Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Anthony Horowitz / Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers: Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes

Anthony Horowitz, OBE (born 5 April 1955) is an English novelist and screenwriter specialising in mystery and suspense. His work for young adult readers includes The Diamond Brothers series, the Alex Rider series, and The Power of Five series (a.k.a. The Gatekeepers).

His work for adults includes the play Mindgame (2001), the two Sherlock Holmes novels The House of Silk (2011) and Moriarty (2014), Magpie Murders (2016) and The Word is Murder (2017). He is also the most recent author chosen to write a James Bond novel by the Ian Fleming estate, titled Trigger Mortis (2015).

He has also written for television, contributing scripts to ITV's Agatha Christie's Poirot and Midsomer Murders. He was the creator and writer of the ITV series Foyle's War, Collision and Injustice and the BBC series New Blood.

Horowitz was born in Stanmore, Middlesex, into a wealthy Jewish family, and in his early years lived an upper-middle class lifestyle. As an overweight and unhappy child, Horowitz enjoyed reading books from his father's library. At the age of 8, Horowitz was sent to Orley Farm, a boarding preparatory school in Harrow, Middlesex. There, he entertained his peers by telling them the stories he had read. Horowitz described his time in the school as "a brutal experience", recalling that he was often beaten by the headmaster.

At age 13 he went on to Rugby School, a public school in Rugby, Warwickshire. Horowitz's mother introduced him to Frankenstein and Dracula. She also gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. Horowitz said in an interview that it reminds him to get to the end of each story since he will soon look like the skull. From the age of 8, Horowitz knew he wanted to be a writer, realizing "the only time when I'm totally happy is when I'm writing". He graduated from the University of York with a lower second class degree in English literature and art history in 1977, where he was in Vanbrugh College.

In at least one interview, Horowitz claims to believe that H. P. Lovecraft based his fictional Necronomicon on a real text, and to have read some of that text.

Horowitz's father was associated with some of the politicians in the "circle" of prime minister Harold Wilson, including Eric Miller. Facing bankruptcy, he moved his assets into Swiss numbered bank accounts. He died from cancer when his son Anthony was 22, and the family was never able to track down the missing money despite years of trying.

Horowitz now lives in Central London with his wife Jill Green, whom he married in Hong Kong on 15 April 1988. Green produced Foyle's War, the series Horowitz wrote for ITV. They have two sons. He credits his family with much of his success in writing, as he says they help him with ideas and research. He is a patron of child protection charity Kidscape.

Anthony Horowitz's first book, The Sinister Secret of Frederick K Bower, was a humorous adventure for children, published in 1979[11] and later reissued as Enter Frederick K Bower. In 1981 his second novel, Misha, the Magician and the Mysterious Amulet was published and he moved to Paris to write his third book. In 1983 the first of the Pentagram series, The Devil's Door-Bell, was released. This story saw Martin Hopkins battling an ancient evil that threatened the whole world. Only three of four remaining stories in the series were ever written: The Night of the Scorpion (1984), The Silver Citadel (1986) and Day of the Dragon (1986). In 1985, he released Myths and Legends, a collection of retold tales from around the world.

In between writing these novels, Horowitz turned his attention to legendary characters, working with Richard Carpenter on the Robin of Sherwood television series, writing five episodes of the third season. He also novelised three of Carpenter's episodes as a children's book under the title Robin Sherwood: The Hooded Man (1986). In addition, he created Crossbow (1987), a half-hour action adventure series loosely based on William Tell.

In 1988, Groosham Grange was published. This book went on to win the 1989 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year Award. It was partially based on the years Horowitz spent at boarding school. Its central character is a thirteen-year-old "witch", David Eliot, gifted as the seventh son of a seventh son. Like Horowitz's, Eliot's childhood is unhappy. The Groosham Grange books are aimed at a slightly younger audience than Horowitz's previous books.

This era in Horowitz's career also saw Adventurer (1987) and Starting Out (1990) published. However, the most major release of Horowitz's early career was The Falcon's Malteser (1986). This book was the first in the successful Diamond Brothers series, and was filmed for television in 1989 as Just Ask for Diamond, with an all star cast that included Bill Paterson, Jimmy Nail, Roy Kinnear, Susannah York, Michael Robbins and Patricia Hodge, and featured Colin Dale and Dursley McLinden as Nick and Tim Diamond. It was followed in 1987 with Public Enemy Number Two, and by South by South East in 1991 followed by The French Confection, I Know What You Did Last Wednesday, The Blurred Man and most recently The Greek Who Stole Christmas.

Horowitz wrote many stand-alone novels in the 1990s. 1994's Granny, a comedy thriller about an evil grandmother, was Horowitz's first book in three years, and it was the first of three books for an audience similar to that of Groosham Grange. The second of these was The Switch, a body swap story, first published in 1996. The third was 1997's The Devil and His Boy, which is set in the Elizabethan era and explores the rumour of Elizabeth I's secret son. In 1999, The Unholy Grail was published as a sequel to Groosham Grange. The Unholy Grail was renamed as Return to Groosham Grange in 2003, possibly to help readers understand the connection between the books. Horowitz Horror (1999) and More Horowitz Horror (2000) saw Horowitz exploring a darker side of his writing. Each book contains several short horror stories. Many of these stories were repackaged in twos or threes as the Pocket Horowitz series.

Horowitz began his most famous and successful series in the new millennium with the Alex Rider novels. These books are about a 14-year-old boy becoming a spy, a member of the British Secret Service branch MI6. There are ten books where Alex Rider is the protagonist, and an eleventh is connected to the Alex Rider series (although not part of it) : Stormbreaker (2000), Point Blanc (2001), Skeleton Key (2002), Eagle Strike (2003), Scorpia (2004) Ark Angel (2005), Snakehead (2007), Crocodile Tears (novel) (2009), Scorpia Rising (2011), and the 'connector, Russian Roulette (2013). Horowitz had stated that Scorpia Rising was to be the last book in the Alex Rider series prior to writing Russian Roulette about the life of Yassen Gregorovich., but he has returned to the series with Never Say Die (2017).

In 2003, Horowitz also wrote three novels featuring the Diamond Brothers: The Blurred Man, The French Confection and I Know What You Did Last Wednesday, which were republished together as Three of Diamonds in 2004. The author information page in early editions of Scorpia and the introduction to Three of Diamonds claimed that Horowitz had travelled to Australia to research a new Diamond Brothers book, entitled Radius of the Lost Shark. However, this book has not been mentioned since, so it is doubtful it is still planned. A new Diamond Brothers "short" book entitled The Greek who Stole Christmas! was later released. It is hinted at the end of The Greek who Stole Christmas that Radius of the Lost Shark may turn out to be the eighth book in the series.

In 2004, Horowitz branched out to an adult audience with The Killing Joke, a comedy about a man who tries to track a joke to its source with disastrous consequences. Horowitz's second adult novel, Magpie Murders, is about "a whodunit writer who is murdered while he's writing his latest whodunit". Having previously spoken about the book in 2005, Horowitz expected to finish it in late 2015, and it was published in October 2016.

In August 2005, Horowitz released a book called Raven's Gate which began another series entitled The Power of Five (The Gatekeepers in the United States). He describes it as "Alex Rider with witches and devils". The second book in the series, Evil Star, was released in April 2006. The third in the series is called Nightrise, and was released on 2 April 2007. The fourth book Necropolis was released in October 2008. The fifth and last book was released in October 2012 and is named Oblivion.

In October 2008, Anthony Horowitz's play Mindgame opened Off Broadway at the Soho Playhouse in New York City. Mindgame starred Keith Carradine, Lee Godart, and Kathleen McNenny. The production was the New York stage directorial debut for Ken Russell. Recently he got into a joke dispute with Darren Shan over the author using a character that had a similar name and a description that fitted his. Although Horowitz considered suing, he decided not to.

In March 2009 he was a guest on Private Passions, the biographical music discussion programme on BBC Radio 3.

On 19 January 2011, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle announced that Horowitz was to be the writer of a new Sherlock Holmes novel, the first such effort to receive an official endorsement from them and to be entitled The House of Silk. It was both published in November 2011 and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. A follow-up novel, Moriarty, was published in 2014.

In October 2014, the Ian Fleming estate commissioned Horowitz to write a James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, which was released in 2015. It will be followed by a second novel, Forever and A Day, which is set to come out on 31st May 2018.

Horowitz was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to literature.

Writing for television and film
Horowitz began writing for television in the 1980s, contributing to the children's anthology series Dramarama, and also writing for the popular fantasy series Robin of Sherwood. His association with murder mysteries began with the adaptation of several Hercule Poirot stories for ITV's popular Agatha Christie's Poirot series during the 1990s.

Often his work has a comic edge, such as with the comic murder anthology Murder Most Horrid (BBC Two, 1991) and the comedy-drama The Last Englishman (1995), starring Jim Broadbent. From 1997, he wrote the majority of the episodes in the early series of Midsomer Murders. In 2001, he created a drama anthology series of his own for the BBC, Murder in Mind, an occasional series which deals with a different set of characters and a different murder every one-hour episode.

He is also less-favourably known for the creation of two short-lived and sometimes derided science-fiction shows, Crime Traveller (1997) for BBC One and The Vanishing Man (pilot 1996, series 1998) for ITV. While Crime Traveller received favourable viewing figures it was not renewed for a second season, which Horowitz accounts to temporary personnel transitioning within the BBC. In 2002, the detective series Foyle's War launched, set during the Second World War.

He devised the 2009 ITV crime drama Collision and co-wrote the screenplay with Michael A. Walker.

Horowitz is the writer of a feature film screenplay, The Gathering, which was released in 2003 and starred Christina Ricci. He wrote the screenplay for Alex Rider's first major motion picture, Stormbreaker.

Anthony Horowitz: 'People used to disagree. Now they send death threats'
By Danuta Kean
He had a privileged upbringing but then his family lost everything. As he takes his biggest risk yet, the writer talks about surviving his childhood – and the storm he caused about writing black characters

Sun 27 Aug 2017 16.00 BST Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 13.19 GMT

‘I was called names when I was eight,” says Anthony Horowitz. “I will not tell you them now because I would be physically sick if they passed my lips.” The writer pauses momentarily, his brown eyes fixing mine. “I just couldn’t do it. These things do hurt.”

Tall, slim and wearing black jeans, the 62-year-old could, until this moment, have passed for a much younger man. But as he recalls his childhood, suddenly the years seem to catch up with him. We meet in the London offices of the TV production company run by his wife, Jill Green, to chat about his latest novel, The Word Is Murder. We are a stone’s throw from their penthouse in a renovated bacon factory. It seems rather fitting – because he certainly brings home the bacon. Horowitz, who has houses in Crete, Suffolk and London, is one of the highest earning writers in Britain.

On the walls are testimonies to his success: framed covers of his multi-million-selling Alex Rider novels about the boy recruited by MI6, whose adventures were turned into a film in 2006; a giant poster for his wartime detective drama Foyle’s War; and shelves laden with books and DVDs of his many hit shows, including New Blood, Injustice and Midsomer Murders. But for all this success, he is still haunted by a childhood of superficial comfort. His father was a solicitor, known as a something of a fixer for prime minister Harold Wilson. His nefarious business dealings weren’t revealed until his death: his millions had been squirrelled into Swiss bank accounts under assumed names; the money was never recovered and the shock of the family’s bankruptcy for Horowitz, then 23, gave him a lifelong horror of debt – and a ferocious work ethic.

What was lost was considerable: the family home, White Friars, was so big that when demolished it was replaced by no fewer than 16 five-bedroom houses. Both his parents were away much of the time, leaving Horowitz and his two siblings in the care of servants and his grandmother, a woman of such hellish cruelty he used her as the template for the eponymous villain in his children’s novel Granny.

Being packed off to boarding school at the age of eight could have been an escape. But this was the 1960s, when beatings were a way of life in such schools. At Orley Farm in Harrow, Horowitz was often left bleeding after six of the best. He worries that remembering such things sounds like whingeing, when other children lived in dire poverty. But, as the patron of the anti-bullying charity Kidscape, he says: “Emotional cruelty ignores wealth and position.” Such vicious treatment of children in boarding schools in the 60s, he believes, has had a detrimental impact on society. “It is why so much of this country is dysfunctional.”

It was not just the beatings that scarred the writer: being plump and Jewish made him an easy target for other boys. At night, he escaped by telling stories to schoolmates after lights out in his dorm. In those tales, he found salvation and developed an ambition to be a writer. It is clearly painful to recall. Why does he talk about it? “For one very simple reason,” he snaps back, with barely concealed irritation. “People like yourself always ask about it.”

I ask if he’d rather not be asked about his childhood and there is a long pause. “It’s not my business to tell you what you can and can’t ask me,” he says eventually. Written down, the words look harsher than they sound. “No, I’m happy to talk about it because…” He pauses, pressing his hands into his lap like a schoolboy sitting outside the head’s office. The PR sharing the room with us, nods and he enters into a convoluted explanation about how he regards the granting of an interview for publicity as a kind of contract in which “I provide you with the material you want”.

The PR, I suspect, is here to protect a writer with a reputation for shooting from the lip, making him a gift to headline-writers, which is why his audiences at book festivals are always peppered with reporters scribbling away. This very day, the Times is running with a story picked up from an event at the Edinburgh festival, in which he contested that theatres should not give critics free tickets because a savaging can kill a show. Within days, the Stage responded with an article by an actor in his play Dinner With Saddam castigating Horowitz for writing a flop that “shoehorned the tragedy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq into the format of a bawdy 1970s British sitcom”.

Although the father of two insists he is inured to such coverage, the admission that his son Cass offered to sit in on our interview suggests that it does get to him. In May, the Mail on Sunday reported that he accused his publisher, Walker, of pressuring him into dropping a black character because of “cultural appropriation”.

A Twitter storm erupted, led by Rivers of London writer Ben Aaronovitch. “If you don’t feel confident or just don’t want to write black characters, just say so,” he seethed. “Don’t pretend it’s political correctness gone mad.” Authors of colour, including Orangeboy writer Patrice Lawrence, accused the Rugby alumnus of hijacking the issue of diversity in fiction.

Horowitz sighs when I ask about the claim, strenuously denied by Walker. “I didn’t say anything that can be construed as contrary,” he says. “I was merely drawing attention to this movement of cultural appropriation, which is very strong in America.” His voice rises an octave and he adds: “I am not saying that it is shocking or wrong or disgusting. I did say, however, that its natural outcome would be that I would end up only writing about 63-year-old writers who live in Clerkenwell and have two sons.” He praises Lionel Shriver – “whose work I love” – for speaking out on the subject and insists that, far from disagreeing with political correctness, he regards it as “absolutely 100% right”.

The mobbing disturbs him, though. He thinks it’s symptomatic of a rage in society that has grown since the Brexit vote. “There is a rigidity in the way we have begun to think and speak. If we step outside certain lines on certain issues, we find not just people disagreeing, but disagreeing to the extent of death threats. When somebody says something untoward in the press, and I am not saying this about myself, people don’t just say that was a stupid thing to say. They say, ‘Lose your job.’ They want you to never ever have an income again.”

It is a theme that emerges in the new novel. The Word Is Murder is first in a series about Hawthorne, an ex-cop turned gumshoe who seems to be straight out of central casting: ageing loner, problems with authority, smoker, secretive, divorced. But, as the novel progresses, the carapace is demolished and, Horowitz promises, the next eight or nine books (he is undecided) will provide surprising revelations.

The book could be seen as Horowitz’s most audacious yet, since he has taken the unusual step of placing himself at the centre of the story, narrating Hawthorne’s exploits. It is an attempt at meta-fiction more usually the preserve of self-consciously literary writers like Martin Amis or Bret Easton Ellis and the author admits being nervous about the reception of his 46th novel.

The book certainly has its moments, in particular the laugh-out-loud funeral scene and a chapter in which Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson discuss Horowitz’s screenplay for a Tintin movie. It is based on a real meeting he had in Paris.

 Writing saved me. Simple as that. When I was 10, and inadequate in many ways, writing was a lifeline
With 10 million words under his belt, Horowitz has long toyed with penning a guide that details everything from how to plot a novel to how to deal with TV executives. “I even started to write it. But it was dull and slightly arrogant and, at the end of the day, it just didn’t interest me.” He laughs, unfazed by failure, which he regards as a healthy corrective.

Whatever happens with this book, it will not hold back the creator of Alex Rider, who rattles off the projects he wishes to complete: a new children’s trilogy, more novels for adults, and several plays. As he talks, I can’t help thinking of that chubby schoolboy who tells stories to keep his spirits up in a school he will one day describe as a “cesspit”.

“My writing has saved me,” he says. “Simple as that.” He looks sheepish, before breaking into a smile. “When I was 10, and inadequate in many ways, writing was a lifeline. Now I have my life pretty much sorted out. In a world where everything seems to be uncertain, writing is the only certainty I have.”

The Word Is Murder by is published by Century. It’s available at the Guardian Bookshop.

Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers: Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes committed heinous crimes against genre fiction: review
 Jasper Rees
17 OCTOBER 2016 • 10:00PM

Have we reached peak Marr? On Sunday mornings on BBC One, Andrew Marr is the new David Frost. On Mond
ay mornings on Radio 4, he’s the new Melvyn Bragg. The rest of the time, he’s a rent-a-presenter on a wide array of matters. Maybe they’re getting full use of him in return for an enormous salary, but Sleuths, Spies & Sorcerers: Andrew Marr’s Paperback Heroes (BBC Four) finds him finally spread too thin.

In each part, Marr considers a branch of fiction that’s never up for the posh prizes. Next week it’s fantasy epics, the week after spy novels, but he started with detective fiction. The first half was devoted to Agatha Christie, whose plots he anatomised before cheerfully admitting that he didn’t actually like her books. I’m no Poirot but that looks like a crime against the licence fee.

Marr pottered on through the century, investigating the genre’s rules and tropes (the locked room conundrum, the flawed detective, etc). To illustrate various plots he moved among a cast of actors who were dressed in full period garb, but clearly there wasn’t a budget for the whole century so Marr did a bit of acting himself. If he never again pollutes the airwaves with his array of appalling accents, so much the better. He later illustrated his bullet points with copious clips of Marlowe, Wexford, Rebus and co, with the result that the second half felt more like a hasty history of TV detective drama.

It was never clear if Marr had a clue what he was talking about. His concluding thesis was that, a century from now, crime fiction is where historians will look to find out how we lived, which seems a sweeping snub to literary novelists. There are a lot of these overblown claims for popular entertainment about: a recent BBC documentary said exactly the same about sitcoms.

The best feature of this episode was a series of absorbing interviews with the great practitioners of crime fiction including Sophie Hannah, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin, welcome partly for the sound and sight of Marr listening to experts, not larking about like a performing monkey.

No comments: