Sir Harold Evans, a hard-charging British journalist and editor, died Wednesday at the age of 92. The cause was congestive heart failure.
Evans and his wife, former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown, were at the epicenter of Manhattan media and literary circles for decades, injecting a trans-Atlantic mixture of brains and brashness into parties and salons. And though Brown’s star eclipsed that of her husband during the magazine heyday of the 1980s and ’90s, Evans is credited with upending Fleet Street’s approach to journalism before decamping for America with his wife. As the editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981, Evans injected an investigative fervor into the paper. He oversaw deep dives into the negative effects of thalidomide, a drug used by pregnant women with morning sickness that led to birth defects, as well as pieces that revealed that British intelligence officer Kim Philby had secretly been spying for the Soviets.
However, there were bumps in Evans’ rise: namely his stormy departure from the Times in 1982, the Sunday Times’ sister publication, which he guided for a tumultuous year after Rupert Murdoch took control of the papers. The two men battled over issues of editorial independence. Evans later chronicled some of their clashes in his 1984 book “Good Times, Bad Times.”
“Murdoch is the stiletto, a man of method, a cold-eyed manipulator,” Evans later wrote of the media mogul, adding, “He is for his part agreeable and sometimes vividly amusing. I have to remind myself, as he wheels about the universe of ‘The Big Deal,’ that Lucifer is the most arresting character in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost.'”
In America, where Brown took over the struggling Vanity Fair and transformed it into a “must read,” Evans landed several influential jobs, including stints as editorial director of U.S. News & World Report and founding editor of Conde Nast Traveler.
Evans served as president and publisher of Random House trade group between 1990 and 1997, working with such authors as William Styron, Shelby Foote and Maya Angelou, and making headlines for splashy deals for Joe Klein’s “Primary Colors” and autobiographies from Colin Powell and Marlon Brando.
Evans also authored several works of history and memoir, including “They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine, Two Centuries of Innovators,” “War Stories: Reporting in the Time of Conflict From the Crimea to Iraq” and “My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times.”
Evans’ death was confirmed by Reuters, where he was editor-at-large. In addition to Brown, he is survived by their son, George, and daughter, Isabel, and by his son, Michael, and daughters, Ruth and Kate, from his previous marriage to Enid Parker.