Norwich is well-known for being a literary hotspot, so it’s not unusual for writerly types to make appearances at venues across the city- and sometimes we’re fortunate enough to be there to hear them talk about their books!
A few weeks ago one of our Library Assistants, Zoë, popped along to our local Waterstones to see author and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz discuss his work and she’s written an account below…
It was a real pleasure to attend the evening with Anthony Horowitz at Waterstones, Norwich, in celebration of his new book ‘Magpie Murders’. I have read many of his books – enjoying in particular the Alex Rider and The Power of Five series’ – and watched various television shows he has created and/or written scripts for.
Refreshments were provided and Anthony was introduced just after 7pm. He said it was a pleasure to be back in Norwich, as he doesn’t visit often enough from his home in Suffolk. His dog, Boss, recently acquired from Battersea Dogs Home, was with him – probably never having thought he’d attend a literary event – and was very well-behaved.
Although the evening was about his new book, several references were made to his children’s books given the number of younger readers in the audience.
Anthony began by giving us an overview of his life and how he was inspired to both read and write, with special reference to Orley Prep. Apparently most teachers have appeared – and been killed off – in his many stories (indeed the pen is mightier than the sword)! Life wasn’t great there for young Anthony and he found solace in the library – the one room he felt happy in. His love of reading, especially Tintin, ‘saved him’ and this is why he campaigns for more school libraries with trained librarians- reading creates worlds and develops imagination. He believes young people who read have a greater start in life.
In his dorm of an evening, he could be found telling stories to the other boys. For his tenth birthday, he recalled asking for a typewriter from his father. He received a biro. Aged 12, having encountered James Bond at the cinema, Anthony read Ian Fleming’s books. This is where the inspiration for Alex Rider came from, notably when Roger Moore played Bond, with Anthony wondering what a young James Bond would be like.
Aged 17, his Christmas present was the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle; another character who fascinated him.
Magic and illusion are other passions and these often feature in his scripts – Robin of Sherwood and Poirot included. He believes Agatha Christie wrote the most cleverly constructed books: ‘She is the greatest puzzle writer of all time’, and is trying to do it as well as she did.
Working on Poirot took him full circle as the father of David Suchet (actor who played Poirot) was the doctor who delivered Anthony. The idea for ‘Magpie Murders’ was born in the second episode of ‘Midsomer Murders’ and a book of this title can be seen in the episode he wrote.
His childhood nanny was the inspiration behind ‘Foyle’s War’ as it was from her he discovered lots of interesting facts and stories which featured in several episodes. One that stood out was the requisitioning of ice-cream vans at the start of the war; someone had great foresight and predicted the need to transport blood, including keeping it cool, across London during WWII. The main character was named after Foyle’s Book Shop on Charing Cross Road – Christina Foyle at the helm at his creation.
Anthony writes his children’s novels at the same time as the various television scripts and adult fiction. He rations himself as, to him, writing is an adventure, stating that he had initially planned to only do ten Alex Rider books. He explained how Alex Rider had a very busy time, having saved the world nine times – all within a year. And the reason Tony Blair couldn’t find the WMD was because Alex had destroyed them! Comparing himself to the time Conan Doyle stopped writing Holmes, as he was fed up with the character, writing short stories about Alex has reignited his passion for the character and a new Alex Rider ‘Never Say Die’ is out in June 2017 when Alex’s adventures continue after ‘Scorpia Rising’. Another novel will then follow this, plus a book of short stories.
He feels there has been a resurgence in children’s books since J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and cited authors such Mal Peet, Jacqueline Wilson and Philip Pullman as great children’s writers; Roald Dahl is a great influence as he broke the rules!
On to ‘Magpie Murders’ – the reason for the event. Anthony said he’s always loved whodunits and this idea has been mulling over in his head for some 27 years! Holmes- with it being his job to solve crime- is said to be the father of the modern detective, had a great relationship with his sidekick, Watson (who made Holmes likeable) and was the inspiration for the story. Homage is paid with the lead character initials – Alan Conway. Anthony also wants the reader to be able to feel they should have solved it themselves, with all the clues available within the book once they get to the end.
There was a short and varied Q&A session followed by the book signing. I was one of the last to get my audio book signed yet it was worth the wait, being able to share a brief exchange and take a photo.
You can find Anthony Horowitz’s books at your local Norfolk Library; why not take a look at the available titles here?