Jeffrey Archer persuaded prisoners to open their hearts to him and then wrote prurient nonsense that will not advance the cause of reform, says the Prospect prisonerby Peter Wayne / December 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
Book: A Prison DiaryVOL 1: Belmarsh Hell Author: FF8282 (Macmillan, ?14.99)
Four days before the end of Jeffrey Archer’s trial for perjury, I was visiting the Royal Academy’s summer show and, by chance, I bumped into him. He was standing at the top of the grand entrance staircase-no fans, no minders, no Mary anywhere to be seen. He appeared at first glance to be his usual confident self: straight-backed, chin up, the famous crew cut glistened, his necktie was flawlessly knotted and his suit looked as pristine as the day it left Savile Row. I tapped him gently on the shoulder and introduced myself.
“Hope everything goes well when the jury retires,” I ventured. Archer stiffened. “Nothing to worry about,” he replied. I could tell he didn’t believe it. He looked at his watch nervously.
“I’ve served 19 years in prison,” I told him, “and all the while I kept a journal of what was happening-to me, to those around me. It kept me sane… the unburdening of my troubled soul. If things should go wrong for you…”
“No.” Archer was quite convinced. “They’re not going to find me guilty. I’m an innocent man and I have every faith that I’ll be vindicated.”
“Just in case,” I said, “spew everything out onto the page. With your name you could make a real contribution to the penal debate.”
He seemed a little put out. “It won’t come to that. Good to talk. Must be off.” And with a nod he shook my hand, descended the great staircase and bolted out through the front door.
Well, as we now know, it did come to that. An irate Justice Potts sent him down for four years. Archer was left to reflect on his own demise.
With the publication of A Prison Diary by “FF8282” (note the pseudo-Wildean allusion to anonymity-nowhere on the book’s cover does his name appear) Archer has prematurely risen from his grave. In the year since our brief encounter, having seemingly taken my advice, he has reproduced in Warholian detail what happened to him during the three weeks he spent in Belmarsh top security prison in Woolwich, southeast London. Every day he must have been scribbling away in his cell, fastidiously charting the iniquities doled out by a vengeful world. The pity is that his efforts have such an empty ring to them. Archer’s book oozes with self-regard and…