The last time Anthony Horowitz OBE came to Gibraltar was in 2018 when he was researching locations for the next book in his Alex Rider teenage spy series. That novel, Nightshade, was published earlier this year. Jo Ward talks to the author at his home in London…
virtually, of course.
Since Stormbreaker, the first Alex Rider novel to hit the shelves back in 2000, there have been twelve more books in the series, of which Nightshade was the thirteenth. Enjoyed by a generation of young people, some who are now not so young, as well as those who love the spy thriller genre, Alex Rider embodies everything that an adolescent James Bond would have been.
Anthony explains that Gibraltar had already featured in the ninth book Scorpia Rising and in the new book, featuring a terrorist attack on London, Alex sets off to the Rock to a maximum security prison and enters into a battle against a new criminal organization: Nightshade.
“I had an idea for an action scene where Alex could hide from the authorities and then escape to Tangier across the Strait,” he explains. “I was looking for a way for Alex to pick up a boat and I found it right next door to the Naval Police Station and I managed to plot out that storyline just by walking around Gibraltar.”
In June this year an eight part series entitled Alex Rider was released on Amazon Prime starring Otto Farrant as Alex, whom Anthony thinks will go on to be massively successful in his acting career. The TV show fuses together stories from the first two books and Anthony says that the response has been phenomenal. “Alex Rider fans are crazy for the series and my Twitter account has been absolutely brimming with enthusiasm for the last month, so I am very excited.” The scripts were written by Guy Burt, who Anthony says took the best of the books and added a whole lot more. “I wasn’t able to write it because I was doing Nightshade but it was a good idea to get a fresh pair of eyes on it, and one thing Guy has is that he has teenage sons so he is very connected to that young world.” Could we see Gibraltar appearing as part of the TV series? “The producers of the Alex Rider show read Nightshade and the first thing they said was that this would make the most fantastic film,” Anthony states. So watch this space, Gibraltar may not appear on the small screen but it could be the big screen!
Known as one of the most prolific and successful writers in the English language, as well as a screenwriter and children’s novelist, Anthony’s books include the James Bond and Sherlock Holmes novels commissioned by the Fleming and Conan-Doyle estates. “I am in discussion about a new James Bond book, I have an idea and I would like to do a third one but it is not yet confirmed,” he tells me.
He’s also the creator of Midsomer Murders and the Bafta-winning Foyle’s War, so it is no surprise that he has been extremely busy during lockdown. “At the moment I am writing an adaptation of my novel Magpie Murders which is hopefully going to be filmed next year for television as a six part series, and I have also been writing the sequel to that, Moonflower Murders, due for release at the end of August. It is a murder mystery but a very complex one – it is a modern novel in which the main character is an editor who finds the solution to a modern day murder in a 1950s golden aged detective story, so it is a book within a book,” he states.
In 2018 Anthony launched the first book in his Hawthorne mystery series, The Word is Murder, in which a fictionalised-version of Anthony himself acts as sidekick and chronicler to ex-cop turned private investigator Daniel Hawthorne. The Sentence is Death followed on and now Anthony tells me that he has started a third Hawthorne novel. “I have also been writing something very interesting and complex, which is a murder mystery for an American company called Quibi that uses mobiles phones to broadcast short form drama in seven minute episodes.”
People think that writers have been locked down all their lives and Anthony says that there is some truth in that and admits that he has been in a sort of isolation for 35 years as a professional writer. “Nonetheless, I feed on life in the streets and visiting friends, in human contact and going to restaurants, theatres and cinemas – so it is very discombobulating being a writer right now and I really do feel cut off and it has been quite hard to find the focus,” he comments. “That said – I have done some of my best work!”
As someone who has always been a champion for children’s literature and is frequently asked to contribute to debates on children’s reading, Anthony says that it has never been more important than during the current lockdown restrictions. “I have spent the last twenty odd years talking about how vital reading is but it is only in the last ten weeks that I have realised how true that is – for young people who are missing school, their friends, social contact, travel – the need to escape has never been greater and of course the book is the great escape,” he comments. “I always say that a book is shaped like a door and opens like a door, and once you enter the world of the book you have no say in where it will take you.”