Anthony Summers, Ireland, 2010
|Born||December 21, 1942|
|Known for||non-fiction author|
Summers is an Irish citizen, and has been working for more than twenty years with Robbyn Swan, who is his co-author and fourth wife. After studying modern languages at Oxford University, his early work took him from labouring jobs to freelance reporting to London newspapers, to Granada TV's World in Action – the UK's first tabloid public affairs programme, to writing the news for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, then back to England to the BBC's 24 Hours, a pioneering late evening show that brought viewers coverage from all over the world. Summers became the BBC's youngest producer at 24, travelling worldwide and sending filmed reports from the conflicts in Vietnam and the Middle East, and across Latin America. A main focus, though, was on the momentous events of the 1960s and '70s in the United States – with on-the-spot reports on Martin Luther King's assassination and on Robert F. Kennedy's bid for the presidency. He smuggled cameras into the then Soviet Union to obtain the only TV interview with dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov – when he was under house arrest, having just won the Nobel Prize. Before moving on from the BBC, Summers became an Assistant Editor of the prestigious weekly programme Panorama. Long based in Ireland, he has since the mid-'70s concentrated on investigative non-fiction, usually taking from four to five years to produce a book – conducting in-depth research, combining digging in the documentary record with exhaustive interviewing.
Summers has written about historical figures including Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, President John F. Kennedy, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and President Richard Nixon. He also wrote biographies of celebrities Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.
Summers' 1980 book Conspiracy was updated in 2013 as Not in Your Lifetime: The Defining Book on the JFK Assassination. In the latest version, he implicated Cuban exile Herminio Diaz, an employee of Santo Trafficante, as a grassy knoll shooter in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The book won the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction in 1980. Toby Harnden of The Telegraph called it "well done", describing Summers' approach as "dismissing the more fevered theories while casting doubt on the Warren Commission". Journalist Burton Hersh described Conspiracy as "bedrock to the [Kennedy conspiracy] literature".
Official and Confidential, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover
In a review for The New York Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote that Official and Confidential, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, Summers' 1993 biography of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, "sets a new standard of what might gently be called revisionism."
The Eleventh Day: The Ultimate Account of 9/11
In 2011, Summers' and Swan's The Eleventh Day: The Ultimate Account of 9/11 was published to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. According to Harnden, the authors "principal criticisms are that the Bush administration was asleep at the switch on 9/11; that vital intelligence was ignored; that the FBI and CIA did not share information; and that Saudi Arabia was intimately connected to al-Qaeda and is sometimes overindulged by the US."
Harnden said that there was "no real evidence" for Summers' and Swan's claims that the CIA negotiated with Osama bin Laden prior to those attacks, or of their attempt to recruit two of the hijackers as agents. While criticizing the authors for a lack of original research, failure to interview major figures within the Bush administration, and "habit of posing portentous questions without answering", he noted that their depiction of the "horrors inside the World Trade Center" and bravery of the Flight 93 passengers was "well written and moving".
Looking For Madeleine
Other works by Summers include:
- The File on the Tsar (1976).
- Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe (1985).
- Honeytrap (on the Profumo sex/spy scandal, 1987), one of several books used as background for the film Scandal (1989), starring John Hurt. Written in conjunction with British author Stephen Dorril.
- The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon (2000).
- Sinatra: The Life (2005).
In addition to the coverage listed above, Anthony Summers sent reports on subjects as varied as:
- The civil war between royalists and republicans in Yemen. He broke the story that the Egyptians were using gas bombs against civilians.
- Interviews with members of the Charles Manson family while they were still at large after the Tate-Labianca murders.
- Interviews with figures as contrasted as Chile's President Salvador Allende – soon to die in a bloody right-wing revolution – and Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
- Summers made two visits to Cuba, where he suffered the fate of many before and after him – waiting for but not getting the promised interview with Fidel Castro.
- In Bolivia, defying a government ban on journalists, he travelled over rugged country to the site of Che Guevara's death.
- The Tupamaro guerilla movement in Uruguay.
- The tension in Argentina between the Catholic hierarchy and "worker priests".
- The US Drug Enforcement Administration's operations on the Mexican border.
- A reflection on the Americans who returned from the Vietnam War.
Anthony Summers was made a Fellow of the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin in 2012.
- "The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners". Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- "Anthony Summers". Curtis Brown Literary Agency. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- Lindley, Richard (2002). Panorama: 50 Years of Pride and Paranoia. London: Politicos. p. 129. ISBN 1-84275-046-1.
- Kyle, Keith (2009). Reporting the World. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 209. ISBN 1-84885-000-X.
- Smiley, David (1975). Arabian Assignment. London: Leo Cooper. p. 225.
- Summers, Anthony; Robbyn Swan (2000). The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon. New York: Viking. p. 611. ISBN 0-7567-5814-9.
- Summers, Anthony; Robbyn Swan (2005). Sinatra: The Life. New York: Knopf. p. 391. ISBN 0-375-71370-0.
- Hersh, Burton (November 15, 2013). "Review: New round of books address JFK assassination 50 years later". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- "CWA Dagger for Non-fiction: 2012 winners Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan". The Crime Writers' Association. Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- Harnden, Toby (August 25, 2011). "The Eleventh Day: The Ultimate Account of 9/11 by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (February 15, 1993). "Books of The Times; Catalogue of Accusations Against J. Edgar Hoover". Books. The New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
- Brunt, Martin (September 7, 2015). "Madeleine: Book Sheds Light On Mystery Predator". Sky News. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
- Tuohy, Denis (2005). Wide-eyed in Media Land. Belfast: Blackstaff. p. 103. ISBN 0-85640-749-6.
- Tuohy, Denis (2005). Wide-eyed in Media Land. Belfast: Blackstaff. p. 133. ISBN 0-85640-749-6.
- Tuohy, Denis (2005). Wide-eyed in Media Land. Belfast: Blackstaff. p. 141. ISBN 0-85640-749-6.
- Tuohy, Denis (2005). Wide-eyed in Media Land. Belfast: Blackstaff. p. 111. ISBN 0-85640-749-6.
- UCD Literary & Historical Society (20 February 2012). "Anthony will be made a Fellow of UCD's Literary & Historical Society on Thursday, Feb. 23". Facebook. Retrieved 4 May 2014.