Tag Archives: Anthony Horowitz

To remain young forever

Or not.

First let me say how boring I often find the Guardian Review. A few short snippets don’t make up for pages and pages on things I have little interest in, or written in such a way that I find I don’t much care anyway. I know that children’s books can’t dominate a section of the newspaper that is aimed at everyone, but I do wish there could be more.

So this past weekend I was suitably – but pleasantly – shocked to find the first four pages set aside for children’s authors to muse on the question of letting child characters grow old.

OK, so it was caused by Harry Potter appearing as an adult in The Cursed Child, but that’s fine. They had an excellent selection of children’s authors, who expressed interesting and varied opinions on letting fictional characters mature, and many of them seemed to have read the Harry Potter books, instead of sniping about something they know nothing about. It was a pleasure to read.

And because they wrote their own short pieces, there was less scope for misinterpretation, which is another of my bugbears.

An adult Horrid Henry sounds perfectly horrid, and a jaded, older Alex Rider somehow lacks the necessary charm we have come to expect, so I’m glad this is not about to happen. But as with most things, people don’t have to agree, and characters aren’t all the same, so what’s right for one will be wrong for another.

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At home with

Anthony Horowitz. Don’t get all excited. I’ve not spoken to the man, nor been to his house, other than through a magazine article.

Anthony Horowitz's house

This was just another find when I pruned the pink filing cabinet (in fact, it’s my only filing cabinet) a few days ago. Back in the day when I read lots of house magazines, I just happened to see this, so it’s not as if I bought the magazine to spy on Anthony.

Anyway, if he puts his home in an interior decorating magazine, he deserves to have me lurk. The reason I actually pulled out and kept the article was a) he was a children’s author, and b) I liked the look of his house.

Anthony Horowitz's house

But after so many years (I’m guessing close to ten) I feel I can live without these cuttings, so out they go. I’d link to the article if it was possible, but all you get is an offer to subscribe…

With my luck he’s probably moved at least twice since, but never mind. This is how a successful children’s author and television screenwriter lives.

My own tastes have since moved on. And I’d never put an author’s home on here if I’d only happened to visit. It has to be official. Although I did once entertain the idea of The Kitchens of Children’s Authors as a lucrative series. Alternately, Soup With an Author.

OxCrimes

Pop down to your local Oxfam and buy a copy of OxCrimes: 27 Killer Stories from the Cream of Crime Writers and support the work of Oxfam while giving yourself something good to read for the next few hours.

It’s got ‘practically every crime writer’ contributing. Even the ones I’d not heard of, as I had to confess to yesterday. But especially the ones I do know. Foreword by that Rankin chap who always pops up and takes part in every worthwhile venture going. (All right, not everyone. But 27 isn’t bad. Plus Ian Rankin.)

OxCrimes: 27 Killer Stories from the Cream of Crime Writers

The stories were of every imaginable kind, including a pretty scary sci-fi thriller crime tale from Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. There’s war crimes and ghostly crimes, sexy ones and the usual crime-y crimes. How Anthony Horowitz could be allowed to say what I’ve always suspected about public toilets (you know the kind…) is beyond my comprehension. Now none of us will want to go.

My favourite – if I’m allowed one – has to be Stuart Neville’s, which was brilliant in all its period simplicity. Not to mention chilling.

As for the rest, I think I’ve listed them all. You will know some better than others, just like me. You might find a new favourite, or even one you wouldn’t mind killing slowly and painfully. What do I know?

It’s all in a good cause, even if the blood flows fairly freely in places.

‘With previous books OxTravels and OxTales having raised over a quarter of a million pounds since their 2009 publication, Oxfam is hoping OxCrimes will raise even more, helping to tackle poverty and suffering around the world. Visit Oxfam’s Emergency Response pages to find out more about how you can help.’

Russian Roulette

He can still do it. Both Daughter and I have been spellbound by the Alex Rider prequel from Anthony Horowitz. It’s a read-in-one-sitting kind of book. There is almost no Alex Rider in the story, which is hardly surprising since it takes place before he was born.

Anthony Horowitz, Russian Roulette

What we get in his place is his arch-enemy Yassen Gregorovich, aged fourteen. They are remarkably similar in many respects. We have always known they share something, and that Alex’s dad knew Yassen.

I wonder how much of what we learn about Yassen was something Anthony already knew when he wrote the Alex Rider books, and how much he has ‘simply’ tied up loose ends? No matter. What we have here makes for compulsive reading and it is very exciting.

Yassen has to learn to survive by working hard, learning his killer skills from the experts, unlike Alex who mostly goes off with some MI6 gadgets and hopes for the best. We know from the start that Yassen’s task is to kill Alex. We also know that he can’t succeed, but that doesn’t detract from the suspense.

This is an interesting portrait of the new Russia, and the greed and wealth of newly powerful men. You root for Yassen, all the while knowing you mustn’t, and it’s hard to let go of the idea that they can all be friends at the end. (I had a theory about him, but it proved to be wrong.)

Great stuff! I hope I’ll never be too old for this kind of spy story.

(Daughter finished the book – before me, obviously – and then filled her suitcase with the complete Alex Rider series, just so she can have it close to hand.)

Walker Books and a witch with wet hands

As usual it was a case of waving your hands (or in this case, my hands) under the drier for absolutely forever, wipe them on your clothes, or go wet, hoping there’d be no hands to shake. You can guess which I chose, and what happened next, can’t you?

I was at the presentation of Walker Books’ and Constable & Robinson’s Autumn Highlights in Manchester on Wednesday evening, when I came face to face with Jo for the first time, and had to quickly get out of the handshaking she had in mind. This flustered me so much I forgot to mention my name. (But everyone knows me, right?) Besides, I’d already got the decrepit old woman treatment. Staff at the venue saw me negotiating the steps outside (which had NO handrail) and quickly bundled me into the lift before I caused more trouble.

Wally bag

Super-Jake was there, but I forgot to check his footwear. Representatives of our local LitFest and bookshops and that most Wondrous of blogs could also be seen. I was quite restrained prior to the talk, as I noticed there were partybags in one corner, which meant I did no stealing or anything beforehand.

Constable & Robinson went first, and I’d not realised that books on prescription, which I have heard of, is for non-fiction self-help type books, rather than patients being made to feel better after a dose of Pride and Prejudice…

They are big on halogen oven books. (Don’t ask.) They are the leaders in cosy crime. You can have books on WWII pets for Christmas. Obviously. C & R have begun offering children’s books, and they had an instructive video on how to fight zombies. (Head removal is recommended.) Gross. Shaun Ryder on UFOs. (It would have helped if I knew who Shaun Ryder is.) Joan Collins is nearly 80, in case you wanted to know. They have a book titled Going on a Bar Hunt. Droll.

This being very much a presentation for booksellers, I now know a lot more about which books are commercial, something I rarely consider in my narrow little world. There will be joke books for Christmas. And they have just begun a relationship with Brian McGilloway, who I am very interested in.

Vivian French bookmark

On to Walker Books, who are planning a picture book party. I think that means they have lots of picture books to offer. Vivian French has something new going; Stargirl Academy. Looks good. Pink. Anthony Browne is a Marmite author, which I can understand. That gorilla still scares me.

Cassandra Clare was there last year, before she grew so big that she doesn’t do this kind of talk. She has a film on the way. Nice for her.

Walker have travel guides, and there is new stuff for fans of GHMILY (Guess How Much I Love You books). Mumsnet have done a story collection. In fact, I reckon there is one thing parents want more than anything else. They want their children to fall asleep. Lots of books for that purpose.

Manatees and bears. A book about someone pecking (I’m thinking – hoping – woodpecker) all the way through.  Going on a Bear Hunt is out again. Michael Morpurgo will be 70, and four of his books are being re-issued, including one about funny old men who are famous artists.

Speaking of funny, Tommy Donbavand has a new series called Fangs. Walker are really really really really thrilled to be working with Anthony McGowan and his new book Hello Darkness. Patrick Ness wasn’t there except on video, where he did his best to sound interesting while not giving too much away about his new novel More Than This. His Chaos trilogy, meanwhile, is being revamped for old people.

My notes say ‘spider skeleton.’ I think there’s a book about things like spider skeletons. Kate DiCamillo and her dog spoke to us all the way from their Minneapolis dining room. While the dog made dog noises, Kate told us about her mother’s obsession with her 1952 vacuum cleaner and what would happen to it after she died. Kate’s new book Flora and Ulysses also features squirrels.

Anthony Horowitz has finally come to the end of his Power of Five books, so has had time to write Russian Roulette, the Alex Rider prequel he has had in mind for absolutely ages. He is quite satisfied with it.

Lizzy Bennet (I apologise for sounding so informal) wrote a diary in her pre-Darcy days, which will give us an opportunity to find out all kinds of stuff.

Finally, Walker are publishing the Little Island imprint, which is foreign fiction. I spied a Swedish title in among the covers they showed us, and think it’s high time there are more books from other countries.

Walker Books autumn books

As you can see, they had a lot to tell us. They hadn’t rehearsed, so were surprised to find it took them so long. But at the end there were canapés and more drinks and even a few authors; Steve Tasane, Sarah Webb and Katy Moran. Someone else, too. At least I think there was.

Wally bag

I grabbed my partybag and hobbled away home. There was NO handrail on the way out either…

Covered

I am obviously wrong. But I still have an opinion. It is mine, and it is not my intention to insult people. In the end a book is a book, and it’s the contents that really matter. Not the cover. If I don’t like the cover, it is the artist’s work I am complaining about. Not the author’s. Unless they are one and the same.

And whereas I’m mainly thinking of what might put me off buying or reading a book, the same could be said for the prospective reader whose taste in covers is the opposite to mine.

Until just the other week I was so certain of how right I am. Then Adèle Geras went and informed me that I was wrong about the new covers of Ann Turnbull’s Quaker books. (I thought the old ones were better.)

My main hang-ups are the covers featuring a girl’s face. I’m not anti-girl, or even anti-face, but if they don’t look like they’d be my friend at school – and they usually don’t – then I feel alienated. (I know. I’m no longer at school. But you never lose that sense of insecurity.) But if the face appeals to countless of young readers, then that’s good.

Celia Rees, Witch Child

The book which demonstrates this best is Witch Child by Celia Rees, which is a marvellous novel. I have always hated the cover. I understand it’s reckoned to be a perfect success. But it’s actually a book where I’d want to cover the book in brown paper. (And wouldn’t that lead to misunderstandings on the train!)

It’s the historical teen novel that I feel suffers the most from these girl-faced covers. The girls are modern girls, looking nothing like the period of the story within or even like the heroine. On the other hand, if she looks like a potential friend, you’ll want to read the book, won’t you?

More Bloody Horowitz

When I got Anthony Horowitz’s More Bloody Horowitz I thought it had a fantastic cover. So did the Resident IT Consultant, who as you will recall liked the book enough to want read it anew. But when I asked Daughter if it would make her read the book, she said it would do the opposite. And she’s a fan of Anthony’s.

Fem söker en skatt

Then there are the nostalgics. I used to love (still do) the Swedish cover of Five on a Treasure Island as it was in the early 1960s. I’d have wanted that book even had I not seen and loved the film first. I like the old British cover too.

You have the new-old nostalgic covers that can sell almost anything. At least to us old ones. Maybe today’s young readers only want modern pictures to describe their books, whatever they are about.

I like the new Harry Potter covers, despite having ‘grown up’ (yeah, right) on the original ones. Whereas my faithful commenter Cynical didn’t. Perhaps it was too early to redesign them?

How about the covers that look good enough to eat? Or to stroke or just generally slaver over? Those covers can never be wrong as far as looks are concerned. They might just be covering a story that you don’t like, of course. But at least the book looks lovely.

Perfect to caress and perfect to read, describe Debi Gliori’s Pure Dead series.

Velvet by Debi Gliori

For the most part, the covers don’t really matter, as long as they don’t prevent you from buying an extremely good book.

One of my childhood favourites, which I can no longer recall either the title of or its author, came with no cover. And no end. Ouch. It was ‘inherited’ from Eldest Cousin, who had presumably cut it out of a magazine, published in bits every week, to be collected in a Dickensian fashion. (No, she’s not that old.) Hence the lack of cover. And possibly also hence the lack of an end, whether she never got it, or it was lost. Still, it was a very good book. You could sort of imagine the end.

And as I finish this post I will endeavour to remind myself that I am not young. These books are not made for me, however much I like them, and make me forget myself. So my opinions are irrelevant. (I just wanted to share.)

Catalogue woes

When I received my first book catalogues from publishers I was childishly pleased. And I still am. Sometimes. I was talking to a book world friend a few weeks ago about a recently received annual catalogue, and remarking that for all the books it listed, I was only interested in one.

In a way that was good, because it eases the burden of how to find the time to read. But what upset me was the large number of romances. That’s the only word to describe what they are. My foreign youthful equivalents of Mills & Boon have now been replaced by books with dark covers depicting vampires and dystopias and the like.

One such book I can show an interest in. Several even, if they don’t all come at once. Except they do. The catalogue I have in mind had pages and pages of them, and when you see all the covers side by side, the similarities are more striking than when you see them on their own. Being a bit gaga I peer at every new book and wonder whether I’ve already seen it. But most likely it was just one of its mates, looking almost the same.

The books are OK. I’m sure I’d enjoy reading a few if I had nothing else to read. But like the Mills & Boons they are not really review material. Or at least, I don’t think so. I’d never have dreamt of reviewing a romance back when I consumed them, nor would I have looked for someone else’s review of them. You buy or borrow, read and discard.

But luckily there are other catalogues. Some are excellent and contain not only the new books soon to come, but list all the old books still available. And when they are good ones it makes you go a bit crazy, until you realise you can’t order half the back catalogue. You just don’t have the time.

And then there are the ones that list books to appear over the next few months. Like the Walker Books Seasonal Catalogue which just arrived. The cover is nice. It’s from the May lead title, and looks like something I’ll want to read. A war time Shirley Hughes novel. On past lots of picture books. Then comes a new Sonya Hartnett. At least I think it is. The blurb sounds a little like another one, but I’m sure it’s new.

After which I get to the first and second books in Ann Turnbull’s ‘epic Friends trilogy.’ Whoa! It is a trilogy? I didn’t know. If so, where is number three? Hang on, perhaps the first two are there to herald the arrival of the third?

More picture books, and then what might be the end of Helena Pielichaty’s Girls FC football books. Old Horowitz.

Yes! It is a trilogy! And I haven’t missed a thing, because here comes the ‘long-awaited conclusion’ of Ann’s Friends trilogy, Seeking Eden. Not now, obviously. In the summer. But at least I hadn’t lost my mind.

More novels, more picture books (if that is possible) and some Baker Street Boys, of which there are many. Anthony Read has been busy. I can almost cope with this. There are books I like the look of, ones I love the look of and some which look fine but that I will not have time for.

And then there are lists and catalogues from all the other publishers… As well as the non-existent lists from others. Detective work can be such fun.