Man vs Bookshelf: The Clifton Chronicles (1 & 2)

This entry is part 26 of 29 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

Since starting Man vs Bookshelf it has been full steam ahead.

In fact, from week six until week 17, I read more than a book a week in all but one week.

At times I was struggling to keep up with all the review writing this entailed. A couple of times I even burst into tears and had to suck my thumb for three hours before I was ready to get back to it.

That’s why this spate of double books has been good for me. It’s given me a bit of time off where I’m not breaking my back (fingers) to write review after review.

With the Clifton Chronicles, I had two books over 400 pages and, as a result, ten days without writing a review.

Ten days!

That’s almost a week.

Not that you’ll notice, Constant Reader (and unlike Stephen King, I do mean Reader, singular, when I say that). See, I queue far enough ahead that this review will still come five days after the last and you’ll be none the wiser.

Well, except you will, because I told you.

Anyway, with my review glands (not a thing) refreshed, and my fingers ready to get to work (not like that), let’s get into it.

Jeffrey Archer and me

Jeffrey Archer is one of those writer’s who’s well known in England but I have no idea if America has heard of him.

Not that it matters. Not like I have any American readers.

They wouldn’t understand the humour anyway.

What do you mean ‘what humour’?

I digress.

I’ve been reading Jeffrey Archer since I was a kid.

That may seem odd seeing as they are not considered children’s books. But then, they are such easy reads they could replace Biff and Chip in primary schools.

I’ve not read loads of Archer, mind.

I read The Fourth Estate first, and enjoyed it. The two leads fascinated me. Especially in how they related to real life Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell.

I went on to read the Fourth Estate again. Not that I knew it would be The Fourth Estate again. It had a different cover and name: Kane and Able. But there you go.

Finally, I read Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less. This was my favourite, and although I’ve not read it since, I have fond memories of it.

The Clifton Chronicles

So I had read and enjoyed a few Archer books. I suppose that should have set the stage for me to jump into the first two Clifton Chronicles books.

But I didn’t.

The period of the 1920s-40s put me off, as I never enjoy books set around the First and Second World War.

“But Kane and Able and The Fourth Estate both have large chunks set in -“

Yes, yes, I know.

Either way, that’s why I didn’t rush into the Clifton books.

Then this challenge came around and these books held enough intrigue for me to want to read them.

But what did I think?

Well, it’s good and bad news.

The Bad News

I do wonder if Jeffrey Archer ever considered writing for children.

This will earn me shitty remarks (or it would if anyone read this) because I haven’t had a book published and Archer is a bestseller but…

He’s not a good writer.

And hey, that’s not to say the stories aren’t good. I mean the prose itself.

It’s clunky and obvious and the dialogue is so on the nose.

This is why I wonder about Archer and children’s books because that’s what it reminds me off. Where everything is spelt out in painful detail. Where characters spout drawn out sentences real-life human beings would never say.

Maybe it’s just me, but at times I would cringe reading it and would have to walk away for a few minutes before resuming.

So that was the bad news, but as always, there was a flip side to the coin…

The Good News

Here’s a comparison rarely drawn.

Jeffery Archer is like a poor man’s George Lucas.

No, hang on, I mean it.

George Lucas has the most expansive imagination. He created these amazing worlds and characters and whatever else in Star Wars.

Meanwhile, we have Archer who, to a lesser extent, creates these great stories.

The Clifton Chronicles charts the troubled lives of two families, one poor, one rich (yep, like Kane and Able and the Fourth Estate).

It’s engaging. It’s fast-paced. And, like Junk, it passes through time seamlessly without ever getting confused, bogged down, or lost.

So, like Lucas, we have a great creator of stories.

Then, to counterbalance great story, we have hideous dialogue.

Again, Lucas is better at this than Archer. Here’s a case in point:

Anakin: ”You are so beautiful”
Padme: ”It’s only because I’m so in love”
Anakin: ”No it’s because I’m so in love with you”
Padme: ”So love has blinded you?”
Audience: *is sick*

With Archer’s, it’s not quite so bad, if a little painful and expositiony at times.

But regardless, it’s a stark difference between quality storytelling and clunky writing.

And, if it proves anything, it’s that the consumer only cares about one thing: story.

So, writers, probably stop worrying about the rest.

Sum Up

I gave both these books a three out of five, and I intend to read the rest of this series after Man vs Bookshelf.

They were good, they were exciting, and I found it easy to get through them.

That’s what’s so depressing.

Why am I spending so long trying to be a good writer when good writing doesn’t seem to have any bearing on it?

Maybe I need to be a Tory who goes to prison?

Just kidding.

I’d never be a Tory.

Next Up

From ten days of reading between reviews to ten minutes.

Next we have a short funny book called Twitterature.

Tell you about it soon.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: Dirk Gently (1 & 2)Man vs Bookshelf: Twitterature >>
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International worst selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). Recently he is taking the internet by storm with his Man vs Bookshelf Challenge where he aims to read the 210 books on his bookshelf in 210 weeks, reviewing them on his blog and Goodreads along the way. He is also publishing books on Amazon, his most recent being the family suspense novel, Poor Choices, which you can find here.

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