This past week, our village, the Hamptons community, and, indeed, the entire English-speaking world lost a most valued and cherished member: Sir Harold Evans, knighted in 2004 by Queen Elizabeth for his excellence in investigative journalism and, in particular, for his work as the longtime editor of the Sunday Times of London. Not content to rest on his laurels, he then excelled in a second career as the head of Random House Publishing and, more recently, as a highly successful writer of historical texts across a broad spectrum of subject matter.
I first met Harry roughly 20 years ago, when he and his wife, Tina Brown, came to my home to interview for membership in my beach club in Quogue. Our friendship developed over the years; however, the true measure of our relationship began 10 years ago as I was going through one of the most challenging periods of my life.
We are all familiar with the old maxim that “When things are going well in your life” — as they had been for me for a very long time — “everybody loves you and wants to be your friend. But when times become difficult, only true friends remain by your side.” Harry was indeed that true friend.
With time on my hands, I made a commitment to finally tell the unique story of my time on active duty as an Army officer during the Vietnam War. I set pencil to paper and fingers to keyboard and eventually completed a very rough first draft, which I mailed off to Harry.
In all honesty, since our friendship was just a step beyond casual at that time, I had little hope of hearing back from him. After all, he was busy writing his own books, plus offering ongoing commentary in various publications.
Imagine my surprise when I received his handwritten point-by-point criticism. Clearly, he was not about to forward my draft for immediate publication; however, his points were spot on and invaluable.
The saving grace for me came in his last notation, words that I will always remember: “That said, you have a rare gift of narrative. Go for it!” And I did, publishing my book this past year.
In truth, that encouragement from someone of his stature is only surpassed in my lifetime by the words uttered to me in 1965 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a brief meeting in Frogmore, South Carolina: “I have heard wonderful things about your work with my people in their time of great need, and I appreciate it. Thank you for caring.”
Thank you, Harry, for caring about me in my time of great need. May you rest in peace.
Mr. Motz is the author of “Taps: The Silent Victims of the Vietnam War: The Families Left Behind” — Ed.
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One fine body…