I can’t believe it’s July. I’m sure the last time I looked out of my window in Clerkenwell, it was January and there was snow on the dome of St Paul’s, pigeons shivering on my balcony, dead Christmas trees at every corner and 30% off everything in the shops including (it had been a bad year) the shopkeepers. I’ve been working so hard this year that my social life has given up the ghost and that’s sad because the ghost was my only friend. And what have I got to show for it? Well, quite a lot, now you mention it.
Let’s start with the main news. The ninth Alex Rider novel is two chapters from the end! As usual, visitors to my website are going to know more about it than anyone else – including my publishers who haven’t seen a word of it yet. So…
SCORPIA RISING starts in the British Museum in London. Then it moves to a place called the Siwa Oasis in Egypt, in the middle of the Sahara desert, where we meet Kalid Aziz Al-Kazim who is without doubt the nastiest villain I’ve ever created. He worked for Saddam Hussein when he was fourteen. He graduated to Al Qaeda. Now he’s in business for himself. There are actually three villains in this book. One of them is what you might call an old friend – brought back by popular demand. The other is a teacher at an international school in Cairo which is where Alex is sent after an assassin in London tries to…but I mustn’t give too much away.
From Egypt we go to the River Seine in Paris where our old friends, Scorpia, are having a high-level meeting. Then we’re in Gibralter. And finally – in Chapter 7 – we catch up with Alex in England. He’s fifteen in this book and you’ll see almost at once that everything has changed, particularly his relationship with Jack.
SCORPIA RISING has a very twisty plot with a lot of surprises, not all of them pleasant. A few more things… You will come across the Smithers’s last gadget and learn something about Smithers that you never knew before. You will see Alan Blunt in a completely new light. One character who has been in all eight previous books will die. The ending is fairly shocking. And when you get to the end you will be in no doubt at all that this is THE LAST ALEX RIDER BOOK EVER. (Well, I’m still going to write about Yassen and I do have one surprise up my sleeve, several years down the line – but this is the last in the series.) I’m really pleased with the way it’s turned out. I think it’s the best of the lot – perhaps the best book I’ve ever written.
Oh yes – and as a way of saying sorry for taking so long to blog, I’ve done something special. The first chapter of the new book, which nobody in the world has yet read, is hidden somewhere on this site. Just follow the clues…
What else to tell you about this year?
JANUARY – I came back from Antigua where I’d been on holiday. The high point of the month was appearing on a political show on the radio called “Any Questions”. I was sick with nerves and didn’t sleep for a week. Every day I read ten newspapers and magazines. All in all it was a terrifying experience but it went well and they said they’d ask me back. I also judged a poetry competition for Fairtrade chocolate company – Divine Chocolate. They gave me so many bars of chocolate for doing this that I have been eating it ever since and have become enormously fat. Well, not enormously. But I’ve got to stop! I can’t take any more…
FEBRUARY- I was meant to go to Cairo to research the Alex Rider book but a volcano blew up somewhere and I couldn’t leave. Instead, I visited the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park which was a lot of fun. Can you imagine being a ballet dancer at fourteen? It must be tough, particularly if you have feet like mine. But the kids I met were really nice, very talented and much more ordinary than I expected (I mean that in a nice way). I also became a patron of an anti-bullying charity called Kidscape. I don’t like bullies. It was one of the reasons I disliked my grandmother.
MARCH – I did a book visit to Germany and had much more fun meeting the Germans than, say, the England football team. It was odd, being the writer of Foyle’s War, to visit Koln, which was almost bombed out of existence by the RAF during the war. The cathedral (very beautiful) is the only old building that’s left. Why didn’t the RAF bomb it? I thought it was because they thought it was too old and lovely to destroy – but actually they used it as a landmark on their way to Hanover and so needed to keep it standing. The war ended 65 years ago. Is that a very long time? Or is it actually fairly recent?
APRIL – A visit to the dentist on April 8th. It turns out that I have the same dentist as Simon Cowell. Should I be mentioning this? I finally got to Egypt in April and had the most amazing time, planning the 9th Alex. I walked through the covered market (there’s a major chase in the book) and walked along the banks of the Nile (a huge explosion). I went into the Sahara Desert and stayed in the most extraordinary eco hotel with no electricity, no air conditioning. I drove in a 4×4 shooting up and down the sand dunes. I saw camels and strange desert foxes. You can read about my adventures in the Daily Telegraph as I wrote an article about it. Finally, back in Cairo, I had a fantastic evening at the British embassy, where I was invited to dinner. Sipping gin and tonic on the balcony with the sun setting and imams calling for evening prayer from the mosques, I had one of those rare moments when I thought I’d really arrived, that life couldn’t get any better. And I was right. It didn’t.
MAY – I gave a talk at the Lincoln festival. I went to York University and took a class there for media students. I was meant to go to Malta but the volcano blew up a second time so I couldn’t.
JUNE – I’ve started going to the gym again as my dog (Lucky) is now too old to walk properly. I take him out for an hour in Regents Park but it’s a bit of a drag in every sense. My trainer is called Phil – or Phil the Drill, which is my name for him. He is insane about fitness. All he talks about is muscles, blood circulation, running, cycling, swimming, climbing, not eating, not drinking, avoiding anything you actually enjoy. After training hard with him, I think I have developed a small muscle on my knee. Or possibly it’s a wart.
JULY – Well, that’s where we are now and I’ve just got back from Bantry in the south of Ireland where I was a speaker at a very enjoyable festival. I don’t think there’s anyone more friendly on the planet than the Irish…this is certainly true of the ones I met with just two exceptions. I actually met the two people who created and run this website. Yes, Xero and his partner were waiting for me at a hotel near Cork airport – the Radisson. It’s called the Radisson Blue, actually, which is strange because it was all a murky sort of brown. Anyway, they gave me a hard time, complaining that I never wrote anything for the site and insisting that I go straight home and do this. I’ve known these two guys for a long time but we’d never met before and apparently I’m not allowed to describe them (except that I will say that one of them was wearing a striped jersey and reminded me a bit of a French mime artist…I kept on expecting him to do that thing with an “invisible” wall). They also run websites for Darren Shan and Eoin Colfer and (aaaagh…) Charlie Higson. They assure me that my website is the best, but they would, wouldn’t they.
OK guys. I’ve written 1472 words. Can I go to bed now?
(EDIT: No! – Xero)
Just a bit of news about the future. My next book comes out in October. It’s a collection of horror stories called MORE BLOODY HOROWITZ and I got sent a copy last week. It looks a bit like an old-fashioned comic – ie retro – and it’ll certainly stand out on the shelf. I do like a lot of the stories in it. My favourites are probably ROBO-NANNY (I bet you don’t guess the twist at the end) and BET YOUR LIFE which is all about reality TV. These are the first sci-fi stories I’ve ever written. It’s nice to be doing something new. You’ll also find a story that I’ve mentioned before: THE MAN WHO KILLED DARREN SHAN. You probably know that he killed me off in his book, WOLF ISLAND. Here, at last, is my revenge.
I’m also working on a new 5-part series for ITV, set in Suffolk and London and shooting this autumn.
I have more trips coming up…to Jordan where I’m going on a sort of Tintin holiday – which is to say, I’m following in the footsteps of Tintin, riding camels and horses across the desert and (I’m not sure how realistic they’re being) getting shot at. I’m spending a week in Hong Kong at another book fair. And I have a three week break in Crete where I’ll finish SCORPIA RISING – by which I mean, I’ll give it a final polish before handing it over to the publishers. Publication date is probably going to be on my birthday – April 5th 2011.
That’s it for now. I hope you find the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it. Please don’t tell anyone else it’s there as I’m almost certain to get into trouble. And, despite what I said, I had a good meeting with Xero over a pint of Murphy’s and a fairly terrible cheese and onion sandwich so you can expect lots of new things on this site.
Have a great summer.