Review

To Cut a Long Story Short

by Jeffrey Archer



Crafting a great short story is almost becoming a lost art these
days. There's a wealth of talented writers churning out a plentiful
supply of incredible novels, but in the short story format the list
seems a bit...well, short. Mystery anthologies might be the one
exception, as the last few years have seen a surfeit of authors
bringing their collective talents together under one book cover.
But even those have been, at times, a mix of brilliant and ho-hum.
The more mediocre storylines read as if they were outlines for
novels that never quite came together: a chapter here, a paragraph
there, supporting characters that are nearly a footnote, and a
little super glue.

This has never been the case with Jeffrey Archer's short story
compilations. Archer established himself long ago as a master of
this format, with four superb collections to his credit and now a
fifth, TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT. The ease with which he spins a
tale is reminiscent of Bradbury, Hitchcock, and Serling. Any one of
them could pack more irony, suspense, and pure entertainment into
20 or 30 pages than other authors can manage in 300. Archer
accomplishes that same feat, and with such a remarkable variety in
the selections that you keep wishing there were twice as
many.

From "Death Speaks," which barely stretches to a half page (more of
a miniature folk tale), to "The Endgame," which is a lengthier
story of an elderly gentleman that vibrates with both humor and
sorrow, TO CUT A LONG STORY SHORT is a marvelous edition. Readers
will love the twists to each plot line, sometimes anticipated but
often extraordinary. You can't help but laugh at the deceitful wife
who manages to finesse her way so expertly out of a sticky
situation in "The Letter." And there's the deliciously appropriate
ending to "Chalk and Cheese" about a spoiled young man who wastes
away his life while shamelessly sponging from his loving family.
"Love at First Sight" is a touching tribute to two of the author's
friends, and "Something For Nothing" carries an obvious
lesson.

In "The Reclining Woman" Archer offers up an intriguing anecdote in
art history that remains veiled in mystery to this day. But even
such a factual narrative isn't lacking in touches of Archer's dry
wit and clever characterization:

"'You may wonder why this sculpture is numbered "13",' said the
curator, a smile of satisfaction appearing on his face...'Henry
Moore,' the curator continued, in a voice that made it clear he
believed he was addressing an ignorant bunch of tourists who might
muddle up Cubism with sugar lumps, and who obviously had nothing
better to do on a bank holiday Monday than visit a National Trust
house, 'would normally produce his works in editions of twelve. To
be fair to the great man, he died before approval was given for the
only casting of a thirteenth example of one of his
masterpieces.'"

Archer's skill in capturing those curious idiosyncrasies that make
even ordinary people so interesting coupled with his endless
capacity for imaginative situations are the reasons behind his
enormous popularity as a short story writer. With his continued
success as one of the world's preeminent storytellers, readers can
remain confident that Jeffrey Archer will be regaling us with his
fascinating tales for a long time to come.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns on January 23, 2011

To Cut a Long Story Short
by Jeffrey Archer

  • Publication Date: December 1, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch
  • ISBN-10: 0061032077
  • ISBN-13: 9780061032073