Thursday, 26 August 2010

Jeffrey Archer's Pen

A while back I posted a question on the Fountain Pen Network regarding J G B*ll@rd's pen (I wish to mask the spelling of this author's name because some of his fans scan the internet for anything related to him and that particular post attracted some scorn from certain people). I had heard on the radio that B@ll*rd used a Parker fountain pen. Nobody seems to know what model of pen, or much less, care. Of course, it doesn't matter what type of pen he used, nor does it matter what type of paintbrush Picasso used or the make of John Coltrane's saxophone. I was curious; and I'll probably never know.

For the sake of informing readers of this blog, B*ll*rd wrote all his first drafts longhand, probably with a Parker fountain pen of uncertain provenance, in blue ink. Second and subsquent drafts were written on an typewriter, and could be heavily edited with handwritten notes in blue or red ink, and pencil. Interestingly, the typewritten drafts were single-spaced, judging by this example, the first page of his novel Crash. This page is, to me, a work of art, a precious artefact which I am delighted now resides in the British Library.

All of this points to the meticulous care with which he assembled his novels, whose stature will rise long after his death, aged 78, in April 2009. It is interesting to note that, deep into the computer age, this master of speculative fiction never deviated from this pattern of working. He was proof that it was still possible to take the most basic of tools - a pen and paper - and create entire worlds.

Which leads me on to Jeffrey Archer. I've read only one of his books, many years ago, and I'll never get that time back now. However I recall a newspaper advert for Parker pens from the early 1980s where he is quoted as saying he buys a new Parker fountain pen to write each novel. Now I would love this to be the case; Nobel laureate John Steinbeck famously used pencils but it would be apposite that Jeffrey Archer uses a Parker fountain pen, and not just any old pen but a super-deluxe model with 24-karat everything.

Imagine my disappointment when, on Googling this, I discovered that Archer now claims to write with Paper Mate felt-tip pens, not a pen resembling a fragment snapped off a floating gin-palace. This is a bitter blow because it breaks my pet theory that there is an inverse relationship between a writer's pen and the quality of their work. In fact I find my theory completely refuted, unless I resort to the line that Archer is the exception which proves the rule.



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