Press Conference With...LORD ARCHER (AND ALISON & PAULA)

By Rob McGibbon 

So, here I am, on a sumptuous sofa in Lord Archer’s glorious watchtower penthouse above the Thames. Fine art and beautiful objects are all around, as is the stunning backdrop of London. In a cosy armchair next to me is former prisoner FF8282.

Our only other meeting was 20 years before. Me, a cub reporter on the Wimbledon News doing my first celebrity interview and he, the bristle-tailed new deputy chairman of the Tory Party. Early 1986. And to think what was to come… He told me something off-therecord back then and, no matter how un-newsworthy it was, I faithfully kept it secret. When I pitched for an interview months ago, along with the rest of the world’s media, I reminded Archer of this simple fact. It was a short letter, a little hook to the big fish, and it worked. Archer has had interview requests by the multiplescore, but has kept "open" sitdowns to just a few as he promotes False Impression, his first novel since serving two years for perjury.

So what is it like interviewing Archer? Where do I begin? He is all the things you expect and dread; gushing with dubious charm, dominating, patronising, and shamelessly bombastic, with a tone and volume of voice that irritates like a finger relentlessly jabbing your forehead. Then, in bursts, he is kind, oddly interested in your life and, when the guard slips, fleetingly vulnerable and melancholy.

Interviewing Archer — now 65 — is like entering one of his breathless novels. The plot zig-zags while you hang on in pursuit of the real story.

But, of course, you won’t ever find it. When you try to guide the "Master Storyteller" through the chapters of his own scandalously rich plot, you are left giddy with bewilderment.

For the full interview see this weeks Press Gazette.

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