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Best-selling novelist and fallen politician Jeffrey Archer, whose public life has been a series of cliffhangers, was charged Tuesday with perjury, just hours before his stage debut in a production of his new play, "The Accused."

On the morning of his final dress rehearsal, Archer, 60, was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice for allegedly asking a friend to lie in a libel case 13 years ago. The friend also was charged.

Archer then went straight to the Theatre Royal in Windsor to join in a run-through of his play.

The libel case resurfaced in November as Archer was making his most recent bid for political office -- as Conservative Party candidate for London mayor.

In 1987, Archer had won the libel suit after the tabloid Daily Star accused him of hiring a prostitute.

Archer later acknowledged that he had asked his friend Ted Francis to lie in the libel case and say they had dinner together on a night when he was actually dining with a close woman friend.

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