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Keeping James Bond alive.

Summary: Anthony Horowitz on his forthcoming novel featuring the fictional British Secret Service agent, being a sidekick in The Word Is Murder and bullying in public life

Image Credit: By Suparna Dutt-D'CunhaSpecial to Weekend Review

So much has been written about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's abuse of power and assaults on women, including Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne and Gwyneth Paltrow, but novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz hopes that one day the argument will move on to his destructive business practices as well.

Back in 2006, Weinstein produced Stormbreaker, the spy caper based on Horowitz's much-loved, multi-million-selling Alex Rider series. It starred Alex Pettyfer, Ewan McGregor, Mickey Rourke and Damian Lewis, but did not set the box office alight. That, Horowitz claims, was down to Weinstein. "He's also the main reason why there have been no more Alex Rider movies since," Horowitz wrote in The Spectator, a weekly British magazine, last October.

Now, dialling down his indignation against the disgraced producer, or so it seems, Horowitz says, "I'm not sure how far I want to get into all this. Working with Harvey Weinstein was not a happy experience and I do think he had a generally negative effect on the film of Stormbreaker."

"At the same time, a film or a TV show is a collaborative business and it's never a good idea [to] try to blame a single individual if it's not the success you hoped [for]," he adds.

Published in 2001, Stormbreaker is the first novel in the Alex Rider series about a 14-year-old boy who finds himself plunged into the MI6 spy world, along with all the gadgets, villains and adrenaline fuelled action. Since then Horowitz has written eight Alex Rider adventures in quick succession before announcing that 2011's Scorpia Rising would be his last.

Horowitz had a change of heart; he revisited Alex Rider in Never Say Die last year.

"I missed writing about Alex," he says. "I felt I'd left him in quite a sad place after Scorpia Rising. He'd lost his closest friend. He was living in a distant country. It was all a bit dark and I felt I owed it to him, and to my readers, to cheer things up a bit."

"One of the things I like about Never Say Die is that it's very much the old Alex again. He rediscovers himself."

Writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of 20, Horowitz is also the screenwriter of British TV series Midsomer Murders, Poirot and Murder in Mind as well as the author of authorised takes on Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. No wonder then that he's one of the highest earning writers in Britain.

As a child, Horowitz says, he loved spying. "When I was young, I loved James Bond -- the books as well as the films. I used to invent miniature devices -- 'gadgets' that I could imagine doing strange and dangerous things."

"But I never wanted to be a spy myself. What interested me most was the idea that the world is full of secrets, that you can never take anyone or anything at face value. Isn't this what connects spy fiction with mystery novels?"

He still loves James Bond. Ian Fleming's extraordinary character has had a profound influence on his writing. In 2015, after several authors, including Sebastian Faulks, Jeffery Deaver and William Boyd, variously made Bond -- through their novels -- leap through time to the present day, Horowitz in Trigger Mortis revived the Cold War relic in which Bond takes on the Russians and gets involved in a Formula One race.

He's just finished writing a second James Bond continuation novel, becoming the first author to write back-to-back adult 007 adventures since the 1990s.

"I'm not allowed to reveal the title, but in many ways I think it's better!" says Horowitz. "Writing Bond is both very exciting and extremely challenging. I can't forget that Bond is possibly the most famous fictitious character in the world and that there are millions of fans who won't forgive me if I get it wrong."

"Also, Fleming's style is not easy to imitate. He was such a brilliant writer with such a particular, highly personal, world view. I find myself testing every word," adds the the 62-year-old writer, who came in for criticism last year when he said the British actor Idris Elba was "too street" to play James Bond. Of course, he didn't mean to cause offence. Horowitz said he was thinking of Elba's gritty role in the BBC crime drama Luther.

But there is no denying the sheer ingenuity of Horowitz, he has always managed to bring freshness in his novels. In his new book, The Word is Murder, Horowitz, in his characteristic elan, blurs the line between fiction and reality by playing himself in the beguiling whodunit plot, together with the abrasive, disgraced cop Daniel Hawthorne (fictional).

For those thinking the master storyteller would dominate the narrative, the reverse is true.

"My publishers were very keen for me to write a series of whodunnits, which is something I've been doing all my life on TV. But it seemed important to me to do something daring and different, particularly if I was contemplating perhaps nine or 10 books," he says, explaining the unusual step of placing himself at the centre of the story.

"My earlier novel, Magpie Murders, had begun to explore the way whodunnits are written, the relationship between the writer, the reader and the detective -- and I suddenly saw I could take it a step further and perhaps do something that had never been tried before."

There are many great detectives out there -- Holmes and Poirot to Rebus and Miss Marple, and in The Word Is Murder, his 46th novel, Horowitz adds another to the list by creating investigator Daniel Hawthorne, having the same analytical mind as Holmes.

"I had a lot of fun creating Hawthorne, making him brilliant but devious, sympathetic but in some ways unpleasant," he says.

"Because I'm the sidekick in the book, I have a very unusual relationship with him. I'm less clever than he is and I also find him extremely annoying. I plan to dig further and further into his character as the series progresses... gradually finding out what made him what he is."

After having written novels, TV series and plays, is there a form of writing he enjoys most?

"I love all my writing and I'm very lucky to be able to work in so many different fields. My children's books matter a lot to me because, quite accidentally, they've helped to promote reading, particularly among boys."

He's "hugely proud" to have created Foyle's War, a British detective drama television series set during and shortly after the Second World War, with his wife, producer Jill Green. "That was 16 very happy years of my life. Right now, I'm concentrating on adult novels and I suppose that's what I'm enjoying most at least, for now."

The prolific writer that he is, Horowitz likes to have two or three projects on the go, and writes for about eight or nine hours a day. "So right now, I'm just doing a final polish on Bond 2. I'm adapting Magpie Murders for television. And I'm thinking about a historical project, which someone has sent me. That's meant reading a 700 page book and thinking about how to turn it into television."

While juggling writing books, TV series, films, plays and journalism, the father of two, who was teased in school for being "fat and stupid and bad at sport", is also the patron of the anti-bullying charity Kidscape. "We have to accept that there will always be bullying, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't condone it."

Cyberbullying is a relatively new development, he says. "It differs from bullying because it's often anonymous and follows you into the most private places -- your home, your bedroom. It can have devastating results."

"It seems to me that there's an awful lot more bullying in public life these days. Look at the name-calling in politics. Or the way some newspapers rip into their victims. Bullying is not restricted to the young."

Suparna Dutt-D'Cunha is a writer based in Pune, India.

Anthony Horowitz will take part in the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature to be held at InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, from March 1-10.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Feb 28, 2018
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