Anthony Horowitz: Why I never gave Sherlock Holmes a girlfriend

The author talks Bond, Fleming and Sherlock's one true love – Irene Adler


Anthony Horowitz is known for many things – from his pen has flowed the likes of Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders, the Alex Rider adventures and, more recently, new James Bond and Sherlock Holmes novels commissioned by Fleming and Conan-Doyle’s estates. 


“I would only do it for Bond and Holmes – these are the characters I love,” he said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. “When I was offered Sherlock Holmes my first thought was a certain concern because I think these continuation novels are a little cynical. In a funny way it’s ‘get a famous writer and get a famous character, put the two of them together and you’ve got a bestseller’. So there’s a sort of desperation there somewhere.

Horowitz joked that he had to “think quite hard for two or three seconds” before accepting the job: “the reason I said yes so fast was it wasn’t just writing these characters, it was living with them – it was actually being invited to go into 221b baker street for four months, which is how long it took to write, to spend time with the greatest friendship in literature – Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – and to feel myself amongst them.”

But when it comes to effecting the style of literary greats like Conan-Doyle and Fleming, you have to be careful, warned Horowitz. “You obey their rules 100%, you don’t do anything that would upset Doyle or Bond. A very good example: there was no girlfriend in either of the Sherlock Holmes novels because Doyle would have been mortified. For him there was only one lover and that was Irene Adler, we all know that. So you just live within their rules and you always remember that they are better writers than you – you’re raising your game to try and do them a service but you’re never going to be better than them.”

The author mentioned his plans to write another instalment based on 007 to follow his first effort, Trigger Mortis, which was released in September 2015. “I’ve only agreed to do it because I came up with an absolutely killer first line – I just had this idea for a line that a Bond book might open with and I knew I had to write the whole book just in order to have the first line.”

The 61-year-old found himself in hot water earlier this year over comments he made around the casting of the next James Bond, terming actor Idris Elba “too street” to play the role and later apologising for “clumsily” choosing his words: “I am mortified to have caused offence”.

Author Anthony Horowitz

Last night he told the audience he was passionate about improving multicultural casting on screen, citing his latest drama for the BBC, New Blood, as an example. 

“New Blood was a deliberate attempt to create a totally cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse, modern young London and to reflect the society in a way that we are moving.”

Horowitz went on to describe reading is a “racially divisive activity”:

“There’s a wider question, incidentally, which is to do with the whole nature of reading and how many people read who are from the north rather than the south, who are rich rather than poor, who are black rather than white – I think it’s always been the elephant in the room when it come to reading.

“Reading is often one of the most racially divisive activities in this country. I’m being very careful how I’m talking because I don’t want to say anything dangerous or controversial that will get me into trouble again. It’s just the way it is and we need to work to try and change it and on this book tour I’m hopefully going to travel to parts of the country which aren’t as blessed and as countrified as where we are now.”


He ended his session at Cheltenham by fielding a question on whether or not he was a naturist – a theme featured in his new novel, Magpie Murders. “It’s a rather embarrassing question. The funny answer is yes I am – as my wife will tell you, I do have a bad habit of taking my clothes off in beautiful places and we go to Greece a lot and… where is this going? Not in public – you have no worries.”