Sunday, June 26, 2022

Anthony Horowitz: “I was wrong the whole time I supported the Conservatives. It’s annoying’

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Horowitz talks to Neil Armstrong about his 11-year “overnight” success, feeling betrayed by conservatives and why the break-up culture is disastrous for writers

He’s definitely fertile. So much so that he’s not exactly sure how many books he’s written. It can be “54 or 55,” he says. He is the author of the best-selling Alex Rider series, often referred to as James Bond to YA readers. But he has also written three very well received Bond novels, with the blessing of the Fleming estate. The most recent of these, With a Mind to Kill, was released in May.

Honeysuckle Weeks, one of the stars of the long-running ITV series Foyle’s WarShe insists she’s never seen her creator, Anthony Horowitz, without a pen in hand. Horowitz laughs when I tell him. “I think that’s probably close enough to the truth. I am compulsive. If you look at the amount of work I’ve put in in the various fields I’ve written in, you can’t help but notice that I seem to be something of a fanatic when it comes to writing. This is what I like most to do. A pen is never far from me.”

Since then, Where seagulls dare, the eighth installment in his Diamond Brothers series – funny crime stories for children – is out. And in August The twist of a knife is off. It is the fourth in the crime series Hawthorne and Horowitz, starring a writer named Anthony Horowitz. Three novels in one year – not bad.

In addition to the books, there are also his TV texts. Foyle’s War, a historical crime drama starring Weeks and Michael Kitchen, was a primetime hit that spanned eight series. Horowitz wrote almost all of the episodes. He has also written for Midsomer Murders and Poirot and his series magpie murders is currently on Britbox. He has a human skull on his desk to remind him to work hard because life is short. It clearly works.

Horowitz says he “discovered” he was a writer at the preparatory school he was sent to at the age of eight. He hated it and was frequently beaten by the headmaster. Even decades later, a visit to the place provoked a physical reaction and he was breathless and sweating with a racing heart.

“When your teachers tell you that you’re not good at anything and you feel lonely and worthless, it’s very important to discover that you actually have a skill,” he says. “For me, that ability was telling stories about what I did in the dorm after the lights went out. It really was always the same story. Two boys from school escape every night and go and have some adventure.”

The 67-year-old published his first novel at the age of 22, but it did not become an overnight success. “It took me 11 books to become a best-selling author, but my publisher stuck with me book after book with sales that didn’t really make me viable. I don’t think a young writer today would be given as many opportunities as I was.”

His first TV appearance was on Robin of Sherwood, the ’80s reimagining of the Robin Hood myth that added a generous dash of pagan mysticism. With its theme song from Clannad, it still has a cult following today.

Horowitz was hired for writing a short story about Robin Hood that the producer read. “I went from having no television experience to writing a show that is watched by 15 million people every week. How lucky that was. I’ve written five episodes of the show and I’m not sure I’ve ever had a happier viewing experience.”

He is also a journalist and was a reliable right-wing voice for conservative newspapers for a long time – not anymore.

“It’s annoying for me to have gotten to a point where I realize I’ve been wrong all along because we’ve come to a government that describes itself as conservative but I, like a lot of people, am , cannot acknowledge,” he says. “I cannot understand how the Cabinet and the Prime Minister can pretend to represent Tory values ​​- the values ​​I believed in – and do so many terrible things in the process.

“In the Where seagulls dare, right-wing politicians are the villains. It is a policy that is divisive, aggressive, dishonest, ineffective and useless to the future of this country in the long term. The Conservative Party is now only inward looking. It talks about the country and what the people want, but actually the Conservative Party is all about the Conservative Party.

“Can you tell me a newspaper story from the last 10 weeks that wasn’t about Boris Johnson’s survival or Boris Johnson’s dishonesty or Boris Johnson’s celebrations? I’m so sick of those two words that even talking to you and using them now makes me slightly nauseous.”

One of the two sons he has with his wife, TV producer Jill Green, is a special advisor to Rishi Sunak. Are Horowitz’s changing views making family dinners uncomfortable? “We don’t really talk about politics,” he says. “I think Cassian is doing a fantastic job and I’m very proud of him. It’s really interesting to watch his career, although I have to say with some concern because I think the environment he’s in is so toxic that I’m naturally worried about him.”

Horowitz found himself in the news a few weeks ago at the Hay Festival, slamming the “abandon culture” and culture of fear he says he inspires.

“The concern I have – which I spoke about at Hay – is simply that writers should lead the agenda and not be intimidated by it. People who create culture – paint, write music, books, films – should not live in fear. If so, something went very wrong.

“When you have a position that someone else disagrees with, the reaction now seems to be so angry, so threatening and so unreasonable.”

He is horrified by the poison aimed at JK Rowling, for example. “Whatever her views, she should not be placed in a position where death threats are being made,

where she becomes the subject of vitriol and abuse. Nobody has done more for literature and literacy in this country. And I find their charity work exceptional.”

He’s no slouch himself when it comes to charity. Horowitz is a patron of Kidscape, an anti-bullying organization. He also works for Suffolk Home-Start, a charity that supports families with young children. Home-Start receives all royalties from Where seagulls dare – so these right-wing villains will at least do some good in the end.

Where Seagulls Dare (Walker Books, £7.99) is available now

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