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'It would be fun to find out what really happened to Pussy Galore'

Published 12/09/2015

Labour of love: Anthony Horowitz has enjoyed writing the new James Bond book
Labour of love: Anthony Horowitz has enjoyed writing the new James Bond book
New role: Idris Elba has been tipped to be the next James Bond

His controversial comments about actor Idris Elba may have given James Bond writer Anthony Horowitz some unwelcome publicity, but his avid enthusiasm for 007 does not wane, writes Hannah Stephenson.

Anthony Horowitz, prolific writer for stage and screen, bestselling novelist, creator of the Alex Rider teen spy series and now the latest James Bond novel, is usually good with words.

Yet his recent comments that Idris Elba - one of the actors tipped to replace Daniel Craig as the next 007 - is "too street" to play Bond, caused such a furore that he ended up posting an apology on Twitter.

Some fans accused him of making a veiled racial remark, but many others supported him, arguing that he shouldn't have apologised.

Whatever the fallout, Horowitz may not be the ideal would-be casting director, but he is surely among the best qualified to write a stand-alone Bond novel, following the likes of Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd and Jeffery Deaver.

A prolific writer of action spy capers, thrillers and drama, both on-screen and off, and a lifelong avid fan, he still has the dog-eared Ian Fleming paperbacks he read as a child, as well as a clutch of first editions.

He's also a pedant for authenticity. Horowitz has set his stand-alone 007 tale Trigger Mortis in 1957, two weeks after the events of Goldfinger, re-introducing favourite Bond girl Pussy Galore, famously portrayed by Honor Blackman in the 1964 movie opposite Sean Connery's Bond.

"Goldfinger is my favourite novel and it's my favourite James Bond film. It occurred to me it would be fun to set it immediately after Goldfinger. We don't know what happens to Pussy Galore. I thought it would be fun to find out," he enthuses.

The action kicks off in the high-octane world of motor racing, with Bond placed in the middle of the Soviet-American Space Race as the US prepares for a critical rocket launch. The plot introduces new Bond girl Jeopardy Lane and a sadistic Korean baddie Jai Seung Sin.

There's a nod to Goldfinger with some liberal use of gold paint, but hardly any gadgetry.

"I liked having a book in which there were no mobile phones, no computers, no forensic science. I wouldn't want to write a Bond novel set in the present day."

Indeed, the world has changed a lot since Fleming's Bond was created. Horowitz's wife Jill Green, producer of his award-winning TV series Foyle's War, was the first person to read Trigger Mortis, and her comments led to him rewriting a large chunk of it, he reveals. "She felt that some of the sexism in the book was a little too extreme. It was a fine line between keeping Bond a carnal character who is very interested in women often for the wrong reasons, and making that acceptable and not unpleasant."

He says that it was tricky not to visualise the movie stars who played the roles when writing the book.

"Honor Blackman in the film is quite wonderful. She informed my childhood to a huge extent. Every boy of a certain age remembers Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, but actually, the Pussy Galore in the book and the film were quite different, and because I'm living entirely in the world of the book, my Pussy Galore is much closer to the character that Ian Fleming created."

And which movie 007 is closest to his James Bond? "The films have helped to keep Bond alive and have carried him through the generations in different forms. Everybody has their own favourite Bond. For me it's Sean Connery, although Daniel Craig did a fantastic job in Casino Royale, too. I loved that film.

"I thought Timothy Dalton wasn't bad in the first of the two films that he made. It's personal taste at the end of the day, and changing times. I remember being in cinemas when some of the jokes in the Roger Moore films got huge laughs, but that was back in the Eighties when we laughed at different things. Nowadays we just groan.

"I simply went back to the Bond of the book," he adds of his own Bond. "I then looked at Sean Connery again, because Sean Connery - particularly in From Russia With Love and Dr No, the first two films - is very close to the character. He has that hard edge to him, he's got the dark, ironic qualities that the character brings.

"It's only later, when Roger Moore takes him over, that the puns begin to proliferate, the gadgets pile up and the plots become more extreme. I just went back to basics.

"I have loved Bond - all the films, all the books - all my life, so I'm not knocking anybody, I'm merely saying that for Trigger Mortis, I went back to the beginning."

Horowitz is also the first contemporary novelist to have had access to some of Ian Fleming's original, unseen material, in the form of five TV treatments that Fleming had written for a series in the US which was never made.

"They asked me to look at them and choose one to put into the book. Murder On Wheels leapt off the page at me, because it seemed so extraordinary that in all the films and books of James Bond, he's never been involved in Grand Prix."

For research, Horowitz went to Nurburgring in Germany, known as the "Green Hell" due to its challenging track.

"I immersed myself in Grand Prix. I went with a professional racing driver who drove me around the track twice at enormous speed, and I got a very good understanding of what it must feel like to be going at 160 miles an hour in a 1957 Maserati."

Horowitz (60), who has endless enthusiasm for his work, admits he had hinted in several diary pieces that he wanted to write a Bond book before the Fleming estate contacted him.

"It was quite daunting, I was quite nervous of it. When I worked for the Conan Doyle estate (he's written two Sherlock Holmes novels), it was very easy, I never met them, I just wrote the two books I wanted to write and got on with it.

For now, he's being kept busy with his new play, Dinner With Saddam, starring Steven Berkoff - a former James Bond villain - as Saddam Hussein, which has just opened in London. He's also writing another novel and is working on a new TV series.

There's no sense of slowing down. "I have a sense of thinking I should," says Horowitz, "but I'm not actually doing it yet".

Trigger Mortis: A James Bond Novel by Anthony Horowitz is published by HarperCollins at £15.99

His controversial comments about actor Idris Elba may have given James Bond writer Anthony Horowitz some unwelcome publicity, but his avid enthusiasm for 007 does not wane, writes Hannah Stephenson

Belfast Telegraph

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