Nicholas Evans, the bestselling author of The Horse Whisperer, has died at the age of 72.
In a statement, United Agents said the “much-loved” writer had died following a heart attack on Tuesday. “He lived a full and happy life, in his home on the banks of the River Dart in Devon,” it added.
Evans’ 1995 novel The Horse Whisperer sold 15m copies worldwide, becoming the number one bestseller in 20 countries. It has been translated into 40 languages and was made into a film, starring, produced by and directed by Robert Redford.
The novelist, who was also an award-winning documentary-maker, went on to write four more bestselling novels: The Loop, The Smoke Jumper, The Divide and The Brave.
Born in 1950 in Worcestershire, Evans studied law at Oxford University and initially was a journalist, working on the Evening Chronicle in Newcastle.
He then moved into TV, producing films about US politics and the Middle East for the weekly current affairs programme Weekend World. In 1982, he began producing arts documentaries whose subjects included David Hockney, Francis Bacon and Patricia Highsmith.
The inspiration for his first novel came in 1993 when he met a blacksmith in the south-west of England who told him about horse whisperers – people who can purportedly heal traumatised horses by speaking to them.
In 2008, Evans and his wife, the singer-songwriter Charlotte Gordon Cumming, were seriously injured after accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms during a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Both had to have kidney transplants, Evans from his daughter Lauren.
He was also diagnosed with malignant skin cancer while writing The Horse Whisperer in 1994.
At the time, publishers were locked in a bidding war over the rights to the unfinished book, which eventually earned Evans $3.15m and a further $3m for the film rights.
“The day after the operation, I was going round publishing houses trying to look suave and normal, and I was in a cold sweat, I was just dying, I was in such pain,” Evans told the Guardian in 2011. “But I thought, if I tell anyone, they’ll think I’ll die.”
In the same interview, he said: “I think that I have been amazingly lucky.”
Evans leaves behind Charlotte and four children: Finlay, Lauren, Max and Harry.