A twist in the tale
PUBLISHED: 11:28 04 November 2014 | UPDATED: 11:28 04 November 2014
Suffolk resident Anthony Horowitz is known for recreating the world of Sherlock Holmes. Now he's adding James Bond to his list of heroes. Catherine Larner went to meet him
When you’re meeting the man responsible for devising the intriguing and complicated plots for dozens of episodes of murder mystery and detective dramas on prime time television, who created the hugely successful series of books about teen spy Alex Rider, and who is known for the speed, drive and focus with which he approaches everything in life, it doesn’t make a good first impression that you can’t get through the front door.
“Come on up,” his PA said when I buzzed to announce my arrival at the author’s doorstep on the busy east London street. But after several, increasingly desperate, tugs at the huge grey handle, the imposing eight foot iron door wouldn’t budge.
“I’m so sorry but I can’t get in,” I buzzed again. This time a male voice replied. “Oh yes, you need to push both doors at the same time, then walk through the corridor, up the steps, turn left, open the door, press the button for the lift, step in and wait, we’ll call it up.” This was turning into a mystery plot all of its own.
Concentrating hard, I barely registered the cryptic message poking out from the old fashioned typewriter perched on a ledge in the empty, narrow hallway. Nor was I able to ponder the significance of finding my destination scrawled in chalk on a door painted in blackboard paint. Even when I was in the lift, standing on a green carpet, I was thinking of the meeting ahead and only momentarily puzzled over a metal plaque saying ‘keep off the grass’ fixed above the lift console.
Normal life was resumed as the lift doors opened and I stepped into a large, airy, open plan flat with Anthony Horowitz striding towards me, arm outstretched to shake my hand.
“We’ve been busy at work,” he said introducing me to his PA, and gesturing at the huge table strewn with papers, pens, books and phones which subsequently rang or vibrated at intervals throughout our meeting. “My life is insane. I say ‘yes’ to too many things.”
Indeed, it has just been announced that he will write the new James Bond novel, to be published in September 2015.
“It’s no secret that Ian Fleming’s extraordinary character has had a profound influence on my life, so when the estate approached me to write a new James Bond novel how could I possibly refuse?”
At the same time Horowitz is working on a feature film for Disney, a television series for the BBC, a play, a murder mystery book exploring the world of Agatha Christie, sitting on the board of the Old Vic theatre and preparing for a repeat appearance on the BBC’s Question Time.
As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also publicising his latest book, Moriarty, a return to the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, but with a twist.
Horowitz wrote a new Sherlock Holmes story three years ago, with the backing of the Conan Doyle estate. Called The House of Silk it had a great reception, became a Sunday Times Top 10 bestseller and sold in more than 35 countries. With such a response, he says it seemed silly not to at least make one more visit to that world.
“I have a great fear of repeating myself particularly if, and I thought this would be the case, a sequel would be less good,” he admits. “I wanted to do something completely different and to shake things up a bit.”
The story begins ‘Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls?’ where Holmes and Moriarty fall to their deaths in the final story by their creator Arthur Conan Doyle. ‘Any attempt at recovering the bodies was absolutely hopeless,’ Doyle wrote.
But with no bodies there was always the chance that Holmes, or Moriarty could have survived. It’s this possibility that hangs over the Horowitz tale, as his new investigators battle against a shadowy figure perpetrating murder and menace on the streets of London.
“This time you have an American, Frederick Chase, who is the Watson character, and you have Athelney Jones [of Scotland Yard], who is an original Conan Doyle character, someone who admires Sherlock Holmes and wants to be Sherlock Holmes,” says Horowitz. “So it is an interesting parallel.”
This latest book took Horowitz four times longer to complete than The House of Silk. The bulk of it was written in the winter in front of a log fire overlooking the cold, grey river at Orford, where Horowitz has a home, and there is much more to it than simply reinventing the characters.
“I am still very much in Doyle’s world. I use his language, his tropes, some of his literary tricks. It is much less of a pastiche, of an homage. It is slightly more lateral.”
It is a world and a literary heritage that Horowitz holds in great affection. He points to the cloth-bound books from the 19th century, which line a wall of his flat, and lists the authors – Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray, Hardy, Austen – authors he holds in great esteem, whose work influenced him in becoming a writer.
He hopes, in a way, to channel their genius in his own writing, using paper and pen rather than a keyboard and computer screen. “It’s nice to be like them, to write in the same way that they did.
“I love the flow of ink, the feel of paper and the noise on the page. A computer, as brilliant and as useful as it is, only gives you pain – your eyes, your neck, your back. And I live in fear of a power cut – to lose even a paragraph would be catastrophic for me.” And for his fans.