Thursday, 28 April 2016

Salman Rushdie and Geoffrey Archer

The late Christopher Hitchens once recalled a dinner party at which Salman Rushdie, invited to retitle any Shakespeare play using a Robert Ludlum-style title, immediately came up with The Elsinore Equivocation.

Ludlum's novel titles traded on the formulation: 'definite article + proper name + abstract noun'; titles that suggested a kind of Platonic ideal of conspiracy. He was pretty good at that.

Geoffrey (or is it Jeffrey?) Archer, aka Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, is another very popular writer, though hardly in the Ludlum League (which is in itself a potential Ludlum title). Archer. when choosing a title for his latest perpetration, tends to go for scrag-end off-cuts of language - especially proverbs, or bits of the Bible or Shakespeare. He has published, among others, the following novels and short story collections:

Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less (1976)
First Among Equals (1984)
A Matter of Honour (1986)
As the Crow Flies (1991)
Honour Among Thieves (1993)
The Fourth Estate (1996)
The Eleventh Commandment (1998)
Sons of Fortune (2002)
Paths of Glory (2009)
And Thereby Hangs a Tale (2010)
Only Time Will Tell (2011)
The Sins of the Father (2012)
Best Kept Secret (2013)
Be Careful What You Wish For (2014)
Mightier Than the Sword (2015)
Cometh the Hour (2016)
This Was a Man (2016)
Heads You Win (2017)

A noble body of work, I'm sure you'll agree. Archer is a somewhat faded figure these days  - his readers are dying out as he approaches eighty. So I thought I'd lend him a hand with a bundle of titles he might care to use. Here they are, to be read aloud in an Archery voice. You know the kind of voice I mean.

A Stitch in Time
Many a Mickle
Down but Not Out
The Vast Majority
Pop Goes the Weasel
More's the Pity
Don't Mind if I Do
Spare the Rods
And Spoil the Child (sequel to Spare the Rod)
The Biter Bit
A Sting in the Tail
Where's the Fire?
A Touch of Class
Or So They Say
All in a Day's Work
The Oldest Profession
You Scratch My Back
And I'll Scratch Yours (the sequel to You Scratch My Back)

But already my interest is beginning to flag. I need a Rushdie-quality contribution. Call it The Salman Intervention.

Is it, by the way, Jeffrey or Geoffrey? Are they even the same person?

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