Never Say Die: Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider Lives Again
'It was jammed with action sequences and had a terrific new villain... before I knew what I was doing, I had sketched out a new novel. '
Alex Rider has been amassing legions of fans since he first stormed into being in the epic series debut Stormbreaker. So, when Anthony Horowitz announced that his ninth Rider novel, Scorpia Rising, was to be Alex’s final mission, readers were left on tenterhooks about the fate of the teenage spy. When it comes to espionage fiction, however, you should never say never and now, five years later, Alex Rider is back in explosive form in Never Say Die. Here, exclusively for Watertsones, Anthony Horowitz explains why he just couldn’t leave his hero behind.
Just as politicial pundits should never predict election results, authors should never announce publicly what they are or aren’t going to write: they’ll only be left with egg on their face.
When I announced, back in 2012, that Russian Roulette would be the last Alex Rider novel, I meant it. In fact, the end had been built-in from the start. At the very start of the series I said that Alex would retire when he turned fifteen (although he had a busy year, saving the world nine times). Now, aged fifteen and two months, he’s still active. Never Say Die will be followed by a collection of short stories – Secret Weapon - and there’s another novel, Nightshade in the pipeline.
Why? Well, it was when Walker Books asked me to polish some pre-published short stories that I realized I’d rather missed my reluctant teenaged spy. In truth, I thought I must have run out of action sequences, secret gadgets and plots to destroy the world. But as I set about rewriting I found that quite the opposite was true. Almost as an experiment, I started a new story, a 15,000-word novella called Alex in Afghanistan. It was jammed with action sequences and had a terrific new villain. There was even a twist at the end. I loved writing it and before I knew what I was doing, I had sketched out a new novel. I began it at once.
Alex Rider has never really gone away. Even when I’m talking about my adult novels at literary events, children will sit through an hour of murder mystery simply to pop in a question about him. Teachers and their classes message me on Twitter and send me envelopes packed with their ideas for new stories. Why let them down?
There was another, even more important consideration. Although it feels odd to say it, I felt a certain responsibility towards Alex himself. Without really meaning to, I had left Alex in a fairly dark place at the end of Scorpia Rising. He was on his own, in America, effectively suffering from PTSD. He had lost his best friend. For the last few chapters, he barely spoke at all.
And yet if YA authors have one responsibility, surely it’s to be upbeat and positive. I wanted Never Say Die to return Alex to where he had begun, effectively to make him happy again.
This is a much more personal book than some of the other adventures. I deliberately chose two villains and a scheme which, though as extravagant as always, isn’t actually about world domination. Effectively, the Grimaldi brothers just want to get rich. The pleasure of writing the book was staying close to Alex as he re-entered his old world, met old friends (and enemies) and rediscovered himself.
It’s an interesting question: why do long-form series always get darker as they go on? For me, Never Say Die, returns to the light, and the lightness, of Stormbreaker and Point Blanc and even if I look a little ridiculous for having changed my mind and written it, I am very glad I did.
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