Man for all media: A conversation with Anthony Horowitz, television writer and children's author par excellence | Arts
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Man for all media: A conversation with Anthony Horowitz, television writer and children's author par excellence

Posted by on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 8:39 AM

click to enlarge Celebrated, protean British writer Anthony Horowitz visits Quail Ridge Books & Music Sunday, Nov. 22. (Photo by Des Willie)
  • Celebrated, protean British writer Anthony Horowitz visits Quail Ridge Books & Music Sunday, Nov. 22. (Photo by Des Willie)

Anthony Horowitz is considered one of the top television dramatists in the UK, as the mind behind such shows as Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders, numerous adaptations of Agatha Christie's Inspector Poirot tales and, most recently, Collision, currently airing on PBS' Masterpiece Contemporary (the miniseries concludes at 9 p.m. on Nov. 22; Part One encores at 2 a.m. on Nov. 21, for those with insomnia or TiVo).

But his biggest success hasn't come from his reality-based dramas but a series of children's books about a teen spy: Alex Rider, a teen James Bond-style secret agent whose latest adventure, Crocodile Tears, was just published in the States on Nov. 17. Horowitz will appear at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh on Nov. 22 for a signing-line ticket event at 2 p.m.

The series, which started with 2000's Stormbreaker, pits 14-year-old Rider against a variety of spies, terrorists and evil billionaires; it'll end after 10 books when the character turns 15. "I've aged 10 years to my character's one," says Horowitz in a call from England. "It really doesn't seem fair."

Horowitz had written numerous children's books before the medium hit the big time with J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. "It was a backwater, it was something you didn't really do, but I was drawn to it because I loved story," he recalls. "Children's books have always had a sort of purity I've always liked-you can literally cut to the chase and get on with the action."

He's written more than 50 books for both older and younger readers, along with his TV work, the feature film The Gathering, and the play Mindgame, which was directed by gonzo filmmaker Ken Russell in an Off-Broadway production last year (Horowitz will only describe working with Russell as "memorable").

How does he stay so prolific? "The discipline in my life is being able to stop writing and get out and doing other things and having a life," Horowitz says. "I'm passionate about what I do, and when you're by yourself like I am, seven hours is a long time, and you can get a lot done."

He approves of how American television has adopted the more complex, long-form plotting of British TV: "I think in many respects, American television is now leading the world. It's not hard to see why: American television has come of age. You have directors as good as Steven Soderbergh and Barry Levinson doing these shows, wonderful actors, and huge, cinema-sized budgets, which of course you can't get over here. American shows like The Wire, Lost and 24 are the shows we're talking about over in Britain, even more than most British TV shows."

He admits that Collision owes a debt to Lost in its use of flashbacks, though he might not need to worry about American TV overtaking the UK: The New York Times' rave review of Collision said the series "raises an old question: Why are the British so much better at this sort of thing than we are?"

Horowitz says that books give him fewer restrictions than TV: "I can destroy the world, I can visit other worlds, and I don't have to worry (about budgets). He considers it a "golden age" for children's literature and looks forward to writing the further adventures of his teen spy: "I find Alex endlessly fascinating. It's a journey I haven't tired of, ever."


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