Archer told a tale of four men teaming up for revenge on the financier who had swindled them in a shady stock deal.

3 Jeffrey Archer book covers

Archer's 1979 novel Kane and Abel (e-book | e-audio | print | audio) was the biggest success he'd yet had. It was a sweeping family epic about the parallel rises to power of two men born on the same day, one the son of a wealthy banking family, the other a poor immigrant. It was popular enough to get a sequel, and Archer revised his earlier novel Shall We Tell the President? (e-book | e-audio | print) to serve as a third volume in the series, which one of his fictional characters becoming the president whose life is threatened in the new version. (The original had given Edward Kennedy the job of president.)

With his financial worries resolved, Archer returned to politics in 1985, when Margaret Thatcher appointed him deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, over the objections of several prominent members of the Party. But once again, his political career faced turbulence from his personal life, when two London tabloids accused Archer of paying a prostitute for sex.

Archer fought the accusations, winning a libel suit against one tabloid and settling out of court with the other. His victory was based largely on testimony from Archer and his wife about their happy marriage. A reporter at one of the tabloids found evidence shortly after the trial that the Archers were actually living apart at the time, but his newspaper was unwilling to risk another libel suit.

In 1992, Archer was made a life peer; his title as Baron Archer could not be inherited by his children, but the title gave him a seat in the House of Lords.

Archer was selected by the Conservative Party as their candidate for mayor of London in 1999 when allegations surfaced of perjury in his 1987 libel case. Archer withdrew from the mayoral race immediately and was expelled from the Conservative Party for five years.

3 Jefferey Archer book covers

In 2000, Archer was convicted of perjury, and sentenced to four years in prison. He was released after two years and published A Prison Diary (e-book | e-audio | print | audio), about his years as a prisoner. He is still technically a member of the House of Lords—it would take an act of Parliament to revoke his peerage—but does not take part in its sessions. In 2006, Archer said that he had no plans to return to politics and would focus on his writing instead.

And he has done so, to continuing success. In 2011, Only Time Will Tell (e-book | e-audio | print | audio) began a seven-volume series called the Clifton Chronicles, which follows one British family's careers in business and politics from the end of World War I to the present.  Archer has now written more than 20 novels and several volumes of short stories, and the first volume in a new detective series is due to be published later this year.

Also This Week

April 21, 1949

Patti LuPone was born. LuPone is a singer and actress, best known for her performances in Broadway musicals. LuPone won the first of her two Tony Awards in 1979, playing Eva Peron in Evita. She has said that working on that show was a difficult experience, but she appeared in another Andrew Lloyd Webber show a few years later, playing Norma Desmond in the original London production of Sunset Boulevard. LuPone's most recent Broadway appearance was in the 2017 musical War Paint, about the rivalry between cosmetics moguls Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.

April 18, 1959

Susan Faludi was born. Faludi is a journalist and author whose 1991 book Backlash (e-book | print) has become a classic feminist text. In the book, Faludi argues that the feminist movement was being blamed for many of the problems that existed in the lives of modern women. More recently, Faludi was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her memoir In the Darkroom (e-book | e-audio | print), which centers on her father, who came out as a transgender woman in her mid-70s.

April 20, 1969

Felix Baumgartner was born. Baumgartner is a skydiver and BASE jumper known for the extreme daring and danger of his stunts. In 2014, Baumgartner made a skydive from a helium balloon in the stratosphere, 24 miles above the surface of the Earth. During the fall, he became the first person to break the sound barrier without being powered by a vehicle, reaching a speed of more than 840 mph. The documentary Mission to the Edge of Space reports on the preparation for Baumgartner's jump and the stunt itself.

April 17 is National Cheese Ball Day

A cheese ball is made from softened cheese, into which other ingredients and flavors might be mixed. It appears to be an American creation, with the first known cheese ball recipe appearing in a 1944 cookbook, and the balls were a popular appetizer through the 1970s. A cheese ball comeback seems to be underway, with at least two cookbooks devoted to cheese balls in the last few years. Dena Rayess's Cheese Balls (e-book | print) is a fairly basic introduction, featuring classic flavorings as Port Wine, Jalapeno, and Garden Herb. Michelle Buffardi's Great Balls of Cheese (e-book | print) offers more contemporary flavor combinations, and tips on how to decorate your cheese ball for any occasion.