Purgatory: A Prison Diary, Volume 2

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Overview

On August 9, 2001, twenty-two days after author Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years in prison for perjury, he was transferred from HMP Belmarsh, a notorious high-security prison in south London, to HMP Wayland, a medium security prison in Norfolk. He served sixty-seven days in Wayland and during that time, encountered not only the daily degradations of a dangerously over-stretched prison system, but the spirit and courage of his fellow inmates. Purgatory is an account of ...
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Purgatory: A Prison Diary Volume 2

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Overview

On August 9, 2001, twenty-two days after author Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years in prison for perjury, he was transferred from HMP Belmarsh, a notorious high-security prison in south London, to HMP Wayland, a medium security prison in Norfolk. He served sixty-seven days in Wayland and during that time, encountered not only the daily degradations of a dangerously over-stretched prison system, but the spirit and courage of his fellow inmates. Purgatory is an account of his experiences in prison.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As recounted in this second installment of his prison diary, Archer's 67 days at Wayland, a medium-security facility in Norfolk, sounds much more pleasant than the time he spent at a maximum-security facility in London, where his status as a bestselling novelist and member of the House of Lords didn't help much. At Wayland, after making the right connections, he could use his considerable fortune to buy decent food, extra phone cards, have his laundry done-even arrange to bid on a $900,000 painting by the Colombian artist Botero, thanks to an inmate being deported back to that country. But as he points out after a fight between prisoners results in a man's head being split open by a snooker ball, "I go into great detail to describe this incident simply because those casually reading this diary might be left with an impression that life at Wayland is almost bearable. It isn't." Archer comes across as a remarkable piece of work-a character only a novelist as subtle as Anthony Powell could invent. At one moment he's remembering discussions with fellow Conservative politicians about the future of the party; the next he's complaining about the prison menu. What obviously kept him going-and will keep readers turning the pages-is his ability to write by hand up to 3,000 words a day of his journals and his 2002 novel, Sons of Fortune, while maintaining the wry humor that can cause him to comment, after seeing a recent TV adaptation of Great Expectations, "If I hadn't been in prison, I would have walked out after fifteen minutes." Agent, Jonathan Lloyd at Curtis Brown. (July 3) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Novelist, lord, and now criminal, Archer continues his tale of life in prison after being convicted of perjury. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When last we heard of the adventures of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare (A Prison Diary, 2003), our noble prisoner had completed three weeks of his four-year sentence for perjury, forgery, and obstruction of justice. He's back. Of course. Prisoner FF8282, author of many fanciful adventures (Sons of Fortune, 2003, etc.), has been transferred from maximum security HMP Belmarsh. Now he records nine weeks at medium security HMP Wayland before heading for an open prison in 2001. Still not pleased with standard accommodations, he arranges with fellow inmates for extra bedding, laundry service, and bottled water. He dines on toad-in-the-hole, beans on toast, Spam, Weetabix, and marmalade. His Lordship is busy in the pokey, attempting to fashion a flower pot, refereeing cricket matches, getting his cell redecorated, watching Jane Austen on the telly, and checking out all of Shakespeare's plays. ("Tonight, King Lear. If only the Bard had experienced a few months in prison . . .") A man of some sensibility, he engages with another convict, soon to return to his native Colombia, in a scheme to get a fine emerald and a fine painting by the celebrated Colombian Botero. (The plan carries the only hint of suspense, so we won't reveal if it works.) There are sketches of friendly inmates, like "Dale (wounding with intent), Darren (marijuana only), Jimmy (Ecstasy courier), Steve (conspiracy to murder), and Jules (drug dealing)" and visits from friends and family. Other than his conventional take on the events of September 11th, this is not terribly different from his previous outing (if that's the right word). Archer is, understandably, still unhappy with the prison system; he has ideas for reform. Histext is still larded with cricketer jargon indecipherable this side of the Atlantic. A toff in HM's bridewell, it's toad-in-the-hole once more. Plan an escape. (8-page photo insert)
From the Publisher
Praise for A Prison Diary, Vol. 1:

"A tale that is not only important but true."

The Washington Post

"The finest thing that he's ever written...riveting."

Independent on Sunday (UK)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641681943
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 310
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.07 (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 And Thereby Hangs a Tale, 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.

Biography

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

PURGATORY (Day 22: Thursday 9 August 2001)

10.21 am

It is a glorious day: a day for watching cricket, for drinking Pimm’s, for building sandcastles, for mowing the lawn. Not a day to be travelling in a sweatbox for 120 miles.

Having served twenty-one days and fourteen hours in Belmarsh, I am about to be transported to HMP Wayland, a Category C prison in Norfolk. A Group 4 van is my chauffeur-driven transport, with two cubicles for two prisoners.* I remain locked in for fifteen minutes awaiting the arrival of a second prisoner. I hear him talking, but can’t see him. Is he also going to Wayland?

At last the great electric gates of Belmarsh slide open and we begin our journey east. My temporary moving residence is a compartment four feet by three with a plastic seat. I feel nauseous within ten minutes, and am covered in sweat within fifteen.

The journey to Wayland prison in Norfolk takes just over three hours. As I peer through my tiny window I recognize the occasional familiar landmark on the Cambridge leg of the trip. Once the university city is behind us, I have to satisfy myself with a glimpse at signposts whenever we slow down at roundabouts to pinpoint where we are: Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Thetford. So for this particular period of my life that very special lady, Gillian Shephard, will be my Member of Parliament.

The roads become narrower and the trees taller the further east we travel. When we finally arrive at Wayland it couldn’t be in starker contrast to the entrance of Belmarsh with its foreboding high walls and electric gates. And – most pleasing of all – not a member of the press in sight. We drive into the yard and come to a halt outside the reception area. I sense immediately a different atmosphere and a more casual approach by prison officers. But then their daily tariff is not gangland murderers, IRA terrorists, rapists and drug barons.

The first officer I meet as I walk into reception is Mr Knowles. Once he has completed the paperwork, he signs me over to a Mr Brown, as if I were a registered parcel. Once again, I am strip-searched before the officer empties my HMP Belmarsh plastic bag onto the counter and rummages through my possessions. He removes my dressing gown, the two large blue towels William had so thoughtfully supplied and a blue tracksuit. He informs me that they will be returned to me as soon as I am enhanced.*

‘How long will that take?’ I ask.

‘Usually about three months,’ he replies casually, as if it were a few grains of sand passing through an hourglass. I don’t think I’ll mention to Mr Brown that I’m hoping to be moved within a few days, once the police enquiry into Baroness Nicholson’s complaint concerning the Simple Truth appeal has been seen for what it is.*

Mr Brown then places my beige slacks and blue shirt on one side, explaining that I won’t get those back until I’ve been released or transferred. He replaces them with a striped blue prison shirt and a pair of jeans. After signing over my personal possessions, my photograph is taken, holding up a little blackboard with the chalk letters FF8282 under my chin, just as you’ve seen in films.

I am escorted by another officer to what I would describe as the quartermaster’s stores. There I am handed one towel (green), one toothbrush (red), one tube of toothpaste, one comb, two Bic razors and one plastic plate, plastic bowl and plastic cutlery.

Having placed my new prison property in the plastic bag along with the few possessions I am allowed to retain, I am escorted to the induction wing. Mr Thompson, the induction officer, invites me into his office. He begins by telling me that he has been in the Prison Service for ten years, and therefore hopes he will be able to answer any questions I might have.

‘You begin your life on the induction wing,’ he explains, ‘where you’ll share a cell with another prisoner.’ My heart sinks as I recall my experience at Belmarsh. I warn him that whoever I share a cell with will sell his story to the tabloids. Mr Thompson laughs. How quickly will he find out? Prison would be so much more bearable if you could share a cell with someone you know. I can think of a dozen people I’d be happy to share a cell with, and more than a dozen who ought to be in one.

When Mr Thompson finishes his introductory talk, he goes on to assure me that I will be moved into a single cell on another block once I’ve completed my induction.*

‘How long will that take?’ I ask.

‘We’re so overcrowded at the moment,’ he admits, ‘that it could take anything up to a month.’ He pauses. ‘But in your case I hope it will be only a few days.’

Mr Thompson then describes a typical day in the life of Wayland, making it clear that prisoners spend considerably less time locked in their cells than they do at Belmarsh, which is a slight relief. He then lists the work choices: education, gardening, kitchen, workshop or wing cleaner. But he warns me that it will take a few days before this can be sorted out. Nothing is ever done today in the Prison Service, and rarely even tomorrow. He describes how the canteen works, and confirms that I will be allowed to spend £12.50 per week there. I pray that the food will be an improvement on Belmarsh. Surely it can’t be worse.

Mr Thompson ends his dissertation by telling me that he’s selected a quiet room-mate, who shouldn’t cause me any trouble. Finally, as I have no more questions, he accompanies me out of his little office down a crowded corridor packed with young men aged between eighteen to twenty-five, who just stand around and stare at me.

My heart sinks when he unlocks the door. The cell is filthy and would have been the subject of a court order by the RSPCA if any animal had been discovered locked inside. The window and window sill are caked in thick dirt – not dust, months of accumulated dirt – the lavatory and the wash basin are covered not with dirt, but shit. I need to get out of here as quickly as possible. It is clear that Mr Thompson doesn’t see the dirt and is oblivious to the cell’s filthy condition. He leaves me alone only for a few moments before my cell-mate strolls in. He tells me his name, but his Yorkshire accent is so broad that I can’t make it out and resort to checking on the cell card attached to the door.

Chris* is about my height but more stocky. He goes on talking at me, but I can understand only about one word in three. When he finally stops talking he settles down on the top bunk to read a letter from his mother while I begin to make up my bed on the bunk below. He chuckles and reads out a sentence from her letter: ‘If you don’t get this letter, let me know and I’ll send you another one.’ By the time we are let out to collect our supper I have discovered that he is serving a five-year sentence for GBH (grievous bodily harm), having stabbed his victim with a Stanley knife. This is Mr Thompson’s idea of someone who isn’t going to cause me any trouble.

6.00 pm

All meals are served at a hotplate, situated on the floor below. I wait patiently in a long queue only to discover that the food is every bit as bad as Belmarsh. I return to my cell empty-handed, grateful that canteen orders at Wayland are on a Friday (tomorrow). I extract a box of Sugar Puffs from my plastic bag and fill the bowl, adding long-life milk. I munch a Belmarsh apple and silently thank Del Boy.*

6.30 pm

Exercise: there are several differences between Belmarsh and Wayland that are immediately apparent when you walk out into the exercise yard. First, you are not searched, second, the distance you can cover without retracing your steps can be multiplied by five – about a quarter of a mile – third, the ratio of black to white prisoners is now 30/70 – compared to 70/30 at Belmarsh – and fourth, my arrival in Norfolk causes even more unsolicited pointing, sniggering and loutish remarks, which only force me to curtail my walk fifteen minutes early. I wish Mr Justice Potts could experience this for just one day.

On the first long circuit, the salesmen move in.

‘Anything you need, Jeff? Drugs, tobacco, phonecards?’

They’re all quite happy to receive payment on the outside by cheque or cash.† I explain to them all firmly that I’m not interested, but it’s clearly going to take a few days before they realize I mean it.

When the barrow boys and second-hand salesmen have departed empty-handed, I’m joined by a lifer who tells me he’s also sixty-one, but the difference is that he’s already served twenty-seven years in prison and still doesn’t know when, if ever, he’ll be released. When I ask him what he’s in for, he admits to killing a policeman. I begin a conversation with a black man on the other side of me, and the lifer melts away.

Several of the more mature prisoners turn out to be in for ‘white collar’ crimes: fiddling the DSS, the DTI or HM Customs. One of them, David, joins me and immediately tells me that he’s serving five years.

‘What for?’ I ask.

‘Smuggling.’

‘Drugs?’

‘No, spirits,’ he confesses.

‘I didn’t realize that was against the law. I thought you could pop across to Calais and…’

‘Yeah, you can, but not sixty-five times in sixty-five days with a two-ton lorry, carrying twenty million quid’s worth of whisky.’ He pauses. ‘It’s when you forget to cough up eight million quid in duty that the Customs and Excise become a little upset.’

A young man in his late twenties takes the place of the police murderer on the other side of me. He brags that he’s been banged up in six jails during the past ten years, so if I need a Cook’s tour he’s the best-qualified operator.

‘Why have you been sent to six jails in ten years?’ I enquire.

‘No one wants me,’ he admits. ‘I’ve done over two thousand burglaries since the age of nineteen, and every time they let me out, I just start up again.’

‘Isn’t it time to give it up, and find something more worthwhile to do?’ I ask naively.

‘No chance,’ he replies. ‘Not while I’m making over two hundred grand a year, Jeff.’

After a time, I become sick of the catcalling, so leave the exercise yard and return to my cell, more and more disillusioned, more and more cynical. I don’t consider young people, who are first offenders and have been charged with minor offences, should be sent to establishments like this, where one in three will end up on drugs, and one in three will commit a far more serious offence once they’ve received tuition from the prison professors.

The next humiliation I have to endure is prisoners queuing up silently outside my cell door to get a look at me. No ‘Hi, Jeff, how are you?’ Just staring and pointing, as if I’m some kind of an animal at the zoo. I sit in my cage, relieved when at eight o’clock an officer slams the doors closed.

8.00 pm

I’m just about to start writing up what has happened to me today when Chris switches on the television. First we have half an hour of EastEnders followed by Top Gear, and then a documentary on Robbie Williams. Chris is clearly establishing his right to leave the TV on, with a programme he has selected, at a volume that suits him. Will he allow me to watch Frasier tomorrow?

I lie in bed on my thin mattress, my head resting on a rock-hard pillow, and think about Mary and the boys, aware that they too must be enduring their own private hell. I feel as low as I did during my first night at Belmarsh. I have no idea what time I finally fall asleep. I thought I had escaped from hell.

So much for purgatory.

PURGATORY Copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey Archer

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