As a kid, Anthony Horowitz loved playing spy in the large garden of his house in Stanmore, England. He and his sister Caroline even had secret names: 008 for him, Mademoiselle X for her.
"We used to sneak under the fence and spy on the people" in a nearby suite of offices, said Horowitz, the author of the best-selling Alex Rider novels, about a teenage spy. "Luckily, we were never caught."
In Horowitz's new book, "Never Say Die," Alex gets caught several times by ruthless villains, but his cool spyware helps him to escape. He can turn his laptop into an eavesdropping device — and a bomb. But will these gadgets be enough to combat the villains' poison-tipped darts and enormous stolen helicopter?
On October 13, Horowitz will talk about his book at the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington as part of a "Spooky Spy Family Night." In addition to meeting Horowitz, you'll be able run secret missions, crack spy codes and don disguises with the help of makeup artists. And see if you can get a glimpse of Horowitz's favorite spyware from history, including a lipstick pistol and an Enigma cipher machine from World War II.
Horowitz took a break of about six years from writing the Alex Rider novels to work on projects for adults.
"I wrote 10 books about Alex and intended to stop," Horowitz said, "but I felt that I'd left him in a bad place after 'Scorpia Rising' and decided to . . . give him another adventure."
This new adventure takes Alex from San Francisco to Cairo, Egypt, and the French beaches of Saint-Tropez — all places that Horowitz has visited as well.
"It's important to describe everything accurately," he said by email from his home in the center of London, England, where he can see St. Paul's Cathedral from his window.
Exotic travel isn't the only thing that Horowitz and his young hero have in common: They were both bullied at school. Alex may be a well-trained spy, but he still has to put up with the jeers, threats and punches of guys who gang up on those who are younger and smaller.
"It's strange that bullying never seems to go away," Horowitz said. "It's why I now work for a charity called Kidscape, [which] helps children who are being bullied, either at school or on the Internet, by showing them how to handle the situation without violence or confrontation."
Horowitz never seems to run out of projects or ideas. Alex Rider is being adapted for television, and Horowitz is involved in the process though not writing the scripts. And Alex returns next summer in a new novel, "Secret Weapon." Horowitz also is working on novels for adults about two world-famous characters — James Bond and Sherlock Holmes — whose original authors have died.
This is "quite a challenge," Horowitz said. "[Authors] Ian Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were such brilliant writers that I really have to raise my game to write like them."
Despite his busy schedule, Horowitz always makes time for his wife and two sons and for long walks to the Thames River with his dog.
"All writers need to get out of the house," he said, then offered this advice: "Get out, have adventures! You need something to write about."
IF YOU GO
What: Anthony Horowitz will speak and sign books at "Spooky Spy Family Night."
Where: International Spy Museum, 800 F Street NW, Washington.
When: October 13 from 6 to 9 p.m.
How much: $14 per person. Children must be accompanied by adults, with at least one for every five children. Purchase tickets by phone or at spymuseum.org/spookyspy.
Best for: Ages 7 to 13.
For more information: Call 202-654-0933 or check the website spymuseum.org.