News ID: 317901
Published: 0311 GMT November 14, 2021

Bestselling author Wilbur Smith dies aged 88

Bestselling author Wilbur Smith dies aged 88

Author Wilbur Smith died at his home in South Africa on Saturday after a decades-long career in writing, his office said. He was 88.

With 49 titles under his belt, Smith became a household name, with his swashbuckling adventure stories taking readers from tropical islands to the jungles of Africa and even Ancient Egypt and World War II, wrote.

His 1964 debut novel ‘When the Lion Feeds,’ the tale of a young man growing up on a South African cattle ranch, became an instant bestseller and led to 15 sequels, tracing an ambitious family’s fortunes for more than 200 years.

Born in Zambia in 1933 to a British family, he was also a big game hunter, having grown up experiencing the forest, hills and savannah of Africa on his parents’ ranch. He also held a pilot’s licence and was a scuba diver.

As a conservationist, he managed his own game reserve and owned a tropical island in the Seychelles.

He credited his mother with teaching him to love nature and reading, while his father – a strict disciplinarian – gave him a rifle at the age of eight, the start of what he acknowledged was a lifelong love affair with firearms and hunting.

He contracted cerebral malaria when he was just one-year-and-half – an ailment so serious there were fears he would be brain damaged if he survived.

“It probably helped me because I think you have to be slightly crazy to try to earn a living from writing,” he later reflected.

His bestselling ‘Courtney Series’ was the longest running in publishing history, spanning generations and three centuries, “through critical periods from the dawn of colonial Africa to the American Civil War, and to the apartheid era in South Africa”, said his publisher.

But it was with ‘Taita,’ the hero of his ‘Egyptian Series,’ that Wilbur “most strongly identified, and ‘River God’ remains one of his best-loved novels to this day”, it added.

His books have been translated into around 30 languages and several made into films.

Smith “leaves behind him a treasure-trove of novels,” including unpublished co-authored books, according to Kate Parkin, a managing director at Bonnier Books.

Kevin Conroy Scott, his literary agent for the past decade, described him as “an icon, larger than life” and said his “knowledge of Africa, and his imagination knew no limitations”.


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