Prisoner number FF8282 completes his jailhouse trilogy (A Prison Diary, 2003, Purgatory, 2004).
Following the pattern of earlier incarcerated writers such as Cervantes, Raleigh, Wilde and Hitler, Archer is now out and free. In this final volume, the diary of the former member of the House of Lords shows him captive for most of the time in a minimum security facility, a place Her Majesty’s Prisoners (HMP) never “escape” from, though they may, sometimes, “abscond.” A feature of the open prison, for those deserving, is town leave. Even then, though, there’s still the stultifying bureaucracy he finds so tedious as the days pass and inmates come and go. Drug testing is a signal event, while noise and naughty language still offend his ever helpful lordship, still noble despite the inequities heaped upon him. He signs a “Change of Labour Request” as “The R T Hon The Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare,” and the request is denied. Archer spends time editing and reediting another potboiler (Sons of Fortune, 2003) and hosting a Sunday tea club for older felons. He gets a sinecure as hospital orderly but is still beleaguered by a hostile press and spying inmates. Home Secretary David Blunkett remains deaf to his entreaties, and Mr. Justice Potts, who sentenced him (for perjury), continues to embody unbridled malevolence. Wife Mary remains stalwart, however, and Archer continues to appreciate good art, particularly a modern illustration for The Wind in the Willows depicting Toad in jail. Withal, he must endure “the prisoner’s biggest enemy, boredom,” a sensation of which he manages to convey quite effectively. Thus his “tariff” passes, from day 89 (15 October 2001) through day 457 (18 October 2002), when Archer, put back into a more secure prison, abandons his journal until day 725 (21 July 2003), when he’s released.
The R T Hon Lord is once more at large. We can only hope he reamains “on the out,” never to serve again.