Anthony Horowitz told to not use 'scalpel' in last murder mystery

Writers facing ‘death by a thousand cuts’ because of over-sensitive ‘sensitivity readers’ forcing them to change their words so they do not offend people, Anthony Horowitz warns

  • The famous author said ‘sensitivity readers’ are forcing writers to change books 
  • He also added that writers are facing ‘death by a thousand cuts’ as a result 
  • Read more: Members fear Society of Authors has been ‘lost’ to cancel culture 

Writers are facing ‘death by a thousand cuts’ because of publishers’ fears over cultural sensitivities, the best-selling author Anthony Horowitz warned yesterday.

The Foyle’s War and Alex Rider writer said editors called ‘sensitivity readers’ were forcing writers to change books over fears of offending readers, and so-called cancel culture.

Horowitz, 67, claimed he was asked to change a passage in his last murder mystery which described a Native American character attacking someone with a scalpel.

His publisher’s ‘quite sensitive sensitivity reader’ apparently felt the word scalpel was too reminiscent of the historic Native American practice of scalping their adversaries, and Horowitz said he was advised to replace the word with ‘surgical instrument’.

Anthony Horowitz, pictured last year, was asked to change a passage in his last murder mystery due to his publisher’s sensitivity reader

Writing in The Spectator magazine, the author said: ‘Scalpel, of course, comes from the Latin word scapellus (from scalpere, to cut) and has nothing to do with scalping, which derives from the Middle English word scalpe (top of the head).

‘But such niceties were irrelevant to my quite sensitive sensitivity reader.

‘I made the changes, but I will confess they hurt. It just feels wrong to be told what to write by an outside party, no matter how well-meaning.’

Sensitivity readers are additional editors who read manuscripts and offer specific advice on characters from marginalised groups, or on issues which may cause offence.

Horowitz, who has written three James Bond novels, said his last book was sent to a sensitivity reader by his publisher in the US and Canada because it featured the Native American character.

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