Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cat O’ Nine Tails: Jeffrey Archer

A lazy weekend afternoon, a heavy lunch, a dull mind seeking a quick light read – that’s what led me to Jeffrey Archer’s latest offering – Cat O’ Nine Tails. Cat is a collection of twelve stories – nine of which are based on real stories Archer gathered from fellow-prisoners when he served a two-year term for perjury.

Now I must confess that for a reason that I cannot quite remember, I have read all of Archer’s works (except for the prison dairies), starting from my late school days with Archer’s first (and arguably best) novel – Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less. I used to devour his other books with gusto in those days, particularly enjoying his short stories – at that time, a short story to me meant one with a twist at the end, and Archer provided that almost as a rule.

However, over his last few books, there was a discernible drop in the quality of the plots – books like Sons of Fortune and False Impression were really disappointing. And, sad to say, Cat seems to fall in the same category. There is a forcedness to the expressions and turns of phrase (things I used to see as Archer’s strengths in his early works); a predictability to the plots, and worse, to the twists at the end; and a tiredness in the characterization. May be it is the incarceration that did this to him. Or may be he has just run out of ideas – the stories almost read like he is parodying himself. It’s almost as if he is reminding himself at every turn, “I am Jeffrey Archer; I am supposed to write like this.”

To be fair to Archer, there are some unusual plots like “Don’t Drink the Water” and interesting characters like Patrick O’Flynn in Cat. May be a younger Jeffrey Archer would have give them a better spin and us, a better read.

Thankfully, the stories are short and so I was done quickly. May be I will not read Archer again. But then, that’s what I thought for the last few books of his. Now I am older (and hopefully…); and I don’t have too many lives left.

1 comment:

Peter said...

It's almost a surprise to hear that that scoundrel Archer is still writing.
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