And Thereby Hangs a Tale

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Tragic, comic, outrageous--these fifteen tales from international bestselling author Jeffrey Archer showcase his remarkable talent for capturing an unforgettable moment in time…

In India, in "Caste-Off," a man and woman fall in love while waiting for a traffic light to turn green on the streets of Delhi…

From Germany comes "A Good Eye," about a priceless oil painting that has remained in the same family for ...

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And Thereby Hangs a Tale

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Tragic, comic, outrageous--these fifteen tales from international bestselling author Jeffrey Archer showcase his remarkable talent for capturing an unforgettable moment in time…

In India, in "Caste-Off," a man and woman fall in love while waiting for a traffic light to turn green on the streets of Delhi…

From Germany comes "A Good Eye," about a priceless oil painting that has remained in the same family for over two hundred years, until...

To the Channel Islands and "Members Only," where a golf ball falls out of a Christmas cracker, and a young man's life will never be the same...

To Italy and "No Room at the Inn," where a young man who is trying to book a hotel room ends up in bed with the receptionist, unaware that she...

To England, where, in "High Heels," a woman has to explain to her husband why a pair of designer shoes couldn't have gone up in flames...

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Los Angeles Times

One of the top ten storytellers in the world.
Larry King

There isn't a better story-teller alive.
The Boston Globe

Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages.
The New York Times

Cunning plots, silken style…. Archer plays a cat-and-mouse game with the reader.

Archer is a master entertainer.
Washington Post

A storyteller in the class of Alexandre Dumas…unsurpassed skill.

Outrageous and top-notch terror.
Chicago Tribune

The only difference between this book and The Day of the Jackal is that Archer is a better writer.

Authentic, literate, and scary.
Boston Globe

The countdown is the thing; the pace, the pursuit, the what-next, the how-is-it-going-to-come-out…

Holds the reader in a vicelike grip.

A compelling read.
The Washington Post

Dynamite…plot twists and a slam-bang finale.
The Vancouver Sun

St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

An exercise in wish fulfillment. The good may suffer, but the bad will get theirs in the end. The fun is watching it unfold.
New York Post Liz Smith

A worthy successor to The Da Vinci Code.
Denver Post

Thoroughly imagined...entertaining...thrilling.
Vancouver Sun

Murder and a high-stakes art-world theft are cleverly blended [in this] thrill-ride.
The Boston Globe on JEFFREY ARCHER

Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages.
The New York Times on JEFFREY ARCHER

Cunning plots, silken style…. Archer plays a cat-and-mouse game with the reader.

Archer is a master entertainer.
Washington Post on JEFFREY ARCHER

A storyteller in the class of Alexandre Dumas…unsurpassed skill.

Outrageous and top-notch terror.
The Washington Post on A PRISONER OF BIRTH

Dynamite…plot twists and a slam-bang finale.
The Vancouver Sun on A PRISONER OF BIRTH

St. Petersburg Times (Florida) on A PRISONER OF BIRTH

An exercise in wish fulfillment. The good may suffer, but the bad will get theirs in the end. The fun is watching it unfold.

Murder and a high-stakes art-world theft are cleverly blended [in this] thrill-ride.

A compelling read.

Holds the reader in a vicelike grip.
Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Archer assembles 15 more of the clever stories for which he is known. They are split between tales of trickery, as with "Stuck on You," where an eager young man is played by a diamond thief, and decidedly sentimental stories, such as "Members Only," about a man who wants nothing more than to join a private country club. Archer marks with an asterisk stories that are based on true incidents (10 in this collection), and whether it is the weight of credibility these stories' genesis lends or if the author works better with some starting material, the entirely imagined stories are also the weakest. "Politically Correct" never gets out of the shallows in its attempt to be provocative, and "Better the Devil You Know," with its evil executive making a deal with the devil (aka Mr. De Ath), is silly even for this author, who usually writes with a winningly light touch. Still, Archer's writing exudes a certain charm and is mostly satisfying. His trademark twists--sometimes a surprise to the reader, sometimes not--and genial tone will endear these mostly cozy stories to his many fans. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Archer's bibliography contains 18 novels, three plays, and, with this newest title, six short story collections. During his recent travels, Archer, inevitably aware that short stories have their root in oral storytelling, gathered these colorful anecdotes, then spun them into whimsical tales. His refined characterization, penchant for British history, and trademark inclusion of cunning twists typify these 15 tales, three of which he situates outside the British Isles. However, although readers have been drawn to his works for over 30 years, reviewers panned his most recent novel, Paths of Glory, for its excessive fictionalization of history. Likewise, critics of his previous stories anticipated a future Cheever or Fitzgerald; this collection may diminish their optimism. Here, awaiting the upcoming twist upon which hangs each tale also requires absorption of excessive plot developments. Archer is now in his 70s and has written for over 34 years; his noted style seems tedious and worn.Verdict For appreciative short story readers as well as for comprehensive, contemporary short story collections.—Jerry P. Miller, Cambridge, MA
Kirkus Reviews

A collection of O. Henry–esque stories from British author Archer (Sons of Fortune, 2003, etc.).

The prolific author of novels, plays and screenplays returns to the story format with this book of whimsical, sometimes ironic pieces. Some work, some don't, but even the least of these is entertaining. The title, taken from a line penned by Shakespeare, sets up the premise of the book, which opens with the tale of a young man betrothed to a beautiful woman who is clearly above his station. After he successfully proposes, she in turn proposes an endeavor that tests their relationship, as well as his mettle. This story, like the others, is designed to give the reader a bit of an O. Henry moment and hinges on the idea that nothing is as it seems. "Better the Devil You Know" is a particularly satisfying tale in which an evil, ailing corporate mogul is given a second chance at life, while an innocent pays the price. In the end, though, true to Archer's theme, someone gets an unexpected and unpalatable comeuppance. There is nothing in this collection that will stick with readers once the covers close. It's not great art, but it is great, slightly old-fashioned entertainment, marked by simplicity and unpretentiousness—that's good enough to turn someone who doesn't normally read short stories into a fan of the genre.

This is the ideal book to pop into a bag or keep in the car and carry to pass the time, since the stories are short, easy to read and simple.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312539542
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/2011
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 579,745
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 4.16 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain's House of Commons and fourteen years in the House of Lords. All of his novels and short story collections--including Kane and Abel, Paths of Glory and False Impression--have been international bestselling books. Archer is married with two sons and lives in London and Cambridge.


Few contemporary writers can lay claim to as many career highs and lows as Jeffrey Archer -- bestselling novelist, disgraced politician, British peer, convicted perjurer, and former jailbird. And whether you view his misfortunes as bad luck or well-deserved comeuppance depends largely on how you feel about this gregarious, fast-talking force of nature.

Born in London and raised in Somerset, Archer attended Wellington School and worked at a succession of jobs before being hired to teach Physical Education at Dover College. He gained admission to Brasenose College at Oxford, where he distinguished himself as a first-class sprinter and a tireless promoter, famously inveigling the Beatles into supporting a fundraising drive he spearheaded on behalf of the then-obscure charity Oxfam.

After leaving Oxford, Archer continued work as a fundraiser and ran successfully for political office. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1969 but was forced to step down in 1974 when he lost his fortune in a fraudulent investment scheme. He turned to writing in order to stave off bankruptcy. His first novel, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, was published in 1976 and became an instant hit. It was followed, in quick succession, by a string of bestsellers, including his most famous novel, Kane and Abel (1979), which was subsequently turned into a blockbuster CBS-TV miniseries.

On the strength of his literary celebrity, Archer revived his political career in 1985, serving as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The following year he was forced to resign over a scandal involving payment to a London prostitute. (He admitted paying the money, but denied vehemently that it was for sex.) In 1987, he sued a British tabloid for libel and was awarded damages in the amount of 500,000 pounds.

Despite the adverse publicity, Queen Elizabeth (acting on the advice of Prime Minister John Major) awarded Archer a life peerage in 1992. The Conservative Party selected him to run for Mayor of London in the 2000 election, but he withdrew from the race when perjury charges were brought against him in the matter of the 1987 libel trial. In 2001, he was convicted and served half of a four-year prison term. (He turned the experience into three bestselling volumes of memoir!) Since his release, Lord Archer has expressed no interest in returning to public office, choosing instead to concentrate on charity work and on his writing career.

Controversy has dogged Archer most of his adult life. Claims still circulate that he falsified his paperwork to gain entrance to Oxford; and, at various other times, he has been accused of shoplifting, padding expenses, insider trading, misappropriation of funds, and financing a failed coup d'état against a foreign government. Needless to say, all this has kept him squarely in the sights of the British tabloids.

Yet, for all the salacious headlines and in spite of lukewarm reviews, Archer remains one of Britain's most popular novelists. His books will never be classified as great literature, but his writing is workmanlike and he has never lost his flair for storytelling. In addition to his novels, he has also written short stories and plays. Clearly, in "art," as in life, Jeffrey Archer has proved himself an affable survivor.

Good To Know

Archer was once a competitive runner and represented Great Britain in international competition.

Regarding the sex scandal that ultimately landed her husband in prison, Lady Mary Archer, the author's wife of 35 years, told reporters that she was "cross" with her husband but that "we are all human and Jeffrey manages to be more human than most. I believe his virtues and talents are also on a larger scale."

The prison where Archer was transferred for carrying out his perjury sentence in October 2001 is a "low security" jail on the Lincolnshire coast, a facility known for raising high-quality pork. According to one authority, "It is considered to be a cushy little place."

After his "fall from grace," Archer counted former Conservative PMs Margaret Thatcher and John Major among his many loyal supporters.

In the 1980s, Archer and his wife, Mary, purchased the Old Vicarage, Grantchester, a house associated with the poet Rupert Brooke.
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    1. Hometown:
      London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 15, 1940
    1. Education:
      Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute

Read an Excerpt


Detective Inspector William Trave of the Oxfordshire CID felt the pain as soon as he’d passed through the revolving entrance doors of the Old Bailey and had shaken the rain out from his coat onto the dirty wet floor of the courthouse. It hurt him in the same place as before—on the left side of his chest, just above his heart. But it was worse this time. It felt important. Like it might never go away.

There was a white plastic chair in the corner, placed there perhaps by some kind janitor to accommodate visitors made faint by their first experience of the Old Bailey. Now Trave fell into it, bending down over his knees to gather the pain into himself. He was fighting for breath while prickly sweat poured down in rivulets over his face, mixing with the raindrops. And all the time his brain raced from one thought to another, as if it wanted in the space of a minute or two to catch up on all the years he had wasted not talking to his wife, not coming to terms with his son’s death, not living. He thought of the lonely North Oxford house he had left behind at seven o’clock that morning, with the room at the back that he never went into, and he thought of his ex-wife, whom he had seen just the other day shopping in the covered market. He had run back into the High Street, frightened that his successor might come into view carrying a shared shopping bag, and had ducked into the Mitre in search of whisky.

Trave wanted whisky now, but the Old Bailey wasn’t the place to find it. For a moment he considered the possibility of the pub across the road. It was called The Witness Box, or some fatuous name like that, but it wouldn’t be open yet. Trave felt his breath beginning to come easier. The pain was better, and he got out a crumpled handkerchief and wiped away some of the sweat and rain. It was funny that he’d felt for a moment that he was actually going to die, and yet no one seemed to have noticed. The security guards were still patting down the pockets of the public just like they had been doing all morning. One of them was even humming a discordant version of that American song, “Heartbreak Hotel.” A rain-soaked middle-aged policeman sitting on a chair in the corner, gathering his breath for the day ahead, was hardly a cause for distraction.

A sudden weariness came over Trave. Once again he felt weighed down by the meaninglessness of the world around him. Trave always tried to keep his natural nihilism at bay as best he could. He did his job to the best of his ability, went to church on Sundays, and nurtured the plants that grew in the carefully arranged borders of his garden—and sometimes it all worked. Things seemed important precisely because they didn’t last. But underneath, the despair was always there, ready to spring out and take him unawares. Like that morning, halfway down his own street, when a young man in blue overalls working on a dismembered motorcycle had brought back the memory of Joe as if he had gone only yesterday. And fallen apples in the garden at the weekend had resurrected Vanessa stooping to gather them into a straw basket three autumns before. It was funny that he always remembered his wife with her back turned.

Trave gathered himself together and made for the stairs. When he got time, he’d go and see his doctor. Perhaps the GP could give him something. In the meantime he had to carry on. Today was important. Regina v. Stephen Cade, said the list on the wall outside the courthouse. Before His Honour Judge Murdoch at twelve o’clock. Charged with murder. Father murder—patricide, it was called. And the father was an important man—a colonel in the army during the war and a university professor in civilian life. If convicted, the boy would certainly hang. The powers that be would see to that. The boy. But Stephen wasn’t a boy. He was twenty-two. He just felt like a boy to Trave. The policeman fought to keep back the thought that Stephen was so much like Joe. It wasn’t just a physical resemblance. Joe had had the same passion, the same need to rebel that had driven him to ride his brand new 600cc silver motorcycle too fast after dark down a narrow road on the other side of Oxford. A wet January night more than two years ago. If he’d lived, Joe would be twenty-two. Just like Stephen. Trave shook his head. He didn’t need the police training manual to know that empathising with the main suspect in a murder investigation was no way to do his job. Trave had trained himself to be fair and decent and unemotional. That way he brought order to a disordered world, and most of the time he believed there was some value in that. He would do his duty, give his evidence, and move on. The fate of Stephen Cade was not his responsibility.

Up in the police room, Trave poured himself a cup of black coffee, straightened his tie, and waited in a corner for the court usher to come and get him to give his evidence. He was the officer in the case, and, when the opening statements were over, he would be the first witness called by the prosecution.

The courtroom was one of the oldest in the Old Bailey. It was tall, lit by glass chandeliers that the maintenance staff needed long ladders to reach when the bulbs blew out. On the wood-paneled walls, pictures of long-gone nineteenth-century lawyers stared out on their twentieth-century successors. The judge sat robed in black in a leather-backed armchair placed on a high dais. Only the dock containing the defendant and two uniformed prison officers was at the same level. Between them, in the well of the court, were the lawyers’ tables; the witness box; and, to right and left, the benches for the press and the jury. The jurors were now in place, and Trave felt them slowly relaxing into their new surroundings. Their moment in the limelight, when they stumbled over their oath to render a true verdict in accordance with the evidence, had come and gone. Now they could sit in safe anonymity while the drama of the murder trial played out in front of them. Everyone—members of the press, the jurors, and the spectators packed together in the public gallery above the defendant’s head—was focused on the prosecutor, Gerald Thompson, as he gathered his long black gown around his shoulders and prepared to begin.

“What time did you arrive at Moreton Manor, Inspector?” he asked, “on the night of the murder?”

“Eleven forty-five.” Trave spoke loudly, forgetting for a moment the acoustic qualities of the Old Bailey.

“Were you the first policeman on the scene?”

“No. Officers Clayton and Watts were already there. They’d got everyone in the drawing room. It’s across from the front hall.”

“And the victim, Professor Cade—he was in his study. On the ground floor of the east wing.”

“Yes. That’s right,” said Trave.

There was a measured coldness and determination in the way the prosecutor put his questions, which contrasted sharply with his remarkable lack of stature. Gerald Thompson couldn’t have been more than five feet tall. Now he took a deep breath and drew himself up to his full short height as if to underline to the jury the importance of his next question.

“Now, tell us, Inspector. What did you find?”

“In the study?”

“Yes. In the study.”

Trave could hear the impatience in the prosecutor’s voice, but he still hesitated before beginning his reply. It was the question he’d asked himself a thousand times or more during the four months that had passed since he’d first seen the dead man, sitting bolt upright in his high-backed armchair, gazing out over a game of chess into nothing at all. Shot in the head. Detective Inspector Trave knew what he’d found, all right. He just didn’t know what it meant. Not in his bones, not where it mattered. Pieces of the jigsaw fit too well, and others didn’t fit at all. Everything pointed to Stephen Cade as the murderer, but why had he called out for help after killing his father? Why had he waited to open the door to his accusers? Why had he not tried to escape? Trave remembered how Stephen had gripped the table at the end of their last interview in Oxford Police Station, shouting over and over again until he was hoarse: “I didn’t do it I tell you. I didn’t kill him. I hated my father, but that doesn’t make me a murderer.”

Trave had got up and left the room, told the sergeant at the desk to charge the boy with murder, and walked out into the night. And he hadn’t slept properly ever since.

Thompson, of course, had no such doubts. Trave remembered the first thing the prosecution counsel had told him when the case was being prepared for trial: “There’s something you should know about me, Inspector,” he’d said in that nasal bullying tone with which Trave had now become so familiar. “I don’t suffer fools gladly. I never have and I never will.”

And Trave was a fool. Thompson hadn’t taken long to form that opinion. The art of prosecution was about following the straight and narrow, keeping to the path through the woods until you got to the hanging tree on the other side. Defence lawyers spent their time trying to sidetrack witnesses and throw smoke in the jurors’ eyes to keep them from the truth. Trave was the officer in the case. It was his duty not to be sidetracked, to keep his language plain and simple, to help the jury do its job. And here he was: hesitant and uncertain before he’d even begun.

Thompson cleared his throat and glowered at his witness.

“Tell us about the deceased, Inspector Trave,” he demanded. “Tell us what you found.”

“He’d been shot in the head.”

“How many times?”


“Where in the head?”

“In the forehead.”

“Did you find the gun?”

“Yes, it was on a side table, with a silencer attached. The defendant said he’d put it there after picking it up from the floor near the french windows, when he came back into the study from the courtyard.”

“That was the story he told you?”

“Yes, I interviewed him the next day at the police station.

“His fingerprints were on the gun. That’s right, isn’t it?”


“And on the key that he admitted he turned in order to unlock the door into the corridor. The defendant told you that as well in his interview, didn’t he, Inspector?”

“Yes. He said the door was locked and so he opened it to let Mr. Ritter into the study.”

“Tell us who Mr. Ritter is.”

“He was a friend of Professor Cade’s. They fought together in the war. He and his wife had been living at the manor house for about seven years, as I understand it. Mrs. Ritter acted as the housekeeper. They had the bedroom above the professor’s study, overlooking the main courtyard.”

“Thank you, Inspector. All the fingerprint evidence is agreed, my lord.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” said the judge, in a tone that suggested he’d have had a great deal to say if it hadn’t been. His Honour Judge Murdoch looked furious already, Thompson noted with approval. Strands of grey hair stuck out at different angles from under his old horsehair wig, and his wrinkled cheeks shone even redder than usual. They were the legacy of a lifetime of excessive drinking, which had done nothing to improve the judge’s temper. Defendants, as he saw it, were guilty and needed to be punished. Especially this one. People like Stephen Cade’s father had fought in two world wars to defend their country. And for what? To see their sons rebel, take drugs, behave indecently in public places. Stephen Cade had made a mistake not cutting his hair for the trial. Judge Murdoch stared at him across the well of the court and decided that he’d never seen a criminal more deserving of the ultimate punishment. The little bastard had killed his father for money. There was no worse crime than that. He’d hang. But first he’d have his trial. A fair trial. Judge Murdoch would see to that.

“Let’s stay with the interview for a little bit longer,” said Gerald Thompson, taking up a file from the table in front of him. “You have it in front of you, if you need to refer to it, Inspector. It’s an agreed version. The defendant told you, did he not, that he’d been arguing with his father shortly before he found Professor Cade murdered?”

“Yes. He said that he went to the study at ten o’clock and that he and his father played chess and argued.”

“Argued about his father’s will? about his father’s intention to change that will and disinherit the defendant?”

“Yes. The defendant told me they talked about the will but that their main argument was over the defendant’s need for money.”

“Which his father was reluctant to give him.”

“Yes . . .”

Trave seemed to want to answer more fully, but Thompson gave him no opportunity. “The defendant told you in interview that he became very angry with his father. Isn’t that right, Inspector?” asked the prosecutor.


“The defendant admitted to shouting at Professor Cade that he deserved to die.” The pace of Thompson’s questioning continued to pick up speed.


“And then he told you that he left the study and went for a walk. That’s what he said, wasn’t it, Inspector?”

Thompson asked the question in a rhetorical tone that made it quite clear what he, at least, thought of Stephen Cade’s alibi.

“He said he walked up to the main gate and came back to the study about five minutes later, when he found his father murdered.”

“Yes. Now, Inspector, did you find any footprints to support Stephen Cade’s account?”

“No. But I wouldn’t have expected to. The courtyard is stone and the drive is Tarmac.”

“All right. Let me ask you this, then. Did you find any witnesses to back up his story?”

“No. No, I didn’t.”

“Thank you. Now one last question,” said Thompson, smiling as if he felt he’d saved his best for last. “Did you find any of the defendant’s belongings in the study?”

“We found his hat and coat.”

“Ah, yes. Where were they?”

“On a chair beside Professor Cade’s desk.”

“And the professor himself. Where was his body in relation to this chair and in relation to the entrance doors to the room? Can you help us with that, Inspector?”

“Why don’t you give the jury a chance to look at all this on the floor plan, Mr. Thompson?” said the judge, interrupting. “It might make it clearer.”

“Yes, my lord, I should have thought of that. Members of the jury, if you look at the plan, you can see the courtyard is enclosed on three sides by the main part of the house and its two wings. Professor Cade’s study is the last room on the ground floor of the east wing. It faces into the courtyard, and you can see the french windows marked. The internal door in the corner of the room opens out into a corridor which runs the length of the east wing. You can take it up from there, Inspector,” said Thompson, turning back to his witness.

“Yes. The deceased was seated in one of the two armchairs positioned in the centre of the study, about midway between the two entrances,” said Trave, holding up the plan. “The desk and the chair with the defendant’s hat and coat were further into the room.”

“So the professor was between the doors and the defendant’s hat and coat?”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“Thank you, Inspector. That’s what I wanted to know. No more questions.”

Thompson sat down with a self-satisfied expression on his face and stole a glance at the jury. He knew what the jurors must be asking themselves: Why would Stephen Cade have gone for a walk at half past ten at night? And if he did, why didn’t he take his hat and coat? It was obvious he hadn’t been wearing them, because not even he could pretend that he put them back on the other side of his dead father’s body on his return.

No, the truth was inescapable. Stephen Cade never went for any walk at all. He was in the study the whole time, arguing with his father about his will, threatening him, and finally killing him with a pistol that he had brought along for that precise purpose.

Then, the next day, he’d told the police a ridiculous story in order to try to save himself. But it wouldn’t wash. With a little help from the prosecution, the jury would see right through it. It’d find him guilty, and then Judge Murdoch would make him pay for what he’d done. With his neck.

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  • Posted January 18, 2011

    highly recommende

    Is it just me? i find that archer surpasses himself anytime he decides to write short stories and he goes and does it again. Many times when he finishes a story i end up wishing it had been longer. Loved them all

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