THE BIG INTERVIEW: The irrepressible Archer
Jeffrey Archer is the first to admit he likes women. Top of his list are his wife and mother, both of whom he considers to be the most impressive people he knows.
His friend, Margaret Thatcher, comes a close third.
''She brought me back into politics as the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in 1985. We've been friends for 30 years and it has been a great privilege," he says, adding that he can't face watching the recent movie about Thatcher, The Iron Lady.
"I fall in love every day," says Archer, who turned 72 last Sunday.
"Women are much brighter than men," he says, smiling.
"And your generation - women who are doing exactly what they want and achieving great things - frighten men of the same age. Women of your obvious intelligence are unstoppable."
Archer's publicity manager has prepared me for his youthful charm. Perhaps he has a different schtick when interviewed by male journalists. I've read that he gets competitive and confrontational.
But his flattery is doing wonders to counteract the frequent anecdotes about his successes that litter our conversation. As the thousands of words that have been written about him confirm, Archer doesn't do humility. Why should he? He's understandingly proud of his achievements, especially since they've come in the face of frequent controversy.
"Nadine Gordimer is arguably one of the greatest writers the world has known, yet I've outsold her by millions. It's because I'm a storyteller," he says.
Despite his success, or perhaps because of his failures, he seems determined to prove himself.
"My third book went to number one in every country on earth. It sold 37million copies and was described by The Times of England as 'a classic'. You can't get much better than that. It changed my life completely and is the reason I left politics."
If his life is anything to go by, Archer has a lot of material to draw on for a good plot. He won an Oxford blue in athletics, was elected MP at the age of 29, has known influential people from The Beatles to the prime minister, was a mayoral candidate for London and is a tireless worker for charity.
He has also served jail time for perjury and his name has been linked to a failed coup d'état attempt in Equatorial Guinea and to the misappropriation of funds from various charities - but he's hasn't been convicted of any further crimes.
Archer doesn't moan about his misses and concentrates instead on his hits - the greatest of which is his wife of 47 years.
''Mary's running the best hospital in the world, doing a far more important job than me," he boasts, adding: ''Though it is nice to have more than 300million readers."
He returns to the theme of women: ''I love strong women who get things done, who don't just talk. Females are much better at that than males.
''I've had three incredibly strong people in my life: my mother, my wife and Thatcher. Most men would wilt around women like these, but I've found it incredibly inspirational. I'd happily trade my two sons for six daughters."
Though he's old enough to be a grandfather, Archer has the seductive energy of a man half his age.
''I get gasps when people hear I'm 72. The last tests I did estimated my age at 47. I'll take you on in a race any day of the week."
Although Archer is brimming with confidence, it's his effervescent energy to which he attributes his success.
''That's the secret," he confides.
''You succeed in life if you have energy. Then you can take whatever life throws at you - you'll survive, you'll beat everybody."
Archer is currently writing the third in a series of five books: The Clifton Chronicles.
He's poached his life for the characters: ''Meisie is my mother and Emma is my wife."
What about Harry, the naive, easily manipulated, gullible character ?
''That's me," he answers.
''He's human, he makes mistakes, he's silly. You've got me there."
And with this, a hint of Archer's vulnerability comes through and I want to give him a big cuddle.