Last night I had the good fortune finally to meet one of my writing heroes, Anthony Horowitz. I have been reading this man's books for more than ten years, and in my opinion his Alex Rider books have had more influence on encouraging boys to read for pleasure than any other series in recent times. And yes, even more than the Harry Potter books. I know that is a pretty big claim to make, and I also know that many will disagree with me, but please hear me out. I will not deny that the Harry Potter books kick-started what is now referred to by many as the Golden Age of Children's Literature, and encouraged many children to pick up a book possibly for the first time. I am also happy to concede that many boys will be included in these numbers. However, I still feel that more boys in the UK will have felt the impact of the tidal wave of boy-friendly stories that followed the release of Stormbreaker in 2000. Without Stormbreaker would we have have had Muchamore's CHERUB? Joe Craig's Jimmy Coates? Charlie Higson's Young Bond? The list could go on and on, and every one of them would be a great boy-friendly series that may not have been born had it not been for the groundwork laid by Anthony Horowitz.
Thus, when I saw mention some time ago that Mr Horowitz would be delivering a lecture entitled Literacy: State of the Nation for the National Literacy Trust I immediately rattled off an email expressing my interest in attending, and last night I ventured into London, feeling just a little bit nervous as I knew this even would be a little 'posher' than the usual book events I have attended over the past year or so. Fortunately I had my friend Liz De Jager (of the My Favourite Books blog) for moral support, and thanks in no small part to Liz I even got the chance to have a brief talk with the man himself. Liz is far more brazen with me when it comes to approaching authors, although in this case she was aided by the fact that she had previously met Justin Somper, a man who has worked very closely with Anthony over the years, and was also in attendance. Within seconds there was I telling my hero how great I thought his latest book, Scorpia Rising, was and that I had only just finished reading it on the train into London. Incredibly, Mr Horowitz seemed very relieved that a fan had enjoyed it, and he explained that he was a little nervous about its forthcoming release, it being the very final book in the Alex Rider series, and a story that at times was quite emotional for him to write. I can't say any more about the book as there is a worldwide embargo placed on it, but my review will appear here on The Book Zone on its 31 March release date.
And then it was time for the lecture to begin. Mr Horowitz was introduced by Baroness Prashar, and then he started to speak, and for the next forty minutes he had me and everyone else in the room hanging on his every word. I have never heard him speak live before, and this was a real treat for me. He was funny, intelligent, passionate about his subject and also not afraid to speak his mind and potentially ruffle a few feathers. With his opening remarks making mention of library cuts, Bookstart cuts, and a withdrawal of government funding for the National Literacy trust, he then went on to say:
"What we need here is the the eloquence of Philip Pullman, the passion of Michael Morpurgo, the anger of Anne Fine, the wisdom of Malorie Blackman. And you get me. On the plus side, books have been my life. I remember when I was six years old my mother telling me that books are good for you that books are important...so you can imagine how conflicted I was when she was run over by a mobile library."
He went on to discuss some of the key issues threatening the future literacy of our nation's children, explained his opinions of strategies such as World Book Night, and even managed to get a few humorous digs in at the expense of Dan Brown. I will not go into any more detail about his lecture, but if you are interested you can read the full transcript by following this link to the National Literacy Trust website. Whilst you are there please look around the site - the NLT is a charity that does some fantastic work and now that their funding has been cut they need public support in raising the funds needed for this work to continue in the future.
After his lecture Mr Horowitz very kindly signed my copy of Scorpia Rising, and it gave me the chance to tell him to get moving on the next Power of Five book. He replied that he was going to be working on it this month, although I do not have any release date information.
I left the building more than a little star-struck. I feel I should use this forum to again express my thanks to Mr Horowitz for his time, and to Justin Somper for his introductions. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to talk to Justin other than that initial quick hello, but I hope to remedy this some time in the future.
If you ever get the chance to listen to Anthony Horowitz talk, do it. Don't hesitate to wonder whether you are free, just say yes and then cancel anything else you might have already had booked in. You won't regret it.