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Anthony Horowitz: writers should not be told to make books more diverse

Anthony Horowitz: writers should not be told to make books more diverse

The children’s author Anthony Horowitz has said writers should not be instructed to make their books more diverse.

The author of the Alex Rider novels has previously sparked controversy over his views on the subject. In 2017, he was criticised by other children’s authors when he claimed he had been “warned off” writing Black characters in his books.

Speaking at the Hay festival in Powys, he said he was aware of reflecting diversities in his work but said the need to be inclusive should not be imposed.

“There are as many female murderers in my books as male ones,” he said.

“I am very pro equal opportunities, I am very pro multiethnic, I am very pro books being about as much of the world as you can fit into a single book. What I’m not pro is anybody telling me that that is what I have to do. There is a difference.”

Horowitz has written three James Bond continuation novels authorised by the Ian Fleming estate: Trigger Mortis (2015), Forever and a Day (2018) and With a Mind to Kill (2022).

When asked at the Hay event whether he had modern sensitivities in mind when writing these, he was adamant that he did not “update [Bond] for a modern audience”.

“I’m not so stupid that I’m going to write something that is going to offend an ethnicity or a community of people,” he said, but added he had not “given in” to any temptation to make the protagonist more palatable. “He is still a womaniser, he is still a smoker, he is still a killer. I mean, he’s not a very nice man, James Bond,” he said.

Though Horowitz said Jeffery Deaver brought Bond into a 21st-century setting in his 2011 novel Carte Blanche, and the films had similarly updated the character, the author said his personal view was that “a literary Bond … only works in his own timeline” – his Bond books are all set in the 1950s and 60s.

The writer also said he was firmly against the practice of making changes to old books to take out offensive passages, as in the case of Puffin’s new editions of Roald Dahl books, which caused controversy last year. It was also announced last year that reissues of Fleming’s Bond novels were to be published with a number of racial references removed.

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“My position on this is very simple,” Horowitz said. “When you start bowdlerising books, when you start chopping out stuff that offends you … I think that you are actually shooting yourself in the foot.

“When you read an original Ian Fleming, there are passages in it that will offend you. In Casino Royale there’s a famous passage which is entirely misanthropic, and I wish Ian Fleming hadn’t written it. But chopping it out doesn’t make the book better. All it does is it takes away the memory of how far we have come. Now here we are in the 21st century, and we know that we don’t say certain things about ethnic groups or about mothers-in-law … We don’t make jokes about people with disabilities.

“That’s gone, and we can be proud of the progress we’ve made. And the only way to know about that progress is to keep in mind how we were 30 or 40 years ago.”

Source: theguardian.com