Anthony Horowitz is best known for his Alex Rider novels about a teenage spy, young adult series The Power of Five, as well as creating ITV’s Foyle’s War. Recently, he’s found a new adult readership with his Sherlock Holmes novel The House of Silk. Andre Paine met him at home in his converted Clerkenwell warehouse and discussed literary landmarks, the bloody history of Charterhouse Square and James Bond…
NAME: Anthony Horowitz
JOB: Novelist And Screenwriter
LOCATION: Converted Warehouse, EC1
The House of Silk’s been widely praised as an authentic Holmes adventure and you even keep up the tradition of Dr Watson alluding to previous investigations. Can you tell us about ‘the Clerkenwell Killings’?
It was one that Inspector Lestrade solved and he got wounded during the course of it. It’s the sort of case that might be quite fun to write one day, the Clerkenwell Killings, it does roll off the tongue. Maybe you’ve just given me the idea for a TV series.
Can you tell us about this incredible building you live in?
It’s an old bacon warehouse – perhaps not the ideal location for a Jewish person. We moved here from Crouch End four years ago. I can actually stand on the roof and see the British Telecom Tower and all the way up to Regent’s Park. We’re very lucky because this area’s been transformed by Crossrail – they have knocked down a series of extremely ugly buildings.
What’s a typical working day?
I normally start work very early, about 7.30am, I spend seven or eight hours writing. We’re shooting Foyle’s War at the moment so we have lots of meetings here of directors, actors, producers. My wife Jill Green produces Foyle’s War, so we work on that together. I go out for lunch every day. My favourite restaurants are the Clerkenwell Kitchen, The Modern Pantry, and we now have a Polpo over the road. One of the undiscovered secrets of Clerkenwell is not the restaurant of St John, which everybody knows, but its little courtyard where they serve lunch.
Will people spot you writing in coffee shops?
I’ve never been a big one for writing in coffee shops, unlike Ms Rowling. But when I was young, I used to write in cemeteries – I always found them the quietest places to work. I generally work indoors, either upstairs or at my living room desk. I’m probably happiest with a fountain pen, a pad of paper, my desk and my view.
Does Clerkenwell inspire your fiction?
Clerkenwell is a big inspiration to me. Because I’m a great fan of Dickens, I love the fact that Mr Jaggers, the lawyer in Great Expectations, lives in Clerkenwell, as does Fagin for that matter. Bleeding Heart Yard turns up in Little Dorrit and Bleak House. So when you walk out in the street you do get a fantastic sense of being in a literary world.
Do the old alleyways and narrow streets suggest stories and intrigue?
Oh definitely, in my book The Power of Five: Oblivion, the headquarters of the secret society is in Clerkenwell, and where else in London could it be? If you’re looking for alleyways that lead to strange doors, and doors that lead to strange rooms, you look in Clerkenwell.
Are there any specific locations in the area that have inspired you?
Yes. I used to have a dog and when he was very old and couldn’t walk very far I walked him almost exclusively around Clerkenwell. We used to find marvellous places, one of my favourites being Postman’s Park for people who died helping others. The meat market is a fantastically inspiring place too. I like the history of this area. Just up the road is a big plague pit from the 17th century and it was in Charterhouse Square that William Wallace was disemboweled. I love that it’s an area dripping in blood. It certainly inspires me when I’m writing horror, as it did when I was writing The House of Silk.
After Holmes, would you consider writing an official James Bond novel?
I’ve been deeply disappointed by the new Bond versions so far. I would love to write one in a way and I’m looking forward to William Boyd’s, I think he’s a very smart writer and seems to understand Bond in a way that neither Sebastian Faulks or Jeffery Deaver began to do. With Ian Fleming it’s the same thing as Arthur Conan Doyle: people underestimate how good these writers were.
The House of Silk (£7.99, Orion) and The Power of Five: Oblivion (£16.99, Walker Books) are out now and also available in eBook formats.