LONDON (AP) - Author Jeffrey Archer, who was cast out of Britain's Conservative Party after being jailed on perjury charges, is coming to the defense of another noted black sheep — Judas Iscariot.
Archer announced Sunday that his new novel chronicling the life of the man who betrayed Jesus, "The Gospel According to Judas, by Benjamin Iscariot," will be published in March.
"This is the most important book I have ever worked on. It means an awful lot to me," said a statement from the author, whose novels include "Kane & Abel" and "Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less."
He said he wrote the book in collaboration with religious scholar Frank Moloney, formerly of the Catholic University of America.
Archer's publisher, Macmillan, said the book imagines Judas as a politician who betrays Jesus not for money, but because of the belief he is an ineffective leader unable to challenge the authority of the Romans. Unlike the Gospels, Judas does not kill himself but instead survives and recounts his story to a son — the narrator of Archer's book.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa recorded an audio version of the novel last week, the statement said.
"It's so authentic. It sounds just like the kind of thing someone's son would do to try to rehabilitate their father's name," the publisher quoted Tutu as saying.
Last April, an Egyptian Coptic text was made public in Switzerland that portrayed Judas not as a sinister betrayer but as Jesus' confidant, chosen to be told spiritual secrets that the other apostles were not.
The ''gospel'' was found sometime in the 1970s in a remote burial cave in middle Egypt, said Mario Roberty, Switzerland-based Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art.
Archer left prison in 2003 after serving two years for perjury and obstructing justice. He was convicted of lying during his successful 1987 libel action against the Daily Star newspaper, which claimed he had hired a prostitute.
The ex-lawmaker had been honored with a life peerage in 1992 for his tireless fundraising for the Conservative Party, but he was kicked out of the party over his perjury conviction.
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