LONDON (Reuters) - The author of the hit Alex Rider kids’ spy series says there are probably three more books to follow the seventh instalment just published, but hopes of a movie franchise may have been dashed after just one film.
“Snakehead”, the latest Alex Rider adventure, follows the 14-year-old super-spy on a treacherous mission to infiltrate ruthless gangs smuggling weapons, drugs and people across Southeast Asia.
In what Anthony Horowitz calls “the most scary chapter I’ve ever written”, Alex is imprisoned at a centre where his body parts are to be removed for transplants.
“What makes it so horrible is the fact that people involved are so charming — not my usual comical villains, but quite monstrous,” Horowitz said in a telephone interview. “It is a very dark chapter.”
The 52-year-old said he deliberately wove real elements into his action-packed adventures, which are often compared to those of James Bond minus the sex.
In “Snakehead” there are clear references to the plight of refugees, tsunamis, the recent Live 8 anti-poverty pop concerts and ethnic tensions in Afghanistan.
“The success of the books is connected in part to the fact that they are always dealing with the real, recognisable world.”
Horowitz said he would probably wind up the bestselling Rider series at 10 books, meaning three more stories that will take him another five years to complete.
“The big secret is to stop while the books are good,” he said. “I dread stopping. I love the books and the books are loved.” The series has sold an estimated 11 million copies to date, four million of them in the United States.
Early critical reaction to “Snakehead” has been positive.
“‘Snakehead’ goes deeper than any previous book, either by Horowitz or his rivals in the spy kids trade, in its vivid portrayal of pure evil,” wrote Amanda Craig of the Times.
However, the outlook for big screen adaptations of the popular series is less rosy.
“Stormbreaker”, the movie based on the first Alex Rider novel, was released in 2006 amid hopes of a new and lucrative film franchise akin to the blockbuster Harry Potter series that has netted around $4.5 billion (2.2 billion pounds) at the global box office so far.
But the film floundered, earning some $24 million worldwide, and Horowitz blamed distributor the Weinstein Co. for failing to release it widely in the United States.
“Harvey Weinstein decided not to distribute it (in the United States),” Horowitz said. “It is one of the most bizarre and annoying things that the film didn’t get given its shot in America. To this day I don’t know why.”
Horowitz added that he had written a screenplay for the second Alex Rider book, but the project now “hangs completely in the balance.
“There is no certainty at all...” of the film being made, he said. “In fact I would say that the chances are fairly slim.”
Editing by Paul Casciato