Anthony Horowitz On Singular Spies: James Bond 007 And Alex Rider M16 Author Anthony Horowitz loves nothing more than when a young fan asks him to sign a battered copy of a book in his Alex Rider series — young adult fiction featuring a skateboard-riding teen spy. When it comes to his favorite thriller, he recommends Ian Fleming's "Crime de la Crime" in Goldfinger.
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Singular Spies: James Bond 007 And Alex Rider MI6

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Singular Spies: James Bond 007 And Alex Rider MI6

Singular Spies: James Bond 007 And Alex Rider MI6

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Welcome to the program.

BLOCK: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: You know, at one point, a school librarian was trying to explain to me why your books were so popular, just how popular they were, and she pulled a few out of the stacks in her library, and they were well loved. They were beaten up, and the covers were sort of torn back.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NORRIS: Why do you think children, boys in particular, love these books?

BLOCK: But I'd say the other thing about the books is they're very, very accessible. You know, when I write a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, I'm always remembering that, you know, that kids have lots and lots of other things to do. So I reach out, I grab them. I hook them. I hold them. I keep the pace moving as fast as I possibly can, and maybe that's another reason why the books have had the success, you know, both in the UK and the USA, that they have.

NORRIS: Now, there's a lot of suspense in these books. They move very quickly, and sometimes they're a little bit spooky. A typical "Alex Rider" reader is younger and just maybe been introduced to some scary themes. But how do you find the right balance for a young reader that - so the books are scary enough to get their juices flowing but not so scary that they have nightmares and wake up screaming for mom and dad?

BLOCK: And I should say that as the books have continued, they've become a little more demanding each time. They should start with "Stormbreaker" or "Point Blanc," they're very, very easy reads. They're very light. By the time you get to the more, sort of recent ones, "Crocodile Tears," "Snakehead" and coming out next year is "Scorpia Rising," the very last one in the series, I am aware that the books are more demanding. But I think - I hope that my readers have grown with me.

NORRIS: You turned to storytelling at a very young age as a way to help escape what sounds like a somewhat unhappy childhood. Do you find yourself drawing on the young Anthony Horowitz to help you write about Alex Rider?

BLOCK: But the day that I created Alex Rider was the day I created somebody who was utterly alien to me, who is fitter, smarter, better looking and just better equipped in every sense of the life that I had ever been. I mean, always a kid that I wished I had been rather than the kid I was. And so the moment he sprang onto the page for me in "Stormbreaker" was the moment that my fortunes turned and my sales began to add those zeros.

NORRIS: Where did Alex Rider come to you? How did he arrive in your psyche?

BLOCK: As time had gone on, I just felt that James Bond was getting too old. And it long occurred to me that Bond had lost his way and that it would be so much better, just a simple thought, wouldn't it be great if Bond was a teenager? So cut forward now to 15 books later and that thought comes into my head again and I began to plan "Stormbreaker." And that was the book that did everything for me.

NORRIS: The "Alex Rider" series was supposed to end in 2009, but fan outcry seemed to change your mind. And now you're at work on what is supposed to be the last book in this series. Is it truly the last book? Is there still room for appeal?

BLOCK: And it makes me sad, but I really believe this, that it's best to quit while you're ahead. Don't go on writing formulaic books simply to make money for your publishers and for yourself and to supply, as it were, the market. I like to think that each book in its own way has been as good as or better than the one before, and I'm happy to quit on a high note with a body of work which I will look on and feel is about as perfect as it could have been and not to write that one book that sort of spoils it.

NORRIS: Can you do a favor for me? Can you take me inside your den or your office where you were writing and describe for me what it was like to write those last words?

BLOCK: And I sat there at the window and I knew what was going to happen to me and I left the paragraph, the final paragraphs, until I was there. It's my favorite place in the world. And I wrote them, and I knew I've done it correctly, and the words were the words I wanted. I sat back and as I sat back, literally, literally, the round sun, which was a red burning disc, touched the edge of Orford Ness just behind the lighthouse. And I just thought to myself, yes, you've done it exactly right. You've timed it exactly right, Anthony. That is the end.

NORRIS: I want to ask you about the end. What happened? But I know you won't tell me.

BLOCK: It ends with hope. The children's author has one duty in life, I believe, and that is always to write with hope. If you're young and you have, you know, everything in front of you, it is not the job of somebody like me to come along and say, actually, life is awful and, you know, get used to it. It is a dark book and is in many ways a sad book, but I think it ends with hope.

NORRIS: Anthony Horowitz, it's been a pleasure to talk to you. All the best to you.

BLOCK: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: Anthony Horowitz, he's the author of several thrillers for young adults and not-so-young adults, including the "Alex Rider" series.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NORRIS: Last month in our Killer Thriller's poll, we asked you, our listeners, to help us pick the 100 most pulse-quickening thrillers ever written. It's been a cliffhanger, but the suspense is finally over. You can find the final list of winning thrillers in the Summer Books section at our website, npr.org.

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