I’ve always despised Jeffrey Archer, probably for exactly the same reasons that other people who despise him despise him: because he’s an odious smug liar and thuggish whore-mongering thief who parades his character flaws as if they’re virtues. Wonderfully vocal Archer-hater Ian Hislop once described him as having ‘a supreme vanity that meant he believed he should take centre stage in the country, and he wouldn’t be put off by the fact that he had no talent, ability or moral character’. I’m not sure it’s entirely reasonable to suggest that he has no ability, considering the amount of times he’s crawled out of the gutter of his own turpitude and slithered his way into a position of considerable influence, but still – an awful, repugnant human being all the same.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, I’ve never read any of his books. Until now. I’m currently about 30 pages into Shall We Tell the President? and I must say, it is absolutely bloody awful. I’m reading it because I’m looking for tips on how to write thrillers, and because someone whose opinion I respect (I won’t embarrass him by naming names) mentioned this book to me, and said that he’d enjoyed it as a teenager. Plus, I thought, one can’t really go through life slagging off someone’s writing (as I have done) without having actually read one of their books. So I intend to finish it, even though it’s some of the most leaden, inauthentic tosh I’ve ever had the displeasure to tolerate.
Really it is. Here’s a little example. This is the passage on which I assume the rest of the book hinges, a passage in which a corrupt Senator and a gaggle of would-be assassins discuss their plans to murder the president, in a restaurant kitchen, in earshot of a Greek waiter. Unbelievable enough in itself, obviously, but what’s really infuriating is the inconsistency in the Greek's speech patterns, the way in which his knowledge of English grammar comes and goes, like a tide of bullshit...
Ugh. It's like the writing of a retarded child. Could Jeffrey Archer really be one of the most popular writers on the planet? How can that be? Stephen King summed it up in this interview here when he said, 'There'll always be a market for shit, of course. Just look at Jeffrey Archer! He writes like old people fuck, doesn't he?'
I think it’s fair to say that this is the worst book I’ve read since I forced my way through The Difficult Second Book by Chris Moyles earlier this year.
Actually, I’m not sure I can think of any book I’ve actually finished which is worse than Moyles. I’ve started a few which would have given it a run for its money, including Learning to Fly by Victoria P Spice, but I couldn’t finish them.
Speaking of bad books written by WAGs, this five-star Amazon review of Welcome To My World by Coleen McLoughlin is perhaps my favourite ever review…
‘I really really liked this book. You get to know Coleen so well. There is a chapter on all the things that she may or may not have for breakfast and sometimes the writing is done in real handwriting instead of boring typing. Also, my favourite colour is pink which is good because I have never seen so much pink in one book. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in someone who is married to a celebrity.’
Ahh, Jim Nixon, the doyen of toothbrush reviews.
Speaking of bad writers, I was reminded of my hatred of Carla Lane on Saturday by an appalling television programme about appalling television programmes, and I came across her website, which features a selection of her poetry. Here is an example. It is called Thoughts…
Think of the plight of the fox in flight,
The beasts in the slaughter house.
Hear their call as the hunted fall,
And the cry of the scientist's mouse.
The scientist's mouse! Squeeeeeak! I wish Carla had written a book. Oh, wait - she has! Great title too.
Anyway, I seem to have meandered. My thrust is this: Jeffrey Archer may be about to replace Chris Moyles as the writer of the worst book I've ever read. So. What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?