I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Richard Evans’s The Roving Eye. My review is to follow soon but, in the meantime, I have a guest post from the man himself. Over to Richard…
Although I suppose I am best known as a tennis writer and commentator I have been lucky enough to have done a great deal more than that in my life. So the question facing me when I decided to take the plunge and write an autobiography was: what to put in and what to leave out?
I veered away from making it a book just about tennis because I have written a dozen books on that subject and didn’t want to repeat myself more than would be necessary. So, if this was to be the story of my life, I would write it like that – as it happened from Day One.
Obviously my parents and older sister provided the input for the very early days – a good story in itself as it involved a hasty evacuation from France in June 1940 – but, as my memory kicked in, I just continued telling a chronological story of my childhood, growing up in Shropshire and later Paris and Stockholm and then attending Prep School and Public School in Sussex and Dorset.
My life turned on the decision not to try for a place at University and, at the age of 17, to try and find a job in the subject that interested me most – journalism. I was incredibly lucky to ask the right person at Lord’s who introduced me to Reg Hayter who had just started a free- lance sports reporting agency in Fleet Street. Taking a punt, he gave a job and I never looked back.
I managed to handle a testing assignment after just eight months in the job which took me off behind the Iron Curtain to report on an England Under 23 tour and then the whole thing came to a stop because I had to go into the Army for two years National Service.
I dwell on that for a chapter because there were some challenging moments there, too. But, on being demobbed, I walked straight into a job on the Evening Standard and was given an assignment by the legendary editor Charles Wintour to write Althea Gibson’s copy at Wimbledon. That was my entrée into tennis.
At 25, my wife – the journalist Glenys Roberts – and I decided to throw up two very good jobs and head for America. After surviving, just, as a free lance I landed the job of North American correspondent of the Evening News and, overnight, became a fully accredited foreign correspondent.
The stories that followed make up a large section of the book – the assassination of Martin Luther King; campaigning with Robert Kennedy before he, too, was killed; the police riots at the Chicago ’68 Democratic convention and Watergate following my prediction that not all would be well for America during Nixon’s second term despite his landslide victory.
Paris followed and it was there that I started working regularly for the BBC, being on hand to announce the death of Charles de Gaulle. When the Evening News closed the Paris office for financial reasons I free lanced for a while, making three trips to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to cover the war.
Throughout this time I had maintained my contacts in the world of tennis and when Arthur Ashe and others asked me to join the newly founded ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) I could not resist. For three years from 1974 to 1977 I headed the ATP’s European office, charged with the job of helping traditional amateur events become more professional.
In the seventies I also made three trips to Africa with Arthur Ashe, culminating with his historic trip to South Africa where the apartheid government classified him as an honorary white – much to his embarrassment – having refused him a visa on numerous occasions. I was able to witness how this remarkable man handled the hostility he faced during a fascinating visit – not from whites but from those Africans who felt he was being used by the government. But Ashe wasn’t being used by anyone. He needed to see apartheid first hand before he could condemn it with credibility.
After leaving the ATP, I reverted to free lance journalism and recount how I came to write biographies of Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe before having a spell with Entertainment Tonight, interviewing numerous stars like Sophia Loren, Christopher Reeve and, just before his death, Richard Burton.
I returned to South Africa in 1990, ostensibly to cover Mike Gatting’s rebel cricket tour which, by chance, happened to co-incide with F.W. de Klerks’ decision to end apartheid and release Nelson Mandela.
Once again, by being there, I became a witness to history.
The Roving Eye: A Reporter’s Love Affair with Paris, Politics & Sport
Go. Be there. For the past six decades Richard Evans has followed that dictum – being where the action was, not just as a tennis writer and broadcaster – 196 Grand Slams and counting – but through his years as a foreign correspondent in America, France and Vietnam as well as a spell as a roving global reporter for the US television programme Entertainment Tonight.
Evans, whose English family fled France in June 1940, also became a National Service Captain in the British army, without having to dodge a bullet which was not the case in Cambodia nor in Miami where he was struck by a cop during an anti-Nixon demonstration.
Evans was in Memphis hours after Martin Luther King was shot; campaigned through Indiana and California with Bobby Kennedy – “a unique politician” – before he, too, was assassinated and witnessed the pre-Olympic demonstrations in 1968 against the Mexican Government which ended in massacre.
He accompanied the Wimbledon champion and activist Arthur Ashe on two trips to Africa, witnessing the dark days of apartheid and was back in South Africa in 1990 covering Mike Gatting’s rebel cricket tour during the historic weeks that saw Nelson Mandela released and apartheid abolished.
Evans paints an insider’s portrait of Margaret Thatcher and No 10 Downing Street during the time he was with the Prime Minister’s daughter, Carol; a romance with the actress Gayle Hunnicutt and two marriages; friendships with Richard Harris, Michael Crawford and more Wimbledon champions than you could fit into the players’ box. He was also the last person to interview Richard Burton.
A life lived to the full, covering the globe with a Roving Eye – being there.
About the author:
Richard Evans has been a journalist since the 1960s where he began his career writing for the Evening Standard. He has covered tennis for outlets including the Sunday Times, Fox Sports USA and Tennis Magazine, reporting on more than 196 Grand Slams over the course of his career. Evans was the play-by-play commentator for BBC Radio at Wimbledon for twenty years and was a commentator for the Tennis Channel at the French Open and AO Radio at the Australian Open. He is the author of 18 books, including biographies of tennis legends, the official history of the Davis Cup, and most recently co-authoring Pain, Set & Match.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Ringham7