THE IMAGES

  

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THE LIFE
  

Wilbur Addison Smith (so named after Wilbur Wright, the flight pioneer) was born on 9 January 1933 in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) to British-born parents. He went to Michaelhouse in Natal, South Africa before continuing to Rhodes University where he graduated with a degree in Commerce in 1954. He was an accountant and tax assessor for the Inland Revenue for a few years before he started to write.
  

Wilbur has married four times. On 28 August 1964, he married Jewell Slabbert, but they later divorced. He then married Anne who produced 2 children (a son, Shaun, and a daughter, Christian), but their married dissolved too. He remarried, in February 1971, to Danielle (Dee Dee) Antoinette Thomas (who had a son, Dieter, from her previous marriage). After that, he dedicated every book to her (25 in total), making a point of starting each new book on their anniversary and using the gold pen which she gave him. Danielle acted as his researcher, soundboard and editor, usually censoring the racier parts of his stories. She even wrote her own successful novels. (Click here to find out more). Unfortunately, she died from a cancer-related brain tumour in December 1999. He is currently married to his fourth wife, Mokhiniso. They married in May 2000.
  

He met Mokhiniso (Niso) in a book shop in London. Niso was born in Tajikistan, a former state of the Soviet Union north of Afghanistan and trained at the Moscow University as a lawyer. They met in December 1999, when she was buying a John Grisham novel, recommended to her by her language teacher, who said that reading popular English books aloud would improve her accent. Smith told her that he knew a much more suitable author and led her to the Wilbur Smith section and signed her purchase. Niso now speaks very good English: I have the best English teacher in the world!
  

He lives on part of the original Cecil John Rhodes Estate, on the side of Table Mountain in Constantia in Cape Town, South Africa. His home is called 'Sunbird Hill'.
  

He also owns a farm, a game reserve and houses in London and the Seychelles, his favourite holiday destination.
  

Wilbur (and his late wife, Danielle, whom he considers the most beautiful woman in the world), normally travels from November to February, often spending a month skiing in Switzerland, and visiting Australia and New Zealand for deep sea fishing. During his summer break, he visits environments as diverse as Alaska and the dwindling wilderness of the African interior.
  

His favourite singer is Frank Sinatra and his favourite movie is LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.
  

At school, Wilbur was the captain of the shooting and cross-country teams.
  

At school, At Rhodes University, Wilbur was sent to hospital three times in one term because of motor-cycle crashes!
   
   
THE LITERATURE
   

Wilbur's first attempt at writing, a novel which remains unpublished, was rejected nearly 20 times! He now keeps it in a safe place to bring himself back down to earth when he begins to believe his own publicity.
  

Wilbur soon sold several short stories to magazines and to the BBC, but one short story got out of hand . He got so caught up with the characters that he decided to expand it into a novel. Two and a half years later, he completed WHEN THE LION FEEDS. He sent it to London and within ten days - almost a record for an unknown author - he received a cable announcing its acceptance by Heinemann.
  

His first published novel, WHEN THE LION FEEDS, was originally banned in South Africa, along with his next three books, for its 'indecent, obscene and objectionable' subject content. He was under surveillance by the state security police and even his phone was tapped! He is quoted to have said: There's nothing like a good book banning to set an author on his feet!
  

He bases his many characters with physical disabilities on himself. He had polio when he was a child and his right leg is withered. His father, a sheet metal worker, was the model for many of the intimidating men in his novels. There is no need for me to plot my novels in detail. My characters sweep me along with them on a voyage over which I often have very little control. I merely follow and record their strivings and endeavors. One another occasion, he said, It is the golden egg syndrome. When you go through life with an open mind and you have a devilish imagination like I have, the ideas present themselves to you. I always think about my ideas like a hunter, I don't chase them but sit at the waterhole waiting for them to present themselves. Often a character will appear to me out of the shadows pleading: 'Please write my story'.
  

His books have sold over 80 million copies, most of them bought by women. They have been translated into 26 languages around the world.
  

Apart from English, he can also speak Afrikaans, Zulu, and some other African dialects.
  

In the US, where Wilbur's novel have been largely ignored in the past, his novels more than quadrupled in sales in 1996-1997.
  

His favourite literary character is Sean Courtney from the Courtney novels.
  

Wilbur's perception on his writing over the years: Perhaps my books are a little more polished, and my philosophy a little more refined. As to the taste of my readers, I still believe they love an engrossing story. That is what I am and will always be, a storyteller. The creative process never gets easier but the inspiration hasn't stopped. Writer's block is a dirty five-letter word and it doesn't apply to me at all. I have the great treasure house of Africa for stories. I'll never run out of subjects.
  

Wilbur's perception as an author: Sometimes I marvel that I should be paid for having so much fun!
    
    
THE COMMENTS
  

Wilbur hates interviews: I think you can get to a stage where you have said everything possible there is to say.
  

Wilbur hates interviews: I think you can get to a stage where you have said everything possible there is to say.
  

On writing, he comments: It just naturally came - I had to do it. But there was a little break along the way. My Papa said, when I told him I wanted to be a journalist, 'Go and get a real job'. So I ended up as an accountant, but immediately went back to writing - it was in my blood, I think.
  

He is kind to the 50+ servants he employs at all his global residences: Anyone who has worked for us for 25 years, I buy them a house, and we educate all their children. I've got about 25 kids going to technical college.
  

Wilbur loves wild Africa: [As a boy, it] was just paradise for a small boy. There was endless fresh air all around you, endless space. Dogs, horses, guns, fishing rods, a constant supply of companions, in the form of small black boys. We'd go off into the bush, bird-nesting, and all the other horrific things like that - which I realize now, as a conservationist, how terrible they were!
  

Wilbur pursues a relatively solitary life in the bush: I feel jealous and possessive if I find car tracks less than a year old!
  

Wilbur has a ranch in the Karoo, South Africa. It is a giant conservation exercise, which, he says, is my way of saying thank you to Africa for all the good things I've had out of it. I bought a number of sheep stations, took all the sheep off and ring-fenced it - all 26 000 acres. I've introduced back all those species of African antelope which were there before the white man came.
  

Although educated at the prestigious Michaelhouse in Natal, South Africa, Wilbur doesn't look back on those days with fond memories: Times of joy and happiness were interrupted by long periods of incarceration in a boarding school, which were horrible. I was able to appreciate the freedom, after having been locked up in a boarding school.
  

I am a story-teller, says Smith. In literature, words are played like notes to play a symphony. I would never attempt to write literature. I wrote adventure stories...It's my job to entertain - to create illusion.
  

When asked how he would like to die, he replied: Unexpectedly. I don't want any warning beforehand. Let it happen when it must!
  

Wilbur drives a Toyota Land Cruiser for fun and a Rolls-Royce Silver spirit for posh. He hopes that the Rolls will last him for the rest of his life. Like an old pair of shoes, it just gets better and better the more you drive it!
  

His favourite author is C. S. Forester: He tells such a damn good story!
  

I'm an omnivorous beast,  comments Wilbur on his favourite food, but I think nice young springbok steak takes a lot of beating. I'd cook it myself the way I like it - very rare with lots of garlic - and probably serve it with a side dish of pasta.
  

His biggest regret is that he hasn't one... Except, he adds, I should have bought IBM shares when they were $5 each!
  

Wilbur firmly believes in bringing back the death penalty in South Africa. No question about it - yes! And in many cases, I'd like to be the hangman!
  

His first sexual experience took place at boarding school... Under the sheets. Yes - by myself!
  

If he could have lived in any era of time he would have chosen the period in which he has lived. It's romantic to think about living in another era, but then you wouldn't have air travel, four-wheel-drive vehicles, anti-malaria pills, awareness of health and all those good things. But you must remember that I've lived at a time when a lot of the old Africa hadn't entirely gone, so I was born at just the right time. If I'd lived a little earlier I might have been killed in World War 1, and if I'd lived a little later, I might have been killed in World War 2.
  

The last time he was drunk was a long time ago. I've been merry on occasions, but I've learnt to be moderate in most things.
  

What gets him out of bed in the morning is the promise of a new day and all it has to deliver!
  

He would like his eulogy at his funeral to say: THE OLD DEVIL SPENT IT ALL!
   
    
THE CRITICS
  

Jack Nicklaus (US golfer): His books are terrific.
   

Nina Bawden (UK author): Masterly storytelling.
   

Evening Standard: Wilbur Smith writes as forcefully as his tough characters act.
   

Daily Express: The world's leading adventure writer.
   

The Washington Post: Action is the name of Wilbur Smith's game and he is the master.
   

The Sunday Times: Wilbur Smith is an adept at thrilling and harrowing scenes, researches his facts, gets it all too horribly spot-on. Terribly competent... Something between Alistair Maclean and Nicholas Monsarrat.
   

The Scotsman: Mr Smith is a natural storyteller who moves confidently and often splendidly in his period and sustains a flow of convincing incident without repeating his excitements.
   

The Irish Times: A thundering good read is virtually the only way to describe Wilbur Smith's books.
   
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