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Jeffrey Archer Draws Inspiration From His Friendship With Lady Diana for His Latest Thriller

In a Q&A about "Next in Line," the British author talks about working on charity auctions with Di and which Royal Family member approved of the book. / BY Rosemary Counter / September 28th, 2022

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s life story has all the dramatic plot twists and turns as one of his bestselling page-turners. Just a brief synopsis: The British Member of Parliament was riding high in the early 70s until he lost his fortune investing in a fraudulent Canadian company, Aquablast, which claimed to be making anti-pollution devices for cars. Archer went bankrupt, resigned his seat and turned his pen to the page. His 1974 bestseller Kane and Abel sold 24 million copies, became a CBS miniseries, and ushered his comeback into politics.

Archer’s trajectory looked great after British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appointed him deputy chairman of the ruling Conservative Party, until a (false!) sex scandal forced him to resign, again. Rich with libel damages from a tabloid newspaper, Archer forged another comeback, running as the Conservative Party candidate in London’s 1999 mayoral race. He dropped out after he was charged with perjury related to the libel case and, the following year, Archer was sentenced to four years in the slammer (he served two).

Jeffrey Archer

Naturally, he used his alone time wisely, penning a three-volume prison diary to add to his ample bibliography of 42 works, including fiction, non-fiction, short stories, plays and even children’s books. Archer’s latest, Next in Line, is the fifth addition in a series featuring Detective Chief Inspector William Warwick and his maverick ex-undercover operative, Ross Hogan. Next in Line charges the duo with Royalty Protection in 1988 of Princess Diana, a personal friend of Archer. Is this a true story? And what was Di like in real life? Zoomer called Archer in London to try to get him to spill some secrets.

Rosemary Counter: Congrats on the new book! I should confess right now that I’m blown away by anyone who ever met Princess Diana in real life.

Jeffrey Archer: I knew her quite well. If you read between the lines in this book, you’ll see a lot of stuff that actually happened. I’m not going to say what’s true and what’s not; it’s all about whether you believe it.

RC: You’re teasing me! After 25 years since Diana’s death, why write a book now?

JA: Twenty-five years felt like a fair distance so that no one can say that I’m cashing in our relationship. I’m not. But there’s also nothing in the book that could be described as controversial. In fact, a few senior members of the Royal Family have already reached out to tell me they enjoyed the book.

Princess Diana with Jeffrey Archer, attending a charity dinner for the Harefield Heart Unit at Harrods, London, February 1996. Photo: Jayne Fincher/Getty Images

RC: Are you going to tell me who?

JA: I will tell you one, only, because she’s already made it public, and that’s [Sarah Ferguson] the Duchess of York. I can’t tell you the other one, but I’ll tell you I received a lovely handwritten letter from her.

RC: “Her.” That’s a good clue. I feel like a detective in one of your books. If this is the first one in the series I’ve picked up, what do I need to know?

JA: William Warwick begins as a constable on the beat. He was born into a middle-class family. His father was a barrister who wants him to study law. Warwick defies his father and goes into law enforcement. Every book he moves up a rank, so now he’s a superintendent dealing with royalty protection. After that is chief superintendent, then commander, then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. So we’ll see.

RC: Like most protagonists, Warwick has a built-in enemy in Booth Watson. Oooh, I love that name!

JA: Booth Watson is a wicked piece of work. Watson is the go-to guy for the main villain, though. They’re a pair, really, just like Warwick and Hogan. While Warwick is very proper and by the book — they call him “the choir boy,” which gives it all away — Hogan’s always on the brink of being thrown out of the force. When they discover that Princess Diana’s life is in danger, they have 48 hours to save her life.

RC: I really hope that part is not a true story! I need to know!

JA: I’m not going to tell you. I’ll tell you a nicer story though. I was Diana’s auctioneer, as charity auctions are my hobby, and that’s how I got to know her. It’s hard for most people to imagine knowing someone so famous, but after working together over many years, it’s not so different. I’ve worked with many remarkable women, including Margaret Thatcher for many years. I figure if they’ve read my books and want to talk to me, that’s very flattering.

RC: 320 million people have read your many, many books. How do you keep coming up with new ideas?

JA: That’s just a piece of luck, I guess. They just keep coming, again and again. I admit that’s just lucky. I have another in the works already. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about.

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