Jeffrey Archer: Stranger Than Fiction was Michael Crick's attempt to uncover many of the myths surrounding the background and career of Jeffrey Archer, some of which had been propagated by Archer himself. It is meticulously researched - for example we discover that far from being a decorated First World War hero, his father was in fact a fraudster who skipped bail charges at the outbreak of the war and ended up in America. Crick has uncovered details about the existence about Jeffrey Archer's half brother and sister, despite Archer's failure to properly acknowledge the existence of his brother. Crick delves into the facts behind many of the fundraising campaigns headed by Archer, as well as setting out many of the details behind the threatened bankruptcy that ended his ambitions in the House of Commons and his libel trial with the News of the World in the late eighties.
With such a colourful character as the subject, it would perhaps have been hard to write a duff book about Archer, but Crick has excelled, constructing a clear and witty narrative that properly covers each turn of Jeffrey Archer's career, which in many cases read like one of Archers own novels. The figure that emerges is one that is grasping for fame and attention, with his periodic efforts to achieve a high-profile political career, his constant attempts to find a career as a tv presenter, and his obsession with his book sales and size of his advances. Highly ambitious, Crick takes great care to be fair to him and acknowledge his successes, as well as documenting his many failings.
It is a shame that this book has not been updated since 1995 to cover the unravelling of Archer's public life and his spell in prison and one hopes that this may happen at some point in the future. In the meantime this is an enjoyable look at the career of one of Britain's most flamboyant novelists and political operators.