September 30, 2022

Nicholas Evans, Author of ‘The Horse Whisperer,’ Dies at 72

He followed “The Horse Whisperer” with three more novels, all best sellers. “The Divide” (2005), explores what led to the death of a young woman whose body is found in a frozen mountain creek. The story was inspired, he told The Associated Press, by his own interrogations into what causes rifts in a marriage — a marriage come asunder is the book’s back story. His own 25-year marriage to Jenny Lyon ended in 1997.

Like his characters, Mr. Evans was an avid outdoorsman, a charming Bill Nighy look-alike who skied and hiked. And in August of 2008 he seemed to fall into the plot of one of his own stories, a family idyll turned into a near tragedy.

He and his second wife, Charlotte Gordon Cumming, a singer-songwriter, were staying with her brother, Alastair Gordon Cumming, and his wife, Lady Louisa, in the Scottish Highlands. They had picked and enjoyed a meal of wild mushrooms, which turned out to be poisonous. All four became sick, and their kidneys soon failed. Mr. Evans, Ms. Gordon Cumming and her brother required years of dialysis — and new kidneys. Mr. Evans’s daughter Lauren donated one of hers. Ms. Gordon Cumming was offered the kidney of her son’s best friend’s mother, and Mr. Cumming’s came from a patient who had died. Mr. Evans became a patron of a kidney donation charity. Ms. Gordon Cumming made a documentary film about her experience.

Mr. Evans’s survivors include his wife; four children, Finlay Evans, Lauren Evans, Max Evans and Harry Hewland; and a sister, Susan Britton.

His reviews grew more positive with every book. Nonetheless, he tended to avoid reading them.

“The book business is such a strange one — and the very definition of literary versus commercial fiction has always seemed to me to be bizarre,” Mr. Evans told The Guardian in 2011. “One is defined by how many it sells, and the other by its ideas and so-called literary merit. And there are all kinds of assumptions brought to bear on this. So for example, if you sell tons of books you can’t possibly have any interesting ideas or themes or things to say. And on the other hand, if nobody buys the book, it’s considered a mark of its esteem because nobody is bright enough to understand it.”

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