If you missed the post about our first event at Henley, click here.
We were early for our next event, but so was everyone else and they were queueing down the street. An effect of my partner’s back problem is that she can only stand for a short period of time before it gets painful. With that in mind and, tempting though it was to join the queue, we decided to walk on and come back closer to the start time. Our hope was that people would have started to go in, but not so many that there would be very few seats to choose from.
As it turns out, we got it more or less right, getting seats near the back, but fairly central so we had a reasonably good view of the stage. It also meant we weren’t waiting too long for the lights to go down.
We were here to see Anthony Horowitz, an author I’d first come across when reading the Alex Rider books to my son – and carried on reading them when he lost interest! I like Horowitz’s style as a writer. He’s accessible, his books have pace, and you come away feeling entertained.
He was joined on the stage by the author James Scudamore, who was there to interview him. They sat down on either side of a low table and the conversation began.
Of the festival events I’d been to, this was, by far, the most entertaining. Horowitz really engages with his audience, and his enthusiasm for his craft came across very strongly. As did his enthusiasm for James Bond, which was important as he was there to talk about Forever And A Day, the latest Bond book, and the second he has written.
The subject of Bond books post-Fleming is one that could probably fill several volumes on its own, but I do have a sense it might be time to knock them on the head – especially as there must be about twice as many non-Fleming books out there as there are of Fleming’s. Nevertheless, if anyone is likely to do a decent job, I suspect Horowitz is the man. His knowledge of the originals seems solid – and of the movies, as I discovered later. Plus, having read most of the Alex Rider series in the past, I can say that his ability to generate excitement in a reader is up there with the best thriller writers.
It’s fair to say the hour passed very quickly. Aside from Bond, he discussed Alex Rider, his grandmother – the inspiration behind his book Granny (apparently, the best thing she ever did was die) – his time working on Midsomer Murders, as well as the development of Foyle’s War and Michael Kitchen’s requirements for playing the lead (he didn’t want Foyle to ask questions!). These were only examples: he covered so much more, and that was before the audience were invited to ask questions. And such was the enthusiasm for questions, the event was in grave danger of over-running. Remarkably, it did manage to finish on time, at which point the opportunity was presented for people to bring books up for signing.
Like most people, we hadn’t brought one with us, so (very thoughtfully) the local bookshop had brought a supply of Forever And A Day along for us to buy. The queue formed along the right-hand side of the auditorium, the front ending at a short flight of steps up to the stage, where the booksellers waited patiently, while Horowitz was seated on the left-hand side of the stage at a desk, pen in hand.
We decided to make a purchase. In spite of my comments about further Bonds, I was curious, and who doesn’t want a signed copy of a book anyway? Because the queue looked as long as the one we’d seen outside earlier, I suggested we hold back and join it when it had gone down. Aside from my partner’s back issues, the chances were that we wouldn’t get up there much quicker anyway and, if we were the last to arrive, I figured we might get more of a chat. As it turns out, things didn’t work out that way, but we certainly didn’t come away disappointed. You’ll find out why in the final instalment, so watch this space.