Anthony Horowitz always wanted to write a James Bond story, long before – it must be said – anyone else wanted him to.
The best-selling British author has never hidden his debt to Ian Fleming's 007, which he credits as the inspiration for Alex Rider, the hero of his young-adult series of books which, with a whopping 19 million book sales, are responsible for much of his success.
"When Dr No came out at the cinema I was 8 years old," says the 60-year-old writer. "The films were a big event for me and they led me to the books.
"I read all of them and absolutely adored Ian Fleming's work and dreamed one day that I might write a James Bond film – that was my first dream. So, when that didn't happen, I wrote Alex Rider instead, which was my tribute to James Bond."
Following Fleming’s death in 1964, the writer’s estate began commissioning authors to write new 007 adventures. The mantle was passed around a bit over the years – the first post-Fleming novel was written by Kingsley Amis, no less, writing as Robert Markham – before John Gardner notably took control of the series for 16 novels. American author Raymond Benson then wrote six, the last of which published in 2002.
All was quiet until 2008 when, to mark the 100th anniversary of Fleming's birth, his estate turned to acclaimed Birdsong author Sebastian Faulks to revive the series with Devil May Care. Horowitz was not happy.
"I will admit that I was quite jealous," he says. "And then I was jealous when Jeffery Deaver was asked [to write 2011's Carte Blanche]. Then William Boyd was asked [2013's Solo] and I began to write little articles in newspapers saying: 'Why can't I write one?'"
This public appeal worked and Horowitz's turn finally came when, in the summer of 2014, he was commissioned to write what would become Trigger Mortis. It proved to be worth the wait – he was the first author given access to unused treatments and material that Fleming himself wrote for a proposed American 007 TV series that never materialised. Some of Fleming's own writing was worked into Horowitz's final manuscript.
It wasn't the first time Horowitz had been asked to continue a long-running series of novels featuring a beloved British crime fighter – his Sherlock Holmes novels The House of Silk and Moriarty were published in 2011 and 2014 respectively – but this time was different.
“I was very nervous about working with the Ian Fleming estate,” says Horowitz,
“There was always a sense that if I stepped out of line they would come down very heavily. But from our first meeting, it was clear that we were both after the same thing – to try to write the sort of book Ian Fleming might have written if he was still alive.”
Horowitz altered his method to write as Fleming did – fast, and on a keyboard, rather than with his usual fountain pen.
He broke with convention by placing Bond in a tight chronological framework, setting the story in 1957 at the height of the space race, two weeks after the events of Fleming's Goldfinger.
As a result the book is packed with period detail – and it allowed Horowitz to revive the much-loved heroine Pussy Galore.
“It seemed to me absolutely necessary to place Bond in his own world, his own time, to really look at the novels and see when it might have taken place,” says Horowitz.
“I loved writing the book and felt Fleming’s energy with it. I read the books very, very carefully – Fleming is such a good writer, brilliant with the worldly tiredness, sense of laid-back, slightly cynical, dissident, hard-edged Bondian reflection.
“I tried to work out how he did it, how he used language, how his sentences were structured, and do exactly the same.”
• Anthony Horowitz will discuss Trigger Mortis on March 11 at 1.30pm at InterContinental Dubai Festival City; Dh70; and Alex Rider and Other Adventures on March 12 at noon at Novo Cinemas, Dubai Festival City. For more details, visit www.emirateslitfest.com