Global best-selling author and renowned thrill seeker Wilbur Smith has died at his home in South Africa at the age of 88 on the 13th November 2021.
Born in Zambia, the writer was an adventurer and seasoned international traveller who drew on his own experiences to create gripping tales of global misadventure and daring. His characters were strong and well-rounded, his settings always realistic and his plots gripping and tantalising.
Having grown up with a love of adventure and the great outdoors, Smith went on to become an internationally acclaimed author whose books are now translated into dozens of languages and were even made into blockbuster movies staring some of the world’s most renowned actors, including Roger Moore.
Over the years, as well as writing many bestselling novels, Smith went on to run a ranch, own an island in the Seychellesand more. He was an experienced outdoorsman who enjoyed big game hunting, scuba diving, travelling around the world and much more.
He was also a prolific reader and an experienced marksman who was passionate about gun and rifles. He drew on this knowledge when writing his many books and created realistic scenes in which his characters were backing into corners and had to use their wits and weapons to fight their way out. The writer also had a pilot’s licence and flew all over Africa and owned a number of boats, which he used to see more of the world and go on many adventures that would eventually help to inform his published work.
Despite considering a career in journalism, Smith ending up training as an accountant. In this boring job, he found plenty of time to write and started crafting unforgettable tales, which he later started publishing.
His first novel Where The Lion Feeds was so immensely successful when it came out in 1966 that he quickly followed it up with The Dark Of The Sun the next year.
Throughout the decades Smith’s work became even more popular with a wide range of readers, and he eventually started writing several series of books about revered families, including the Courtney family and the Ballantynes.
He also wrote a series of historical novels set in Ancient Egypt, that were set mostly in the time of the Pharaoh Memnon and addressed his reign through his eyes and those of one of his family’s slaves, Taita.
Many of his other books also covered historical periods of civil and military unrest, particularly in his home continent of Africa. While some critics have accused the writer of not researching thoroughly, many have deemed his portrayals to be as accurate as possible for historical works. They’re also deeply interesting and give a unique perspective on many periods of time and regions that weren’t extensively covered in popular fiction of the early 1960s and beyond.
In recent times, Smith worked on new novels and co-wrote them with many other popular writers, which created a unique view on his characters and the adventures in which they participated. He also wrote children’s stories in collaboration with Chris Wakling and autobiographical works that explored his upbringing in Africa and his adventures in some of the most beautiful and amazing parts of the world.
Outside of his work as a popular fiction writer, Smith had a large family, with whom he often had a tempestuous relationship, but undoubtably they and his many fans will miss his unique perspective on the world and his undeniably fascinating way of bringing even simple stories to life in amazing detail.
With a little under 50 books in his back catalogue, Smith has left behind an extensive legacy of incredible thrillers and action-packed adventure stories that will remain popular for many centuries. His work will, and undoubtably has already, influenced the way writers view mystery, thriller and adventure novels.