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A novel approach: The author Nicholas Evans discusses his work in literature and film

The author of The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans, talks about The Brave, his 2010 book that he wrote after the US invasion of Iraq.
The author Nicholas Evans. Courtesy Tom Laflin
The author Nicholas Evans. Courtesy Tom Laflin

The British novelist Nicholas Evans made his 1995 debut with the book The Horse Whisperer, which went on to sell 15 million copies and was adapted into a film by Robert Redford, but Evans will have a lot more than that to talk about next week.

He’s written four more novels since then, and 2010’s The Brave will be up for discussion. It’s a novel with particular resonance for Middle East readers. “The genesis of The Brave was my anger at the invasion of Iraq,” says Evans. “I saw George Bush on TV down on his ranch, dressed up in cowboy boots and jeans, doing a press conference. It amazed me that this was the image he wanted to present to the world on the day he invaded Iraq – just bizarre.

“That made me interested in cowboy iconography and how important it is to the US, even though we all know the conquest of the West was little more than genocide.”

Evans’s career includes stints as a journalist, film and TV producer, screenwriter and aspiring director as well as novelist, though he maintains that the constant has always been his love of writing: “I’ve always been a writer,” he explains. “I studied law at university, which convinced me I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and I knew I didn’t want to be a businessman like my dad, doing something I hated so I could have fun at the weekend.

“I was lucky enough to get a place on Thomson’s journalist training scheme.”

Evans then landed a job as a TV researcher on the Sunday news magazine show Weekend World, moving quickly to producer, then to a job as Melvyn Bragg’s deputy on the UK culture show The South Bank Show. “It was there when I was doing a section on David Lean that I started to think about writing screen fiction,” he says.

Unfortunately, Evans’s film career “never really took off”, and he came across a story he thought would work better as a novel – The Horse Whisperer. “I wrote half of it while I was trying to get a film noir set in France off the round,” he says. “I thought I’d have to give up the novel and go back to the BBC as I was in so much debt with the film, but I showed what I had to a literary agent and he sent it round some publishers on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair. It went crazy. Every publisher in the world wanted it. It ended up in an auction, then the film rights, too. My debts suddenly weren’t so bad.”

Having failed to get his films off the ground for so long, it was strange to have the likes of Robert Redford fighting to film his first book: “It was weird. Four studios bid for the rights, and six months previously I’d been failing to get calls returned by their 18th deputy VP’s assistant. Now I had Wendy Finerman, Redford and Jon Peters ringing me up and begging me to let them have my book.”

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Updated: March 5, 2014 04:00 AM

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