Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mini-Review: "Sons of Fortune" by Jeffrey Archer

There are myriad reasons behind my choosing to read a book. It may be because I am returning to a proven author to read or re-read a masterpiece. If may be because the book has been recommended to me by someone who feels I would would enjoy it. It may be because I read a review that intrigued me. In the case of Jeffrey Archer´s novel, "Sons of Fortune," the reasons are more obscure. I had a chance to meet Jeffrey Archer shortly before he went to prison, and I was curious to see what kind of writing he would produce.

Most of you are aware that Archer is the UK´s bad boy former candidate for Prime Minister on the Tory ticket. He got himself into a bit of a bind, and spent some time as a guest of one Her Majesty´s gaols. I met Archer when he was appearing on stage in London in a play that he had penned. Co-starring in that play was my friend, Edward Petherbridge of the Royal Shakespeare Company. After the evening´s performance, Edward invited me back to his dressing room for a drink, and he introdiced me to Mr. Archer.

The story of the novel is boilerplate "twins separataed at birth" fodder. What struck me was Sir Jeffrey´s sloppy writing and the apparent absence of any serious editing. I will cite the most egregious example. Early in the book, the reader is treated to the phrase: "a former alumni"! This phrase is a double affront to the Queen´s English! Once one has graduated from a school, one cannot reverse the process and "ungraduate," so there do not exist any creatures called "former alumni." Anyone with Archer´s Oxford education (not to mention any editor not asleep at the switch) should be aware that "alumni" is the plural form of "alumnus." So, it is not possible for a single person to be an "alumni" -whether current or former. This kind of lazy writing is simply inexcusable. I will chalk it up to the distraction of Archer being detained as a guest of the Queen when he wrote this novel.

Archer gets a mulligan this time around, but if I read another of his novels with similar lapses, he will have lost me as a reader.


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