Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer – digested

John Crace reduces a sprawling tale of high-stakes international intrigue and romance to juicy, bite-size chunks

1970: The PA system crackled. The jury had reached a verdict. “If only you were prepared to release the letter, Emma, you would win your case against your brother Giles’s first wife the Evil Lady Victoria,” said the barrister. “I can’t because it would be too damaging to my brother and he would no longer be able to stand as a Labour parliamentary candidate,” sobbed Emma. “Don’t worry about me, I just want the truth to come out,” said Giles Barrington. The jury immediately changed their verdict. Emma had won.

* * *

Harry Clifton sat down to tell a complete stranger the unlikely backstory of the previous five books in the series, before ringing his publisher in New York. “I’ve some good news for you,” said Harry. “I’ve just memorised the entire 80,000-word manuscript of the memoirs of the brilliant Russian dissident Jeffrey Archerov whom I met whilst we were both being held in Belmarsh on trumped-up charges.”

“That’s great,” replied the publisher. “I will give you £100,000 in cash. By the way, all your novels are now at number one in every bestseller list throughout the world.” Harry allowed himself a smile of satisfaction as his great hero John Buchan would have done.

* * *

Evil Lady Victoria had just been turned away from Coutts after she complained that one of her cheques had bounced. When she got home, she read in the Daily Telegraph that the American multi-millionaire Cyrus Grant was in London. “I know what I’ll do,” she said to herself. “I will get him to think that he got me pregnant and then he will give me a million pounds to keep quiet.”

“I will give you a million pounds to keep quiet,” said Cyrus Grant.

* * *

“I’ve got a very cunning plan to bring down the Barringtons and the Cliftons,” said Major Mellors. “I do hope it involves some insider trading, I’m good at that,” said Mr Sloane. “Drat, foiled again,” cried Major Mellors and Mr Sloane. “Those clever Barringtons and Cliftons have outwitted us again.”

* * *

“Shall we tell Giles that his new girlfriend, Karin, is actually a Stasi spy?” said the director general of MI6. “Why don’t we use her for our own ends?” suggested the director-general of MI5.

“Would you like to be in the House of Lords, Giles?” said Harold Wilson. “I think Margaret Thatcher has a lot going for her,” said Emma. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she became Britain’s first woman Prime Minister.”

“I know I used to be a Stasi spy,” wept Karin. “But now I love Giles very much and want to become a spy for the British without him knowing.”

* * *

Sebastian Clifton sometimes thought about Samantha, the woman he loved very dearly in the US, and their daughter Jessica. But he had promised himself he wouldn’t make contact while her husband was still in a coma. Chatting to Mick Jagger at Lords one day, Sebastian met a very beautiful Indian woman called Priya. “I love you Priya,” he said. “I love you, too,” she replied. “Let’s get married.”

As they tried to elope, her father shot Priya dead and badly wounded Sebastian. While Sebastian was recovering in hospital he received a phone call from the US. Samantha’s husband had died at last. “Book me a first-class ticket to Washington immediately,” he ordered his secretary. “What about Priya?” “Priya who?”

Within 12 hours, Sebastian was reunited with Samantha and Jessica. “I’ve always loved you,” he said. “I’ve always loved you, too,” she replied.

* * *

“I’ve got a very cunning plan to bring down the Barringtons and the Cliftons,” said Major Mellors. “I do hope it involves trafficking heroin. I’m good at that,” said Mr Sloane. “Drat, foiled again,” cried Major Mellors and Mr Sloane. “Those clever Barringtons and Cliftons have outwitted us again.”

* * *

“That’s a nuisance,” said Evil Lady Victoria. “Cyrus Grant has stopped paying me lots of money. Now I’m broke again.”

* * *

The call came through from Sweden. Jeffrey Archerov had finally been awarded the Nobel prize for literature. “It’s no more than he deserved,” said Harry. “Bad news, I’m afraid,” said the Noble committee. “Jeffrey Archerov has unexpectedly died.”

“Never mind,” said Jeffrey Archer. “I’ll accept it on his behalf.”

Digested read, digested: Cometh the drivel

Contributor

John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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