With his latest book Only Time Will Tell reaching the number one spot in India after just a day's sales, Jeffrey Archer is on a roll. Firmly rooted to his couch in front of the television, he can't take eyes off the World Cup cricket match. As he waxes eloquent about Sachin Tendulkar, it's a task to steer the conversation back to the legend himself.
From a stint in the prison for perjury to overnight success, Archer's life is no less exciting than his thrillers. Quiz him on any autobiographical project in the offing and he laughs, "Well my new series (Clifton Chronicles) about Harry Clifton's life is semi-autobiographical as there's a lot of Harry in me. The character will also grow up to be a writer, I can't divulge more right now, that's for the next four books."
With a career spanning more than forty years, the author has been at the receiving end of both brickbats and bouquets. Prod him on the most memorable ones and he reveals, "I am not bothered much by criticism, maybe the young take themselves too seriously. And as far as praise goes, there's nothing like people walking up to me and talk about Kane and Abel as if it's a part of their life."
Though riding high on success, the author has had a chequered past. He spent four years in prison for concocting a false alibi in a libel trial against a newspaper in 2001. The paper alleged that Archer had slept with a prostitute, Monica Coghlan, in a London hotel. Ask him about his time in prison and you know you've touched a sore spot. "I wrote three books about it, that's more than enough about the prison," he offers.
After being maligned by the British press for years, he's finally managed to get into their good books. With 19 books and a worldwide fan following, the author was recently awarded the Prix Polar International for his best-selling novel A Prisoner of Birth.
"The public loves storytellers, and awards are given to writers. It's very flattering to win awards at my age but there are 50 million people in India who've read Kane and Abel. What award is going to beat that? In fact, I keep telling my publishers not to tell anyone about the awards because the sales will go down," he says.
So has he read any Indian authors? "Oh yes! I'm nuts about R.K.Narayan. I think he is an amazing combination of a storyteller and a writer. He gives me the flavour of India and also gives me a story, which is hard to put down."