To Cut a Long Story Short

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The key to a good short story is to never give away the...

With intriguing characters, and surprise endings cleverly twisted with irony, the all-new stories in this collection will thrill Archer fans old and new. Astonishingly, of the 14 stories, more than half are based on true incidents that were related to the author during his travels around the world. Mail on Sunday calls Jeffrey Archer "probably the best storyteller of our age" and the Washington Post declares that he is ...

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To Cut a Long Story Short

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The key to a good short story is to never give away the...

With intriguing characters, and surprise endings cleverly twisted with irony, the all-new stories in this collection will thrill Archer fans old and new. Astonishingly, of the 14 stories, more than half are based on true incidents that were related to the author during his travels around the world. Mail on Sunday calls Jeffrey Archer "probably the best storyteller of our age" and the Washington Post declares that he is "a storyteller in the class of Alexander Dumas." His mastery of character and suspense and his gift for the unexpected plot twist show why he is Britain's most successful author—and why three of his novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

About the Author:

Jeffrey Archer is one of the world's best-selling novelists. He lives in London and Cambridge, England.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Our Review
Cutting to the Chase
Rarely has the title of a book been so apt as that of Jeffrey Archer's latest collection of short fiction, To Cut a Long Story Short. Some of these tales are only two or three pages long, and Archer acknowledges that he's making an effort to play to the minimalist strengths of parables and fables. More than half of these pieces are based on true stories with reaffirming, positive messages, and more often than not they feature O. Henry-type twist endings.

Standouts include "A Change of Heart," where a prejudiced white South African man learns the error of his ways when his life is saved by a black benefactor. "The Letter" is a clever and entertaining read about a woman who receives a letter from her lover that she proceeds to read at the breakfast table across from her oblivious husband. In "Too Many Coincidences," a wife forfeits her husband in order to marry the gentleman of her dreams, only to learn too late that what appears to be too good to be true, often is.

One of the best representations of Archer's narrative skills is in "The Endgame," the longest piece in the collection. Wealthy entrepreneur Cornelius Barrington decides to test those people closest to him in an effort to find out their true characters. Barrington, with his closest friend and lawyer, Frank Vincent, devises a plan where he claims bankruptcy and willingly puts his mansion and all his many treasures up on the bidding block. Barrington had previously made loans to his brother, sister, nephew and housekeeper and now asks that they be repaid immediately. As he suspects, his family members begin to show their true colors when arguing over his fortune and making exorbitant bids on their favorite items in his house, even while failing to repay their debts. Here, Archer puts all of his talent to good use in presenting a tale full of well-wrought characterization, playful subplots, and a cheerful atmosphere that still offers up all the moral imperative of a refined allegory.

The red herrings abound as Archer weaves lighthearted, sometimes whimsical stories with an air of intrigue. To Cut a Long Story Short will allow the reader a chance to delve deep into the rich textures and inventive surprises of classically well-told tales.

--Tom Piccirilli

Tom Piccirilli is the author of eight novels, including Hexes, Shards, and his Felicity Grove mystery series, consisting of The Dead Past and Sorrow's Crown. He has sold more than 100 stories to the anthologies Future Crimes, Bad News, The Conspiracy Files, and Best of the American West II. An omnibus collection of 40 stories titled )Deep into That Darkness Peering is also available. Tom divides his time between New York City and Estes Park, Colorado.

Boston Globe
Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages.
Pittsburgh Press
One of the most captivating storytellers writing today.
New York Times
Cunning plots, silken style...Archer plays a cat-and-mouse game with the reader.
New York Times
Cunning plots, silken style. Archer plays a cat and mouse game with the reader.
Archer is a master entertainer.
London Times
Stylish, witty, and constantly entertaining... Jeffrey Archer has a natural aptitude for short stories.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection of sometimes intriguing, sometimes obvious stories is best suited to a series of short car trips rather than one long one: the listener tends to catch on fast to the O'Henry-esque endings, so the stories are less entertaining all at a gulp. And some might well have been cut shorter. Archer is least successful when the surprise endings turn solely on legal technicalities--as in "Crime Pays" and "Both Sides Against the Middle"--but a lot of fun when he interweaves legal issues with the relationships among the characters--as he does so well in "The Expert Witness" and "The End Game." These two particular stories also work well because, just when listeners think they've got the surprise ending, the plot thickens and twists again and then again. Some of the pieces are based on true incidents. In "A Change of Heart," for example, a South African bigot causes a car accident. The driver of the other car dies, and the bigot's life is saved by a heart transplant--the heart of the black man he killed in the accident. These are lighthearted stories, and Bill Wallace's reading is marvelous. He has a pleasing voice and crisp British accent that are entirely appropriate here, and he knows how to handle humor, irony and character differentiation without overdoing it. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Forecasts, Dec. 11, 2000). (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Thrillmeister Archer cuts to the chase: a new collection of short stories. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Archer is a master entertainer.
New York Times
Cunning plots, silken style...Archer plays a cat-and-mouse game with the reader.
Boston Globe
Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages.
Pittsburgh Press
One of the most captivating storytellers writing today.
From the Publisher

Praise for international bestselling author


“One of the top ten storytellers in the world.” —Los Angeles Times

“There isn’t a better storyteller alive.” —Larry King

“Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages.” —The Boston Globe

“Cunning plots, silken style…. Archer plays a cat-and-mouse game with the reader.” —The New York Times

“Archer is a master entertainer.” —Time

“A storyteller in the class of Alexandre Dumas…unsurpassed skill.” —Washington Post

And his novels and short story collections


“Will keep your blood pressure high and you’ll risk back injury just from being kept on the edge of your seat…I guarantee that anyone who takes this book from the shelves will not be able to put it down.”—The Spectator (UK)

“[Archer] is a master of fiction…Jeffrey Archer has the strange gift denied to many who think themselves more serious novelists. He can tell a story, and he does so with such conviction, such appealing naivety, that you suspend disbelief, and read happily on.”— The Scotsman (UK)

“Archer can plot a story. ”—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060185800
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/21/2000
  • Edition description: LARGEPRINT
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.64 (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 Sins of the Father, And Thereby Hangs a Tale, A Prisoner of Birth, and Kane & Abel--have been international bestsellers. 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

Chapter One

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

The Expert Witness

'Damn good drive,' said Toby, as he watched his opponent's ball sail through the air. 'Must be every inch of 230, perhaps even 250 yards,' he added, as he held up his hand to his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun, and continued to watch the ball bouncing down the middle of the fairway.

'Thank you,' said Harry.

'What did you have for breakfast this morning, Harry?' Toby asked when the ball finally came to a halt.

'A row with my wife,' came back his opponent's immediate reply. 'She wanted me to go shopping with her this morning.'

'I'd be tempted to get married if I thought itwould improve my golf that much,' said Toby as he addressed his ball. 'Damn,' he added a moment later, as he watched his feeble effort squirt towards the heavy rough no more than a hundred yards from where he stood.

Toby's game did not improve on the back nine, and when they headed for the clubhouse just before lunch, he warned his opponent, 'I shall have to take my revenge in court next week.'

'I do hope not,' said Harry, with a laugh.

'Why's that?' asked Toby as they entered the clubhouse.

'Because I'm appearing as an expert witness on your side,' Harry replied as they sat down for lunch.

'Funny,' Toby said. 'I could have sworn you were against me.'

Sir Toby Gray QC and Professor Harry Bamford were not always on the same side when they met up in court.

'All manner of persons who have anything to do before My Lords the Queen's Justices draw near and give your attendance.'

The Leeds Crown Court was now sitting. Mr. Justice Fenton presided.

Sir Toby eyed the elderly judge. A decent and fair man, he considered, though his summings-up, could be a trifle long-winded. Mr Justice Fenton nodded down from the bench.

Sir Toby rose from his place, to open the defence case. 'May it please Your Lordship, members of the jury, I am aware of the great responsibility that rests on my shoulders. To defend a man charged with murder can never be easy. It is made even more difficult when the victim is his wife, to whom he had been happily married for over twenty years. This the Crown has accepted, indeed formally admitted.

'My task is not made any easier, m'lud,' continued Sir Toby, 'when all the circumstantial evidence, so adroitly presented by my learned friend Mr Rodgers in his opening speech yesterday, would on the face of it make the defendant appear guilty. However,' said Sir Toby, grasping the tapes of his black silk gown and turning to face the jury, 'I intend to call a witness whose reputation is beyond reproach. I am confident that he will leave you, members of the jury, with little choice but to return a verdict of not guilty. I call Professor Harold Bamford.'

A smartly dressed man, wearing a blue double-breasted suit, white shirt and a Yorkshire County Cricket Club tie, entered the courtroom and took his place in the witness box. He was presented with a copy of the New Testament, and read the oath with a confidence that would have left no member of the jury in any doubt that this wasn't his first appearance at a murder trial...

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Table of Contents

Preface 9
Death Speaks 11
The Expert Witness 15
The Endgame 29
The Letter 79
Crime Pays 87
Chalk and Cheese 109
A Change of Heart 127
Too Many Coincidences 139
Love at First Sight 171
Both Sides Against the Middle 177
A Weekend to Remember 189
Something for Nothing 205
Other Blighters' Efforts 217
The Reclining Woman 241
The Grass Is Always Greener 251
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2011

    Expected better, from both author and publisher

    Some of the best stories were the shortest. A couple had great plot twists. I often found the structure clunky and too obvious, and even on a first read, the dialog sometimes jarred my "ear". I enjoyed many stories, and I would've given this four stars but ... I found the poorly edited e-text distracting. The errors are similar to what happens when somebody throws a hardcopy into an optical scanner, then fails to edit the results fully. When a quick re-check of one story out of 14 identifies at least six errors --- from misspellings to missing spaces to incorrect punctuation --- I wonder why I should pay for an e-copy from a major publishing house. Do they not care for repeat business?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2009

    I have all books of Archer and love them

    All his characters are strong, smart, sensative people. Stories/novels are very realistic and interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Terrific short stories. Good read.

    Terrific short stories. Great story teller. Good read.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    Good read, nice short stories

    I enjoyed the bulk of the stories, some were a little predictable but overall a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    His short stories are always enjoyable!

    I love all Jeffrey Archer's books and his short stores are entertaining. In this collection there are a few stories that are not as good as the others, but worth reading them all to get to the ones that are excellent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2002

    A Great Archer Book!

    I love this book! In fact, I finished it in one sitting. Each of the 14 stories is short and concise, but it would not leave you hanging and waiting for more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2002

    Great detour from serious reading

    This collection of short stories was a lot of fun to read. Archer manages to portray an entire character quickly, and his stories always have an interesting twist. I highly recommend this Author!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2002


    Archer was always a favourite of mine. He manages to spin his tales so that the reader is projected into the plot and lives it as he would live his real life. Death Speaks, starts the collection off with a twist that is to be carried on throughout all of the selected writings. The Letter and Love at First Sight also stand out as extraodinary pieces full of wit and the ability to capture the human soul. Archer has once again gone above the average writer to meet the demand for literature that deserves to be commended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2001

    Archer is both ordinary and fantastic

    Jeffrey Archer has put together another nice grouping of short stories. Having read his previous short stories, I read these with great anticipation. Like in the past, some of the stories are based on real incidents, and some are purely fictional. The stories here ranged from very good and clever, too some being overly predictable or even boring. As an Archer fan, I consider it a good read, but be prepared to be both awed and disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2011

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