Jeffrey Howard Archer is a British author and politician born in London and raised in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. He attended the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education without graduating and competed in athletics, mainly sprinting and hurdling. His performance has been questioned in recent years, however. Archer met his future wife Mary Weeden, who teaches chemistry at Cambridge, while at university. The couple have two children. Archer subsequently started a PR firm, and in 1967 he ran for the Tories. In 1969 he was elected to the House of Commons as the youngest Member of Parliament ever. In 1974, a Canadian company in which Archer was a major shareholder collapsed. He found himself with half a million pounds in debts and was forced to leave his seat.
Now on the verge of bankruptcy, Jeffrey Archer began to write about his experiences in Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1976), the story of how four men are conned by a paper company and make plans for stealing back their money from the crooks. The success of the story, which was adapted for the screen, encouraged him to continue writing. After another few major bestsellers Archer is well beyond paying his debts. It is estimated he has made 100 million pounds on his entire body of work, and he was again welcome on the political arena.
In 1985, he was elected vice chairman of the Tory Party in Margaret Thatcher's government. Only a year later he was back in the headlines when the The Star accused him of having a relationship with a prostitute, and Archer fell from grace yet again. Not a man to accept defeat, he sued The Star and won. He was knighted in 1992 for his contribution to society and the Tory Party and thereby took his seat in the House of Lords. He was a favourite candidate in the Mayor for London campaign of 1999 when an old friend stepped forward and revealed that he had lied in Archer's favour during the Star trial because he did not want to jeopardize Archer's marriage, but now he could no longer keep silent. This time Archer did not only disappear from all political life, he served two years of a four-year prison sentence for perjury. He was released in 2003.
Archer is more popular with his readers than with the critics. Kane and Abel (1979) made it to the top of the American bestseller lists. The book is a good example of a typical Archer theme – rivalry. First Among Equals (1984), an initiated résumé of over thirty years of British politics from the 1960s to the 1990s, was another well-acclaimed novel. The Fourth Estate (1996) narrates the rivalry between two newspaper magnates and is entirely based on the media war between Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell that came to an abrupt end when Maxwell drowned in mysterious circumstances in 1991.
Most of Archer's work are thrillers, but he has also written a few detective novels and a large number of short stories that have been published in several volumes.