Interview With an Author: Anthony Horowitz

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Anthony Horowitz and his latest Mystery series book, The Sentence is Death.

Anthony Horowitz is a prolific journalist and writer for television and the author of both young adult and adult literature. He has been commissioned by the Doyle and Fleming estates to write new adventures for both Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. In 2014 he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to literature. His new Mystery series began with 2018’s The Word is Murder and is continued with this year’s The Sentence is Death. Recently he agreed to be interviewed by Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog

What inspired you to write a series in which you yourself were a character?

When my publisher approached me with the idea of writing a long-running series of whodunits, my first thought was—“what can I do that had never been done before?” Turning myself into the narrator, the Watson to Hawthorne’s Sherlock Holmes, turned the entire genre on its head. Normally the author is powerful and all-knowing. But in these books, I’m the exact opposite. If Hawthorne doesn’t solve the crime, I won’t even have a book! Being in the book makes the whole thing feel fresh and new.

What inspired the cases in The Word is Murder and/or The Sentence is Death?

This is a tricky one to answer without giving anything away. For TWIM, I began with the image of a lady walking into a funeral parlor. It just struck me as an interesting world to explore. For TSID, I began with the idea of someone being killed with an incredibly valuable object. Originally, it was going to be a $2 million Modigliani statue. Then I decided on the bottle of wine.

It’s clear that Sherlock Holmes was an inspiration for Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne. Were there any other influences or inspirations that contributed to the character?

As I mention in the first book, Hawthorne was inspired by a detective I’d created for a television series, Injustice. I foolishly killed him off and always wondered if I could find a way to bring him back to life.

How close is the Anthony Horowitz character to you, the real Anthony Horowitz? What liberties are you taking in how you are portraying yourself as a character?

I think it’s important to point out that I am not a major character in the book. It’s not a—literal—ego trip! I’m just the narrator and in fact, you don’t learn a great deal about me outside my life as a writer and as a sidekick to a quite difficult detective. But the short answer is that my depiction is 100% accurate—but you may choose not to believe that.

Are there things the Horowitz character has done that you would never do in real life? Or, conversely, are there things you have done/would do, that your character would not?

I sometimes wonder if I even have a real life, so much of it is spent writing.

In The Sentence is Death, it is mentioned that Anthony now has a three-book contract with his publisher for books with Hawthorne. Is this going to be a trilogy or is it possible that there will be more books with Hawthorne and Horowitz?

Actually, I’m planning ten books in this series—assuming, that is, that people are enjoying it. I already have two more titles in my head but what really interests me is the investigation into Hawthorne that really began in TSID. What is it that made him what he is? Why is he homophobic? Why does he live on his own? I have a good idea what happened to him, many years before, but it will take me another eight volumes to arrive at the truth.

You have written two Sherlock Holmes novels for the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate (The House of Silk and Moriarty) and two James Bond novels for the estate of Ian Fleming (Trigger Mortis and Forever and a Day). If, tomorrow, it could be arranged for the owner of any literary character to provide you with a request to write a new novel for them, who would it be?

As much as I loved writing both Holmes and Bond, I’m not sure it would be a brilliant idea to take on any more literary giants and anyway I’ve got too many books of my own to write. But since you ask, there are one or two characters who would tempt me. Flashman (George Macdonald Fraser). Narnia (C.S. Lewis). And Tintin (Hergé…the last book, Tintin and the Alpha Art, was never completed). But I think there’s zero chance of any of those happening.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

I’m half-way through a brilliant murder mystery by the Japanese master, Soji Shimada: Murder in the Crooked House. I’m loving it. Next up, I’m going to read Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

My love of books and of adventure stories was kindled by a wonderful Canadian author and traveler, Willard Price. All his books had the word “adventure” in the title. So…Shark Adventure, Crocodile Adventure, Whale Adventure and so on. I also loved James Bond and Tintin!

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Only the books I was writing.

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

Charles Dickens. Ian Fleming. Conan Doyle. George Gissing. Agatha Christie.

What is a book you've faked reading?

I have friends who are authors whose books I have only pretended to read. For obvious reasons, I cannot name names.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd. It’s a great title and the UK cover was lovely.

Is there a book that changed your life?

Actually, there were quite a few (including some I wrote). But The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley was the first work of serious fiction I read and loved. It opened my eyes to the possibility that there might be more to literature than adventure and chases and it began a journey which continues to this day.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

My father recommended Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny to me. I loved it. I recommended it to my children. They loved it. I think it’s one of the few great novels of the Second World War and a wonderful book for teens moving into adult fiction. I’m currently adapting it for television.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

What a lovely question. Perhaps I Claudius and its sequel, Claudius the God by Robert Graves. I remember being surprised how much I enjoyed them—and it’s that element of surprise I’d like to recapture.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

I’m going to disappoint you. It’d not going to be dinner in Paris with James Joyce or anything like that. These days, for me, a perfect day would be spent at my home in Crete with my wife, my two sons and my close friends. I’d write for six hours. I’d skinny-dip in the Aegean. I’d have a Greek lesson. I’d go out to a local taverna. At night, I’d sit in my garden with a glass of raki, looking at the stars. I have many days like this.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

What are you working on now?

What are you working on now?

Oh—look at that! Aren’t I lucky? Well, since you ask, I’m 87,000 words into the thirteenth Alex Rider novel, Nightshade. As soon as I finish this question I’ll go back to it because I’m quite close to the end. It’s a YA novel but very dark and quite challenging. I have no idea if children will like it or not but I’ve loved writing it…and usually, that’s a good sign.

The Sentence is Death
Horowitz, Anthony

In the second book in the Daniel Hawthorne mystery series, author Anthony Horowitz, and his fictional doppelganger, tackle solving who killed celebrity-divorce attorney Richard Pryce with a £3,000 bottle of wine and then painted a three digit number on the wall. And, most importantly, which of Pryce’s many, many enemies would have been motivated to murder him? The mystery presented is top notch, the writing is sharp, the humor is wickedly pointed and the resolution is more than satisfying. This series is off to a marvelous start!

Book Review: The Sentence is Death