Jeffrey Archer discusses Only Time Will Tell, Volume 1 of The Clifton Chronicles.
Only Time will Tell was the first book of The Clifton Chronicles and it begins with the birth of Harry Clifton, a boy born in the back streets of Bristol. His father was a docker, his mother, a housewife.
He’s clearly a very bright, sharp kid, but he just doesn’t want to go to school. He wants to play in the docks. He thinks he’s going to be a docker like his father. But then he meets up with Old Jack.
Captain Tarrant, Old Jack, is based on the great Sir Tommy McPherson who tragically died quite recently. Holder of three Military Crosses, three Croix de Guerre’s, The Legion d’Honneur, all achieved between the age of 22 and 24 when he was behind enemy lines.
I sat with this great man who I’d known for 40 years because he’d been president of athletics at Oxford when I was captain of the team. But I didn’t know.
All they said about him was he had a good war. Some understatement.
So I sat with him and said, I want to base Old Jack on you, Tommy, but I need to know the truth.
It was on a Thursday morning in the Transvaal when I killed 15 people and a grateful nation awarded me the Victoria Cross. I haven’t slept a night since. When I wrote the first book, I knew of course that I couldn’t do it in 400 pages.
I knew this was a long project from 1920 to this century. And in book one, you get them from Harry’s birth, Giles’ birth. He meets Emma for the first time at the age of eight and doesn’t even see her, but she sees him.
And you take it through to them all going to university.
And that changes overnight. They’ve only been there a few days when Hitler declares war. And one of them joins up the next day.
One of them stays at the university.