Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW (Original ) And Thereby Hangs a Tale (what appeared in Daily Times was heavily edited)

He has penned numerous bestsellers, done a stint as an M.P. (Member of Parliament), followed by a stint in prison, stopped by the House of Lords, and been in and out of politics. Somewhere along the way he also made ‘life peer’. He is Jeffrey Archer –successful British author and failed politician, who has a knack for turning his fortunes around. His lordship has been front page news for years. He is no stranger to celebrity or infamy and is someone who seems to juggle these roles (as author, politician and jailbird) better than most.

Archers first book – ‘Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less’, written after his close encounter with near-bankruptcy was an instant bestseller. In later life, his courtroom ordeal became a stage play (Archer dabbles in playwriting) titled ‘The Accused’ and two years in prison ended up as a three part volume aptly named ‘A Prison Diary’ - Hell (Part 1), Purgatory (Part II) & Heaven (Part III). Another well known work - ‘Kane and Abel’ has been recently revised for its 30th anniversary. Other stories have been adapted for stage, television, and film.

Now Archer is back with a new book – this time it is a delightful set of fifteen short stories out of which ten are based on real incidents and five are borne of pure fantasy. He picked up this relatively light blend of ‘strange but true’ collection during his travels. In the hands of a superb storyteller such as Archer the simplest of storylines assume fantastic proportions. The fact that he is a contemporary writer who manages to keep his plot moving without resorting to the usual tricks of the trade is a refreshing change. Graphic details are kept to an absolute minimum and the emphasis is on the story – like it used to be in the good old days.

‘And Thereby Hangs a Tale’ is his sixth book of short stories.

The journey begins with an ingenious con by a couple up to no good (according to the law of the land) and ends with a fairy tale ‘in the making’ about a couple up to no good (according to the laws of their sect). Midway readers can spend time with a bumbling diplomat in the ‘Un-diplomatic Diplomat’ - a fellow who managed to create strife between tribes that had lived in peace for centuries or accompany Alan Penfold on his first case, ‘which one never forgets’ – as he is constantly reminded, in ‘High Heels’. Or, like Archer one can do time with Benny the Fence in ‘Double Cross’.

The fact that so many of these stories are based on true incidents is an added attraction. Part of the allure lies in trying to spot the originals. The more outrageous tales happen to be true. Be they real or imagined, most, if not all the stories deliver on all counts.

Whether it is a simple matter of ‘The Queens Birthday Telegram’ in which a Centenarian must fence with the Queen’s staff or something more involving like ‘Members Only’ where a golf clubs won at a raffle – and one golf ball set events in motion that change the course of a young man life – the book promises to keep readers riveted till the end. Also featured is a fresh variation of the tried and tested ‘sneaky nurse tricks family out of fortune’ routine in ‘Where There’s a Will’.

The final story will appeal to the South Asian audience as it concerns a real life Indian fairy tale (of sorts) which has all the elements needed to turn it into a soppy little film. Picture this. Boy in open top red Porsche meets girl in Ferrari on a busy road - Ferrari speeds away, Porsche follows and thus begins a cross continental pursuit and a story arc that would make any Director from the Subcontinent proud. Additions like ‘Caste Off’ and ‘A Good Eye’ give the requisite multicultural tinge to this trek that takes one across Europe, America and South Asia.

The fictional side of the book is equally charming. Some like ‘Politically Correct’ deal with a deputy bank manager Arnold Pennyworthy’s very understandable paranoia in a post 7/7 Britain and the alarm bells set off by that dodgy looking new neighbour. Others like the ‘Blind Date’ are short and sweet.

Are some of these offerings predictable? Yes. But they are enjoyable nevertheless. The author is also seen playing with the supernatural in one case where a certain ‘Mr. De Ath’ comes up with an interesting proposition for the dying Chairman.

‘There may not be a book in every one of us but there is so often a dashed good short story’, Archer happily proclaims in the foreword. ‘And Thereby Hangs a Tale’ is a nifty little book that is both smart and sassy and thoroughly satisfying.

By: Jeffrey Archer

Reviewed By: Afrah Jamal

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Macmillan; Export ed edition (May 21, 2010)

ISBN-10: 0230711227

ISBN-13: 978-0230711228

Price: Rs. 595

Genre: Fiction

And Thereby hangs a tale – Exclusive South Asian Edition

Link to http://libertybook.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/150/

Comments

  1. 'Caste Off' generated a lot of buzz in India... for obvious reasons :)

    Ruskin Bond's 'The Eyes Have It' heavily inspires 'Blind Date'. Now that the master storyteller is reading R.K. Narayan's works including the charming 'Malgudi Days'... lets see what comes out next.

    But overall a nice read :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think most writers... if not all... get their inspirations from the works of other writers. They then apply their own touch to it, of course. Else it'll be difficult nay impossible for them to churn out original stuff every single time. What?

    ReplyDelete
  3. wish they would stop getting 'inspired' by the un-dead & find something new for a change...

    (the Queen of Crime)Agatha Christie was inspired by her own short stories & made em so much better...(the who dunnit part was ruined but still..:))

    But sometimes their inspirations! come back 2 haunt them in the form of lawsuits (Jk Rowling anyone?)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

VIEW: Of Clarion Calls and Golden Statuettes / By Afrah Jamal

First Published in Daily Times /Saturday, March 17, 2012

Elegiac laments for a fading film industry are interrupted midway with news that could give the documentary film medium at least a new lease of life. It owes its resurrection to a young filmmaker, who mined troubling sound-bytes overheard in theatres where war, injustice or social disparity reigns supreme. Clips aired at the third Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) held earlier this year provided glimpses of her work, including the internationally acclaimed ‘Saving Face’. At the time, she had an Emmy stacked away for one documentary and was just weeks away from winning an Academy Award for another. At the time, she had been relentlessly crusading to rid societies of those anachronistic practices (among other ills) that weigh them down in the modern world. And — despite these glittering credentials — her work was largely unknown amongst Pakistanis.

The young Oscar nominee who took the stage that day would soon be the face of a bur…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

BOOK REVIEW: Hira Mandi / Author: Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson

Published in Daily Times Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reproduced on Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson's Website

Translated from French by Priyanka Jhijaria

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

A programme about Hira Mandi did the internet rounds a couple of years ago. It claimed, among other things, that the sons of the ‘dancers’ reportedly end up as lawyers, doctors, artists — a few join politics and some even reach the military. These outrageous statistics may be one of the reasons the documentary was banned from the mainstream media. That and its primary premise — the plight of the fallen women — would prompt the conservatives to howl with dismay before scurrying off to bury any evidence in the backyard along with other bodies.


Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison embeds such wrenching moments in a bold narrative where its doomed protagonist can hail the brave new world and its genteel patrons from an extraordinary vantage point. The expedition to the underworld with the unfortunate progeny and the hapless…

SERIES REVIEW: THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS / Rick Riordan (2013)

First Published inDaily Times / 5 Jan 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Demigod fans who bade farewell to Percy – (son of Poseidon) & the Olympian franchise a few years ago must have wondered what the writer was up to as they came across a ‘final’ Prophesy conveniently left unresolved at the end of the saga.

The Last Olympian’ concluded the five part series wrapping up Percy Jackson & his merry band of demi-gods' extended arc with a high-octane finale and an emotional send-off. Though Rick Riordan had moved on to explore Egypt in ‘The Kane Chronicles’, he wasn’t done with Olympus, its ever shifting centre of power or its hoity-toity god population for that matter.

The cryptic warning heard in the final pages is used to establish the credentials of this spin-off. The gods return in the ‘Heroes of Olympus’ series - distant as ever and in Roman form heralding a brand new dawn with the promise of new crusades, a shiny new quest, fresh faces and an ancient threat. And Percy is b…

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
-
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)


Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

BOOK REVIEW: Kasab, The Face of 26/11

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Thanks to the Writer for the lovely emails despite the 'scathing review'

Published inDaily Times / Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Author: Rommel Rodrigues

November 26, 2008 was India’s 9/11 — or so they say. It was the day 10 gunmen held one city hostage for over 60 hours. A day that sent accusations flying across the border, and the fear of something deadlier being traded saw the international community scrambling for cover. India was breaking news for days. Pakistan also made headlines around that time but not for the same reasons.

They caught the perpetrator. Ajmal Kasab is exhibit A in the case against the country of his birth. What little is known about Kasab (the name literally means butcher), beyond his nationality (Pakistani) and vocation (deadly pawn) comes from a hastily complied sketch leaked to the media in the early days of the attack. The rest came from following the trail of breadcrumbs, obligingly l…