Anthony Summers' father rose from humble beginnings as a deliveryman and drummer to Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force and hotelier. His mother had been poised for success as a serious actress until life got in the way. Together they gave Anthony the education they never had, English public school - he hated every minute of it - and Oxford University. He did little work there, dabbled in college theater, clashed with his parents and ran out of money. He wound up doing freelance journalism to pay his way.
The first story he covered, from halfway up a lamppost, was Winston Churchill's funeral. From there: Granada TV's World In Action, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (writing news for both its listeners in Africa), and then BBC TV.
Zeal, obstinacy, a readiness to work eight days a week - and perhaps on occasion courage (or was it madness?) - won him a decade working the stories of the sixties and seventies, traveling the world, covering wars, working in the studio when they forced him to stay at home. Before he was 30, Summers had the lofty title of Senior Film Producer at the BBC, then Assistant Editor of its flagship current affairs program Panorama. It was a young man's dream, and it wrecked a first marriage.
Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan outside their home in Ireland
Sobered by a colleague's death in the Yom Kippur war, which he himself was also covering, Summers took a year out to write a first book - improbably, on the fate of the Russian Imperial family, the Romanovs. Tackling the manuscript took him to Ireland, where his roots and family friends had taken him as a child. Summers hoped that book, The File on the Tsar, might earn him enough to buy a new car. It went to the top of the bestseller lists.
Copyright Anthony Summers, 2011
"Non-fiction is devilishly tough work - eight days a week forever and not always well rewarded," Summers said in 2009, "But it's a privilege. Never, ever dull - and sometime it feels as though it really matters. It, if one is doing one's job right, means striving for the truth, especially when it's been deliberately hidden, and passing on what one discovers."
Seven bestsellers on, and married to longtime colleague and co-author Robbyn Swan, Summers still lives in Ireland - in a converted ferryman's cottage on the banks of the River Blackwater.