Did You Know They Were Jewish?

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Anthony Horowitz
Anthony Horowitz in his office in Central London, Britain - 11 Feb 2014

Photo by Mike Lawn


“I love murder. For 30 years I’ve made a living out of it and I’ve long lost count of the number of bodies I’ve managed to stack up.”– Anthony Horowitz, Radio Times, June 2016.

JLife is back with another DYKTWJ. This time, renowned thriller author and TV writer, Anthony Horowitz.

With his latest television series, New Blood, hitting BBC One this month, it seemed only right to celebrate one of the UK’s most prolific and successful writers to straddle both page and screen.

Known to some as the creator of Second World War detective drama, Foyle’s War, or to millions of young adults as the writer of the Alex Rider book series, Anthony Horowitz has been stalwart of British culture for three decades.

Born in 1955 into a wealthy Jewish family, Horowitz was the son of lawyer Mark Horowitz, who is said to have been an associate of the then-prime minister, Harold Wilson. Though the family were not particularly religious, his father requested an orthodox funeral at the time of his death. Horowitz recalls having to write out the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of death, phonetically and hide it behind his prayer book.

This experience is said to have subconsciously influenced Horowitz’s creation of the Alex Rider series, which has since sold over 12 million copies in more than 30 languages. The novels tell the story of 14 year-old Alex Rider, who becomes a secret service spy for MI6. ‘Stormbreaker’, the first book in the series, begins with the fateful line: “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.” Much like Horowitz, the hero must come to terms with the death of a parent and begins to discover the truth about his father’s life, catapulting him into a world of espionage and intrigue.

In ‘Foyle’s War’, the successful ITV detective drama series, set during and after the Second World War, Horowitz focuses on the effects of wartime on the British home front. From fascist sympathisers to black market profiteers, Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (played by Michael Kitchen), and his sidekicks Det. Sergeant Milner (Anthony Howell) and Sam Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks), solve cases during a time when criminal activity often took advantage of national upheaval. The series ran from 2002 until 2015.

In recent times, Horowitz returned to the written word and was commissioned by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle to write the first official Sherlock Holmes novel in 80 years, entitled ‘The House of Silk’. Showing an aptitude for capturing the writing style and finesse of one of our most beloved thriller writers, Horowitz was then approached by the estate of Ian Fleming to continue the James Bond series, which has enjoyed countless guest writers since 1968. Publishing ‘Trigger Mortis’ in late 2015, Horowitz continued a story that takes place two weeks after the events of Goldfinger.

His latest television project, ‘New Blood’, is determined to once again set the trend for detective fiction. A start contrast to the nostalgia of Foyle’s War, New Blood is a fresh take on the genre we all know and love. Starring newcomers Mark Strepan as Stefan and Ben Tavassoli as Rash, the youthful detective duo get into all sorts of scrapes and sticky situations during this first, explosive new series.

This time, the two protagonists aren’t middle-aged, middle-class men trying to keep hold of their vices. Instead, Stefan and Rash’s lives are representative of people in their 20s in London in 2016: while Stefan occupies a grotty flat share and faces rising rent prices, Rash lives at home with his family. The entire series is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer, once again signalling the change in our viewing habits as well as our viewing tastes when it comes to drama.

Beginner’s Guide to Anthony Horowitz

Stormbreaker (2000)
The novel that saved Horowitz from giving up on writing children’s fiction altogether, this first outing for the Alex Rider series is a surprisingly dark, fast-paced and action-packed spy novel that was designed for those looking for an alternative to the Harry Potter phenomenon that had taken hold.

Midsomer Murders (1997- ) and Foyle’s War (2002-2015)
Having been one of the original creators of Midsomer Murders, Horowitz truly established himself as a television hit maker.When Foyle’s War was cancelled by ITV in 2007, fan outrage and positive public demand prompted ITV director, Peter Fincham to recommission the drama, and went one to run for four more series until 2015.

Trigger Mortis (2015)
An unenviable task, Horowitz stepped into the loafers of ex-spy-turned-thriller-writer, Ian Fleming’s loafers to write Trigger Mortis. Based on Fleming’s unpublished material for a James Bond TV series, Horowitz revived much-loved characters such as Pussy Galore.

New Blood (2016)
Dragging the police detective drama into the 21st century, this new spin on the genre shows how not every TV success has to be as dark as Line of Duty, Happy Valley or The Fall. Expect long binge-watch sessions with this one.