Books, Culture

In Praise of Anthony Horowitz

Lots of people have inspired me through the years. Family members, friends, teachers, musicians, actors, artists, photographers, sportsmen, designers, explorers; all have had an effect at some point during my life. It’s Anthony Horowitz, however, that holds a special place in my memory because this amicable writer and storyteller has not only helped me shape who I am, he opened my eyes to the joys of reading and, in turn, unlocked the limitless potential of our world.

It began with the unwrapping of a gift from my parents, Groosham Grange, one Christmas, which, in hindsight, turned out to be the most effective personal development catalyst of my primary school years. The confusing jumble of meaningless symbols that I’d been struggling to get to grips with since nursery all of a sudden began to have a purpose beyond learning them to pass SATs. Suddenly, pictures were forming in my mind as clearly and confidently as they did when listening to my teachers tell stories. And for perhaps the first time, I found myself unable to close a book, so hunger was I to find out what happened next.

That’s when something inside me clicked ‑ reading had suddenly become a leisurely activity, opening the door to millions of tales, each one ready to come alive in my head.

The appreciation I had for my primary school teachers’ morning poetry and storytime changed once I’d seriously begun getting into reading. I’d seen off Biff and Chip same as everybody else, but until I came across Horowitz, picture-less books and reading in general seemed painfully dull. His skill as an author and storyteller played a big part in awakening my mind, and looking for that ‘Horowitz touch’ is still something I enjoy today.

Horowitz is adept at crafting quirky casts of characters. With his protagonists and antagonists in particular, he never ceases to introduce and describe them in a memorable and vivid manner. In The Falcon’s Malteser, Nick Simple and his bungling old brother, private investigator Tim Diamond, are coloured by their severe lack of money, which has them scrapping the bottom of the coffee jar and living off less than £2.00 a week. This immediately tells you that the private investigator’s services aren’t in much demand and becomes a recurring motivation in the story.

Though his early children’s books played a firm part in getting me into reading, Horowitz’s best creation in my view is Alex Rider. Entering my life just before my teenage years and with me right through till the end of them, Alex Rider resonated with me like no books before them. They have the pace of spy thrillers and retain Horowitz’s eye for believable characters and inventive, and humorous, scenarios.

The character of Alex himself made me feel at ease with the tales, as this was someone my own age, growing up in London, facing all the regular teenage problems as well as a whole string of exciting irregular ones.

And then there were the locations. I’ve never been to Venice but crave to see it after picturing the image Horowitz conjured in my mind with Scorpia. His descriptions give places their own history. So as you’re whisked from the threat of thieves on vespas in the Piazza San Marco to the crisscross canals and side streets to the antechamber of a posh Venetian mansion, you feel as though you could inhabit those scenes. And the plots are all equally as intriguing, the best of which delve into Alex’s background and uncover a trail of deception and betrayal.

I finished the finally Alex Rider book, Scorpia Rising, in June. As the close to this decade-long saga, I was very satisfied with the finale.

Today, I find myself pursuing a career in journalism and creative writing. I use writing to express myself, to capture and share moments and to create new worlds. Every day I learn from the world around me, interpreting and understanding something as simple as messages on Twitter to complex, political news articles. The ability to read and write, to interpret and use language effectively to communicate, is something that those of us that use it every day take for granted. And we never stop learning as language evolves with use.

That’s why I’m thankful to Anthony Horowitz for sparking my imagination with his eloquent prose and making me realise just how fantastic the ability to read is. Without him, my respect and love for reading and writing might not be as strong as it is today.

Image: Anthony Horowitz