Wilbur Smith, the "master of adventure", is dead

Wilbur Smith, the master of adventure, is dead

Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith, the prolific writer was 88, died and suddenly passed away yesterday November 13 at his home in Cape Town where he lived with his fourth wife Niso. Smith was one of the most prolific authors of the second half of the twentieth century, publishing 49 novels and selling about 140 million copies of which 25 million in Italy alone.

Wilbur Smith, the “master of adventure ”

Born in 1933 in Broken Hill (then a British settlement known as Northern Rhodesia and now Zambia) Wilbur Smith grew up on his family ranch in contact with wild nature. His first novel came out in 1964 and is the semi-biographical Il Destino del Leone. The book will kick off the long cycle linked to the Courtney family whose vicissitudes will serve the writer to cover a vast period of time (from the seventeenth century to the 1980s) and to tell the rise and historical influence of the English colonists. and Dutch in southern Africa.

Not only Africa, but also Ancient Egypt, with the so-called Cycle of Egyptian Novels, World War II, Tropics, Antarctic, European. Adventurous by nature, Smith wrote an autobiography entitled Leopard Rock in 2018. The adventure of my life.

About 15 years ago, Smith also jumped to the headlines for a very special agreement with the publisher Harper Collins that would have allowed him to devise premises, characters and plots of books that would then actually be written by other authors .

One of the most successful writers of contemporary fiction and unanimously defined the "master of adventure", among his greatest successes it is worth noting: The fate of the lion, The burning beach, The river god, The seventh papyrus, Like the sea. On November 25th, Fulmine will be released, the second book of his first saga for children.

Laura Donnini, Ad & Publisher HarperCollins Italia, said:

I am immensely saddened by the passing of the great Wilbur Smith, one of the greatest authors of all time, animated by an inexhaustible creative energy and a passion for writing that allowed him to continue working every day until the end.

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.

“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,” said a statement released on the Wilbur Smith Books website, as well as by his publishers Bonnier Books UK.

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

The statements did not reveal the cause of death.

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

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.

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

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.

In his 2018 memoir On Leopard Rock, Smith recounts having had “tough times, bad marriages … burnt the midnight oil getting nowhere, but it has, all in the end, added up to a phenomenally fulfilled and wonderful life.

“I want to be remembered as somebody who gave pleasure to millions,” he wrote.

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

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

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

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”.

He was married four times, with his last wife, Mokhiniso Rakhimova from Tajikistan, his junior by 39 years.

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