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Author bans Alex for campaign use

My character is strictly for children, says Anthony Horowitz. Jill Tunstall reports

The creator of teenage MI6 agent Alex Rider has said he turned down government approaches to use the character in anti-bullying campaigns.

Anthony Horowitz, author of Stormbreaker, which is being turned into a film starring Ewan McGregor and Bill Nighy, does not want to see the teen hero on any sort of curriculum either.

"I like the fact that the books still belong to children, I don't want them to be taken away and used for education or anything really," he said.

"Recently the Government wanted to run a bullying campaign, using Alex Rider as a spearhead. I was very against the idea. I abhor bullying, but I don't want my character becoming a spokesperson for adult values."

His comments come after children's writers including Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials trilogy, criticised exam boards for endorsing textbooks tailored to their particular syllabus requirements.

The Society of Authors said the books were killing young people's enthusiasm for learning (TES Cymru, June 2).

Mr Horowitz made his comments at last week's Urdd Eisteddfod in Ruthin, Denbighshire, at the launch of Tarandon, the Welsh language version of Stormbreaker.

"I was really thick at school. My parents always knew how many there were in my class because I was at the bottom," he said.

Luckily for Mr Horowitz - and his huge worldwide readership - he discovered the school library and adventure stories.

Of course, it cannot be true that the man who created the all-action hero Alex Rider was really "thick". His page-turning books sell in their millions and have been translated into 25 languages . The fictional teenager features on everything from boxer shorts to ready meals.

Alex Rider was "everything I wished I had been but nothing I ever was", revealed Horowitz, 50.

"He was comprehensive school-educated, ordinary, really good-looking and naturally bright without being clever. I was the opposite," he said, in plummy tones that betrayed his own priviliged, if eccentric, upbringing.

His father, a businessman, was a "secretive man" who hid all his wealth through fear of bankruptcy, and his mother gave her son a human skull for his 13th birthday.

At eight years old young Anthony began to write, and he said he knew then that this would be his future. It took 20 books before he hit on Alex Rider, inspired by both a friend's son and James Bond.

"When I wrote the first sentence of Stormbreaker I was aware that I had somehow hooked into something special," he admitted. "I was ambitious, but I didn't think it would go this far."

He has been credited with getting boys to read, although the father of two teenage sons insists he writes for both sexes and has a balanced readership.

At the question-and-answer session he held at the Urdd, the packed audience of fans clutching their copies of Tarandon was equally split between the sexes.

"Do you write the books thinking of them as films?" asked one shrewd 10-year-old girl.

"I do see it all going on in my head as I'm writing, as I hope you do when you're reading them," said Horowitz.

"Oh, I do," breathed a young boy sitting nearby. He spoke for the whole room.

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