Anthony Horowitz has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, about the world's most successful 14-year-old spy, and the Diamond Brothers series, featuring the world's dimmest detective, Tim Diamond, and his smarter 13-year-old brother Nick, Anthony scripted the TV series Foyle's War and he has written episodes of several popular crime series, including Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. His first adult novel was The Killing Joke. Stormbreaker, from the Alex Rider series, has been made into a movie. Anthony explains, below, why he likes Charles Dickens's David Copperfield.
Anthony Horowitz on David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Whenever I'm asked for my favourite book, I always turn to Charles Dickens.
A quick word first to anyone who has groaned at that name. Dickens is something a lot of young people are given - reluctantly - at school, and the result can be to put them off reading him for life. The novels chosen are also, often, the wrong ones... Hard Times or A Tale of Two Cities, because they're short. As much as those books have to commend them, they're not (in my view) Dickens at his very best. And his best is so wonderful that really you should wait a little until you try him.
I read Dickens for the first time in my twenties and have returned to him three times since then. And the strange thing is that every time I read him, I react very differently to his work. It's partly because there's so much to discover in the books. But it's also because I'm getting older and my own way of seeing things is changing. Just to give one example, it was only in my thirties that I reacted against his slightly patronizing view of women. But in my forties, I found I had no problem. In my twenties, I found Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop quite ridiculous. But when I read her story again quite recently, I was very moved.
So it's hardly surprising my favourite book changes all the time too. When I sat down to write this, I was going to choose Great Expectations, but on second thoughts I've decided to go for Dickens's own favourite creation and a book I've read many times: David Copperfield.
What do I like about this book? It starts almost as a classic children's book with the orphaned David falling into the clutches of the utterly evil and brilliantly drawn Murdstones. The slow death of David's mother - she is bullied into the grave - is heartbreaking. David decides to run away from home and another brilliant passage follows him as he comes close to starvation on the road to an aunt who may not even welcome him when he arrives. The aunt is Betsy Trotwood (I now live just round the corner from a pub of that name) and she is also a quite unforgettable character - brisk and peevish but with an immensely good heart.
And to cut a long story short, that's what I love about this book. Its warm heart, its beneficence, the way goodness triumphs. The book tells David's whole life story - and he himself is not a perfect character. It would be impossible to like him so much if he was. He is fooled by the dashing, handsome Steerforth and is personally responsible for the tragedy that ensues (a description of a storm like no other in literature... confirming in itself Dickens's place as Britain's greatest writer). His first marriage is also a disaster and the famous dinner scene, with Betsy Trotwood as a guest, is another set piece that rings uncannily true.
I could go on about it for ages. It's a very long book but never for a minute boring. As each new character appears - with the brilliantly creepy Uriah Heep turning up about half way through - the story seems to veer in another direction. So you can read it as great literature. You can read it as an adventure. You can read it for its many great jokes. But above all I hope you will simply read it because it shows the pinnacle that one man - Charles Dickens - was able to reach. No other writer I have ever read comes near.