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15 October 2023

Anthony Horowitz Q&A: “I admire Rishi Sunak for his resilience and work ethic”

The novelist on optimism, late-night plot anxiety, and being born 25 years too late.

By New Statesman

Anthony Horowitz was born in London in 1955. A mystery novelist and screenwriter, he is the author of the YA series Alex Rider, and novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and James Bond.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being taken to Sunday school when I was six or seven. I was teased mercilessly. The idea of God struck me as ridiculous. The experience turned me off religion for life.

Who are your heroes?

As a child I loved myths, and Odysseus was one of my heroes. Now that I’m older and less innocent, I’m not sure I have any.

[See also: Julia Donaldson Q&A: “I have wonderful memories of busking in Siena”]

What book last changed your thinking?

The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz. It goes against everything I was taught and tells us so much about the way the modern world was shaped.

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Which political figure do you look up to?

Rishi Sunak, our first British Asian prime minister, which is a benchmark in itself. Of course I can hear some New Statesman readers groaning, but I admire his resilience and work ethic. Would you want to do the job?

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

The life and works of Arthur Conan Doyle.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I wish I’d been born 25 years earlier: to have been a child during the Second World War, to have had a more riotous time in the Sixties, to have died young missing the Covid pandemic, Brexit and Putin.

What TV show could you not live without?

Moonflower Murders: it’s paying my wages. 

Who would paint your portrait?

There’s something quite grim about being pinned down in oils and stuck behind a frame, joining the thousands of dead people whose images have survived them. I’d prefer a photo. In my dreams it would be taken by Annie Leibovitz, who finds something new to say about her subjects with a mix of humour and surprise. 

What’s your theme tune?

“Strong” by Robbie Williams.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

A very good friend of mine urges me not to go through life fearing the worst, or as he puts it, “not to trade in future anxieties”. This strikes me as a terrific phrase but then he is a lawyer and chooses his words carefully. And charges for them.

What’s currently bugging you?

I feel that there’s a new malevolence in the media, a sense that we’re being provoked simply for the sake of it. MPs pop up on television and say dreadful and often untrue things. Social media is jammed with pointless arguments. Newspaper headlines amplify the absurd. What bugs me is that we’re all compelled to take part in this endless, futile dance of deathlessness.

What single thing would make your life better?

I’d like to finish the novel I’m writing. I wake up, sweating, in the middle of the night, thinking about clues, red herrings… and my editor who’s waiting for me to deliver.

When were you happiest?

The day my first son was born. I got clamped on the way to the maternity hospital but even this didn’t spoil it.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

An English teacher in Wiltshire or Suffolk.

Are we all doomed?

On the face of it, things are looking very grim indeed, worse than at any time in my life. But humanity has an extraordinary capacity for survival and we should never underestimate our ingenuity.

“The Twist of a Knife” by Anthony Horowitz is published by Century

[See also: Lubaina Himid’s Q&A: “I’m bothered by my inability to destroy the patriarchy”]

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This article appears in the 18 Oct 2023 issue of the New Statesman, War on Three Fronts