Bestselling Author Wilbur Smith Dies at Age 88 | Wilbur Smith

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Author Wilbur Smith died Saturday at his home in South Africa after a decade-long career in writing, his office said. Hey what 88.

With 49 titles to his credit, Smith has become 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.

“Global bestselling author Wilbur Smith died unexpectedly this afternoon at his Cape Town home after a morning of reading and writing with his wife Niso by his side,” a statement released on the Wilbur Smith Books website said. as well as its publishers Bonnier Books. UK.

“Undisputed and inimitable master of adventure writing, Wilbur Smith’s novels have captivated readers for over half a century, selling over 140 million copies worldwide in more than thirty languages.”

The statements did not disclose the cause of death.

Wilbur Smith and his wife Mokhiniso Rakhimova. Photographer: Collect / Graeme Robertson / Graeme Robertson

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

Born in Zambia in 1933 to a British family, he was also a great game hunter, having grown up living the forest, hills and savannah of Africa on his parents’ ranch. He also had a pilot’s license and was a diver.

As an environmentalist, he ran 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 to have been a lifelong love affair with firearms and hunting.

Wilbur Smith with his father after a hunting trip.
Wilbur Smith with his father after a hunting trip. Photographer: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian

He contracted cerebral malaria when he was only one and a half years old, a condition so serious that it was feared that he would be damaged in the brain if he survived.

“It probably helped me because I think you have to be a little crazy to try and make a living by writing,” he reflected later.

His best-selling Courtney series was the longest in publishing history, spanning generations and three centuries, “through critical periods from the dawn of colonial Africa to the American Civil War and the apartheid era in South Africa,” its publisher said.

But it was with Taita, the hero of his Egyptian series, that Wilbur “most strongly identified, and River God remains one of his most beloved novels to date,” he added.

In his 2018 memoir On Leopard Rock, Smith says he had “hard times, failed marriages … he burned the midnight oil and got nowhere, but ultimately added to an extraordinarily fulfilled life and wonderful.

“I want to be remembered as someone who has pleased millions,” he wrote.

Wilbur Smith in London in 1991. Photographer: John Minihan / Evening Standard / REX / Shutterstock

His office thanked “millions of fans around the world who enjoyed his amazing writing and joined us all on his amazing adventures.”

His books have been translated into around 30 languages ​​and several have been made into films, including Shout at the Devil with Lee Marvin and Roger Moore in 1976.

Smith “leaves behind a treasure trove of novels,” including unpublished ones co-authored books, according to Kate Parkin, CEO of 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 bounds”.

He has been married four times, with his latest wife, Mokhiniso Rakhimova from Tajikistan, 39 years younger.

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