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British novelist reaches for highest peak

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 today 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 thrillers such as "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 I, the illustrious company he kept at Cambridge and his marriage to Ruth Turner.

"This very remarkable, very complex man, he's a big figure and that made writing it so much more fun," said Archer.


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