Interview With an Author: Anthony Horowitz

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Anthony Horowitz and his latest novel, With a Mind to Kill
Author Anthony Horowitz and his latest novel, With a Mind to Kill. Photo of author by Anna Lythgoe

One of the world’s most prolific and successful writers, Anthony Horowitz may have committed more (fictional) murders than any other living author. Several of his previous novels, including Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders, were instant NYT bestsellers. His bestselling Alex Rider series for Young Adults has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide. In addition, Anthony is also the author of the brilliantly inventive series featuring Detective Hawthorne and the author himself. As a TV screenwriter, he created both Midsomer Murders and the BAFTA-winning Foyle’s War on PBS; other TV work includes Poirot and the widely-acclaimed mini-series Collision and Injustice. In January 2014 was awarded an OBE for his services to literature. He lives in London. His new novel is With a Mind to Kill and he recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

You were commissioned by the estate of Ian Fleming to write Trigger Mortis, which was released in 2015 on what would have been Fleming's 107 birthday. How did you come to work with the Fleming estate on James Bond?

The Ian Fleming estate began commissioning a new series of James Bond novels in 2008 with Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks. This was followed by further stories written by Jeffrey Deaver and William Boyd. Effectively, I was sitting there waiting for the phone to ring when it finally did in 2014! I met the family of Ian Fleming in London and pitched them the idea of Trigger Mortis—and that was where it all began.

What was your inspiration for With a Mind to Kill?

Forever and a Day (my second Bond) looked at the very beginning of his career. Trigger Mortis had been set mid-career, just after Goldfinger. It struck me as a good idea to complete the trilogy with a story that would take place in the sixties, straight after the last Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun. The opening of that story—with Bond trying to kill M—has always been one of my favorite episodes and I was keen to meet Colonel Boris, the shadowy mastermind who had brainwashed Bond.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

I knew pretty much everything that was going to happen in the book before I began writing. I always structure everything very carefully. But one sequence that did cause me issues was the escape sequence in the section set in London. I had planned to send Bond to prison…I was thinking of George Blake, who was sentenced to a staggering 42 years in jail in 1961. But the more research I did, the more I realized that a British prison was too dowdy and depressing for a James Bond novel and that it would be impossible to have him break out in a way that would be exciting enough. If you look at Blake's escape (with a ladder made out of knitting needles), it's not exactly thrilling. So I came up with the Tower Bridge sequence instead.

Are you a longtime fan of James Bond? Do you have a favorite of Fleming's novels? Of the motion pictures? Do you have a favorite Bond actor? A least favorite? (I realize that you may not want to address this one, and if that is the case, please don't. But I also realize it might be fun to answer.)

I’ve been a James Bond fan all my life. I was eight years old when the film of Dr No came out and I was ten when I read my first Bond novel. Because of my age, it will come as no surprise when I say that Sean Connery is my favourite Bond—but Daniel Craig ran him a close second in the first rate Casino Royale. My least favorite Bond is a sneaky thing to ask but I’ll give you an answer. David Niven. He was Ian Fleming’s first choice and I think he would have been a disaster.

If you could cast the next actor to play James Bond, whom would you pick?

I'm very glad this is a decision I will never have to make.

Your biography on With a Mind to Kill states that this finishes your Bond trilogy, beginning with Trigger Mortis and continuing with Forever and a Day. Is this definitely your last adventure with James Bond?

Well, I swore that Scorpia Rising would be my last Alex Rider novel and somehow I managed to do three more—so I’m more careful these days about any major pronouncements! But sitting here now, I do think my James Bond adventures are over. As I've said, it's a trilogy that makes sense. I've had a wonderful time writing Bond, and I'll miss him, but it's probably time to move on.

Next year, James Bond will celebrate his 70th anniversary! Do you have an idea or theory regarding why/how James Bond has become and continues to be, so ingrained in western culture and beloved by legions of fans?

Let's start with the fact that the books are brilliantly written, with memorable titles and amazing set pieces. Let's add commerce. Half the world's population has supposedly seen a Bond movie. If you're interested in metaphysics, read the Bond dossier by Kingsley Amis. He talks about Bond as a mythical figure, a "dark knight" who resides deep in our consciousness and so has a certain immortality. And in historical terms, Bond connects us with everything we like to think is great about our country, always punching above his weight just as we did in WW2.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

What an odd question. If you mean the hook in my bedroom, I don't wear a "bed jacket," which (the estate once told me) is what Bond wears in bed. There's a T-shirt and a dressing gown. Beside my bed is the new Don Winslow thriller, City on Fire.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I saw Jodie Comer performing her monologue, Prima Facie, in London. She was electrifying.

What are you working on now?

At this very moment, I'm answering the questions you sent me. As soon as I've done that, I'll be returning to the edits of A Twist of the Knife, the fourth Hawthorne novel, out in August.

Book cover for With a Mind to Kill
With a Mind to Kill
Horowitz, Anthony