Author Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, dies aged 72 after heart attack

Author Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, dies aged 72 after heart attack

Author Nicholas Evans, best known for writing The Horse Whisperer, has died at the age of 72 of complications from a heart attack.

The best-selling author, screenwriter and journalist died unexpectedly on Tuesday, his literary agency confirmed today.

A statement released this morning said: “United Agents are very saddened to announce the sudden death of acclaimed best-selling author Nicholas Evans, who died suddenly this Tuesday week of a heart attack at the age of 72.”

The Horse Whisperer, published in 1995, has sold around 15 million copies worldwide and was the number one bestseller in 20 countries.

It was Evans’ debut novel and follows a complex and talented trainer who is hired to heal an injured teenager and her horse after a serious injury.

Such was its popularity that the book was adapted for the big screen three years later by Hollywood star Robert Redford, who starred in the title role, with Scarlett Johansson playing young driver Grace MacLean in her breakout role.

Kristin Scott Thomas played her mother, Annie, while Sam Neill played her father, Robert.

Bestselling English author Nicholas Evans poses during a portrait session held in Paris in January 2012

Bestselling English author Nicholas Evans poses during a portrait session held in Paris in January 2012

The Horse Whisperer, published in 1995, has sold around 15 million copies worldwide and was the number one bestseller in 20 countries

The Horse Whisperer, published in 1995, has sold around 15 million copies worldwide and was the number one bestseller in 20 countries

The best-selling author surprisingly passed away on Tuesday, his agency confirmed in a statement released this morning

The best-selling author surprisingly passed away on Tuesday, his agency confirmed in a statement released this morning

Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas pictured during a scene in the film adaptation of The Horse Whisperer

Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas pictured during a scene in the film adaptation of The Horse Whisperer

Scarlett Johansson (pictured) played young driver Grace MacLean in her breakout role

Scarlett Johansson (pictured) played young driver Grace MacLean in her breakout role

Evans and James Nesbitt sit down for an interview on the TV show Living the Life in 2012

Evans and James Nesbitt sit down for an interview on the TV show Living the Life in 2012

Evans is best known for writing the best-selling novel The Horse Whisperer

Evans is best known for writing the best-selling novel The Horse Whisperer

Dell Publishing agreed to pay US$3.15 million (£2.1 million at the time) for the North American rights to the film.

Born in Worcestershire in 1950, he studied law at Oxford University, graduating with honors.

He worked as a journalist for the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle before moving to television.

Evans produced films about US politics and the Middle East for the current show Weekend World.

In the 1980s he was with London Weekend Television producing films about Sir Laurence Olivier, Francis Bacon and David Hockney for the South Bank Show.

But while living in the south-west of England, he met a blacksmith and learned about horse whisperers who are said to be able to heal traumatized horses.

The bestseller, which has since been translated into 36 languages, was born from the idea.

Writing about the book for The Chron in November 2020, he said: “Usually writing a novel is like climbing a mountain: it’s slow and tedious and it’s easy to get lost.

“But with The Horse Whisperer, I could see the story laid out in front of me like stepping stones across a river. I just had to put one foot in front of the other.

I realized I was telling an ancient story – the kind people that people have told each other for millennia.

Evans was pictured at his home near Totnes, Devon in 2010.  The famous author died on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack

Evans was pictured at his home near Totnes, Devon in 2010. The famous author died on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack

Evans poses for a portrait at the annual Oxford Literary Festival, held at the Oxford Union in April 2005

Evans poses for a portrait at the annual Oxford Literary Festival, held at the Oxford Union in April 2005

Hollywood star Robert Redford played the title character of the film three years after the book was published

Hollywood star Robert Redford played the title character of the film three years after the book was published

Evans also worked on a number of films for television and cinema before writing the famous novel

Evans also worked on a number of films for television and cinema before writing the famous novel

“It’s about good people being plunged into a dark whirlpool of pain. In the end, a hand of love intervenes to save and set her free. Think of the angel saving Daniel in the lions’ den.

“For those who haven’t read the book, I won’t say much more. I just want to add that it’s not a book about horses. It’s about us and how easy it is for all of us to get lost and foggy and disconnected from the things that really matter.

“And how, when we’re lucky, a pure and unselfish love can save us.”

Evans wrote about the film adaptation on his website and revealed that he didn’t think the second half of the film “worked”.

He said: “While I think Robert Redford did a great job with the horsework and the overall look of the film (and of course the acting was fabulous), I don’t think the second half of the film really worked.

“It kind of got lost. I don’t think they ever really had the script before they started filming, and once you start there’s never enough time to fix it.

“The ending completely missed the point of the book in my opinion.”

He wrote four other novels – The Loop (1998), The Smoke Jumper (2001), The Divide (2005) and The Brave (2010).

Evans and his family fell ill in 2008 after suffering a near-fatal reaction when they ate the deadly webcap mushroom – mistaking it for harmless porcini.

The author, his singer-songwriter wife Charlotte, and her brother and sister-in-law suffered kidney failure after the incident and had to undergo dialysis.

Mr Evans was saved after being on a waiting list for nearly three years when his only daughter gave him one of her kidneys as a living donation.

Evans at his home in Totnes, Devon in September 2010

Evans at his home in Totnes, Devon in September 2010

Evans and his family fell ill in 2008 after suffering a near-fatal reaction when he cooked them deadly mushrooms

Evans and his family fell ill in 2008 after suffering a near-fatal reaction when he cooked them deadly mushrooms

Evans, then 61, said his daughter’s donation – which took place at Hammersmith Hospital last July – gave him his life back.

It was Evans himself who had picked the mushrooms on his brother-in-law’s 13,000-acre estate in the Scottish Highlands, then cooked them before serving them to his family.

He had accidentally reaped a crop of deadly webcaps while staying with his brother-in-law, Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming, and his wife, Lady Louisa.

After sautéing them with butter and parsley, he served them to his wife Charlotte and his hosts for dinner. They were all hospitalized the next day.

In an interview following the incident, Nicholas said, “I took the mushrooms home, showed them around and the general comment was, ‘Fantastic!’

“So I cut them up and cooked them in butter and parsley. The four adults ate them sitting outside. They tasted slightly bitter, but Alastair and I had a lot, the two women not that much.

“Fortunately none of the four children [Nick and Charlotte have a six-year-old son, Finlay, and their hosts have three children] wanted to try it.

“Doctors later told us that if they did that, the fungi would have killed them.”