Archer scales Everest in new novel, eyes on movie

Wed Mar 4, 2009 8:56am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - British author Jeffrey Archer seeks to scale Everest in his latest novel, a story based on the life and times of George Mallory whose attempt to climb the world's highest peak in 1924 is still shrouded in mystery.

And unlike earlier false starts, the writer as famous for his politics and imprisonment as his prose is confident that this time his book will make it to the big screen.

"Paths of Glory," which hits shelves Thursday and is published by Macmillan, is a fictionalized account of Mallory, the British climber who may or may not have reached the summit of Everest before dying on the mountain in June, 1924.

His frozen remains were discovered 75 years later hundreds of feet below the peak, and the climbing community is divided to this day over whether Mallory was the first person to stand on the roof of the world.

For Archer, best known for pacy thrillers like "Kane & Abel" and "Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less," Mallory was not an obvious choice. But he was drawn to the story by late friend Chris Brasher, and, once he started his research he was gripped.

"I got so involved that I wished I was 24, and wished Mallory had said to me 'I want you to come on the trip with me'," Archer, 68, said in an interview.

"I got so excited. I was in his shoes. I was looking at the top," he added in his luxury London penthouse home, overlooking the River Thames and surrounded by valuable works of art.

Mallory was inspiring not only for his climbing prowess but his political ideas that were radical at the time, his modesty, his involvement in World War One, the illustrious company he kept at Cambridge and his marriage to the beautiful Ruth.   Continued...

<p>British author Jeffrey Archer gestures during an interview with Reuters about his new book "Paths of Glory" in his apartment in London March 3, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>