Is Anthony Horowitz really just one man, or is he actually a fancy factory on the Thames, given how productive he is? Here is the man who dreamed up the TV series Foyle’s War, and further improved our viewing pleasure with Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. A man of the same name also created the “Alex Rider” series for children; wrote novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and James Bond (separate books, of course!); created his own detective in Atticus Pünd, star of Magpie Murders (now a TV series, naturally) and Moonflower Murders; and then had the brilliant notion of making himself a main character in four novels, a sidekick of sorts to a private investigator named Daniel Hawthorne. (The latest of these, The Twist of a Knife, will be published on November 15.) As it turns out, a little sleuthing proves not only that Anthony Horowitz is one person but he is wonderfully engaging and modest as well.

JIM KELLY: Let’s start with your new book, The Twist of a Knife, which is the latest in a series starring Anthony Horowitz, who in this installment is suspected of murdering a theater critic who has just trashed his play Mindgame. You actually wrote a play of that name more than 20 years ago. May I assume you had a particular critic in mind …

“When I write … I don’t really have a reader in mind,” Horowitz says. “I live inside the book.”

ANTHONY HOROWITZ: Actually, you’re wrong. I have no grudge against critics—either as a group or individually. Very early on, when I was thinking about the book, I decided to make the critic who is murdered as unlikely as possible so that nobody would think she was based on them. This didn’t stop two or three critics complaining in the newspapers! But Harriet Throsby is a monster. There’s never been a critic like her. She’s pure fiction.

J.K.: One of the challenges facing a writer is putting himself into the minds of his characters, and The Twist of a Knife marks the fourth time you have put yourself in your own mind, so to speak. If I were having a dinner party, who would be more entertaining: you or your character?

A.H.: What a lovely question! I have to say that the narrator in the book is a very accurate portrait of how I am, and many of the details (including, of course, the production of Mindgame) are true. I’m tempted to say that Hawthorne would be a more entertaining—or at least, a more intriguing—guest than either of us. But I think you’d have a better evening with a writer rather than a sidekick. Unless you want to spend the whole time talking about murder.

J.K.: Magpie Murders, based on your book, is now a TV series written by you and appearing on PBS in America. What was the challenge of turning a literary thriller into a TV series, which I assume demands a different way of telling the same story? And how lucky you were in enlisting Lesley Manville, which seems to me to be perfect casting.

Daniel Mays in Magpie Murders, a series created by Horowitz based on his novel of the same name.

A.H.: I certainly agree with you about Lesley Manville, who is a brilliant actress, in her prime, and a lovely person too. She supported the project from the start, and it wouldn’t have been possible without her.

As for the challenge of adapting it, well, to start with, the character played by Lesley doesn’t turn up until about page 275, which would have meant two or three episodes without her. Unthinkable! The book is also extremely complicated: two time zones, loads of characters, so many clues and red herrings. I had to work hard to make sure it would hold the audience. But I was extremely fortunate to have Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty) directing, a fabulous cast, and my wife, Jill Green, producing. It was a perfect production.

J.K.: You have had such tremendous success writing for both children and adults. This is a rare skill, and I wonder if you have an ideal reader in mind when you write your children’s books and when you write your adult books.

A.H.: Thank you for your kind words. When I write for children, I suppose I’m thinking of myself, aged about 14. I remember what excited me then, and I try to replicate it now. When I write for adults, I don’t really have a reader in mind. I live inside the book. I immerse myself in the story. So I’m simply recording what I see and hear around me rather than creating a product for a particular market.

J.K.: You also have written novels featuring Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. (Not the same novels, mind you, but now that we live in the metaverse … ) Which was more fun to do, and did the James Bond estate put any restrictions on what you could do with the character?

A.H.: They were both fun. I have read a lot of 19th-century literature, so I felt very much at home in Holmes’s world. I loved writing The House of Silk and its fairly evil sequel, Moriarty. The history and the settings, along with Doyle’s brilliant writing style, came very easily to me.

Bond demanded more research—not just getting the details right (the drinks, the cars, the clothes) but making sure that James Bond would approve. They had to be the right drinks, the right cars, the right clothes. I loved working with the family of Ian Fleming, who never set any restrictions—although they were fast to point out any errors!

J.K.: Who were some of your favorite authors as a child? And is there a writer today that you are especially in awe of?

A.H.: My reading life began with Hergé and Tintin. These were the books I loved as a 10-year-old, and—as Tintin is actually a writer—they told me what I was going to do with my life. I also read Willard Price, whose Adventure series never disappointed.

I am in awe of many writers now. Stephen King is one. Sarah Waters (who writes brilliant historical novels) is another. My greatest literary hero is still Charles Dickens. Great Expectations is a perfect novel—perhaps the greatest ever written.

Michael Kitchen in Foyle’s War, created by Horowitz.

J.K.: Several of my friends will not speak to me unless I ask about Foyle’s War, which seems to grow ever more popular and became a binge favorite during the Great Pandemic. How did you get so immersed in World War II and its aftermath, and have we seen the last of D.C.S. Christopher Foyle?

A.H.: I’m afraid there won’t be any more episodes of Foyle’s War. I think Michael Kitchen has retired, and I’m too busy to write any more. I was born in the 50s and had a nanny whose fiancé had been killed in the Battle of Britain. I lived in Stanmore, North London—the headquarters of R.A.F. Fighter Command was just about next door. So World War II was always in my blood. The series commanded 16 years of my life, and I’m enormously proud of its success. My best wishes to your friends.

J.K.: And, finally, true or false: Your mom gave you a human skull for your 13th birthday. And if so, may I ask what you gave your two sons when they turned 13?

A.H.: True, I’m afraid. Weird that I should have asked, but weirder still that she should have gone out and found one. I forget what I gave my sons when they turned 13, but it was nothing quite so macabre. I’m glad to say that they’re a lot more sensible than me.

Anthony Horowitz’s The Twist of a Knife will be published on November 15 by Harper. The TV series Magpie Murders, based on Horowitz’s novel of the same name, is streaming now on PBS

Jim Kelly is the Books Editor for AIR MAIL