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Horowitz ... Anthony Horowitz
After all, the author's real-life history affords a glimpse into daring derring-do that helped him escape his own Dickens-like conundrums.
Horowitz, whose "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" breaks nationwide on Friday, Oct. 13, is a brainy Brit whose brash young star is a novel take on the teen-spy syndrome. His Alex Rider is a young road warrior whose exploits have him careening from criminal creeps to creaky doors that mark him as a caper crusader for his generation, with enough twists to tweak his 'tween fans.
And at the wheel of Rider is Horowitz, a self-proclaimed James Bond admirer whose personal story is a chapter in self-fulfillment, using his writing talents as an escape clause from dreariness and dreaded schoolmasters with whips in hand whom he outwitted.
Horowitz ... Anthony Horowitz.
But this James Bond acolyte isn't James Bond-lite. He has taken his dreams of literary legerdemain and transformed them in his majestic service to mystery fans.
And the mystery started right at home, in Middlesex, England, where his father's secret service as a so-called "fixer" for Prime Minister Harold Wilson couldn't fix the financial problems at home once the Jewish family's fortunes evaporated.
"My father was a strange man," says the 50-year-old writer/raconteur who's racked up an incredible oeuvre over the years. "He was a good man, but a strange man. Both parents wanted nothing but the best for me."
But secrets got the best of his dad, whose survival of bankruptcy banked on certain Swiss accounts that held a secret fortune in his name.
Unfortunately, says his son, those accounts held numbers as unfamiliar to the rest of the family as the Da Vinci codes. "He died of cancer at age 55, when I was 22," his cache of cash unfound.
"And all of a sudden, these letters started arriving from different banks, starting out the same way, offering their condolences about my father's death, but then saying how he owed them hundreds of thousands of pounds."
It was a fiscal pounding that took its toll on Horowitz's mother. "She went gray in three weeks," he says.
But the green was nowhere to be found.
"Somewhere in Switzerland, he had all this money. My mother went there two or three times searching for it. She never found it. We had to sell everything," says Horowitz. "My mother had to go back to work."
Ironically enough, they provided the best of times. "The next 10 years were the happiest of my life," says the good son.
Sad Twist of Fate
Even the bad times are good ... but, boy, were they bad. Raised "in a Jewish enclave," the young Horowitz was horrified at the hurt he endured at a boarding school he attended for a number of years beginning at age 8. "A brutal experience" is how he describes and decries those years with an Oliver Twist-twist that would make Charles Dickens wince.
Inadvertently, the harsh headmasters whipped him into shape.
"That turned me into a writer," says Horowitz of the evil "bad and board," which served as a launching (writing) pad to what he does now. Of course, at that time, he recalls, his ambition was simple: "To get out of that place."
In place of the soft and sweet-spun stories recalled by many a youngster his age, Horowitz' are more akin to hard-edged hallucinations -- albeit, they are very real.
School for scalded? It all burned a blistering image on the impressionable child. "Years later, in my late 20s, I revisited the school. I walked into the assembly hall and was almost unable to breathe. I came close to fainting."
It was a close encounter with his childhood; "such was the untold psychological harm it had on me."
Not that he had to attend school to learn that the Golden Rule could be tarnished by tyrants wielding it as a terrorizing club. "My grandmother," whom he refers to as Bubba without its bubba-licious association, "was a malevolent woman; she spoiled my childhood."
Spoiler alert: For those who want to be kept in the dark as to who may have influenced his future villains, stop right here. "Bubba" picked up where Satan ended, says Horowitz of the woman on whose grave he would one day literally dance.
It is a step back in time that he really doesn't have time for these days. A popular and prolific writer, whose Alex Rider series drives a career that also includes the Diamond Brothers Mysteries series as well as adult-oriented fiction and films ("The Gathering") and TV, Horowitz doesn't putter in Harry Potter territory. His wizardry is whole hog worthy of its own fan club.
Of course, he acknowledges the impact Potter author J.K. Rowlings has had: "I met her; she's enormously charming. I owe her a huge debt; she created circumstances for [him and] other children's writers to succeed."
But Horowitz is his own man -- and Alex Rider his own teenager. Now the author is about to go on a different ride in writing; Horowitz is also staging a literary assault on another novel, this one for adults, "set in the American elections."
And he's elected to go off-Broadway, too: Horowitz's "Mindgame" is on the minds of off-Broadway producers these days, who have picked up the thriller (previously staged in London), happening more than 40 years after a young Horowitz penned his first play, "The Thing That Never Happened."
So it so happens that he's as thrilled with the thriller's prospects as he is with any of his other hits. More than anything, allows Horowitz, "I love to write."
Indeed, the happily married Horowitz has found a home versed in the wonder of words. His own childhood Scar Wars have healed, and he is all set for the new frontier that is his first film this Friday.
Who knew so long ago that the hero who battled "Dr. No" would prove such a positive impact on one of England's most popular published authors years later? That an early love of James Bond would lead Horowitz to try and "recapture the pleasure I had as a child going to the movies"?
Is Anthony Horowitz an avatar for the adventurous icon of his youth? Is he possibly a Jewish James Bond after all?
Proof is in the 100 proof: Just how does he take his Manischewitz -- shaken or stirred?
"Both," says the man of mystery and golden fingers.