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Sean Courteney was a big man as big and bold as the African continent itself.

The onrush of the Zulu impis brought a sudden end to his time as a farmer and thrust him headlong into history...on the bloody sand of Isandhlwana and the heroic barricades of Rorke's Drift, in the fever of the gold rush and the perils of the African jungle...

A man to rouse a deep hunger in the women he meets, a man to challenge all the fates and make a dream come true...




Sean Courteney   Businessman, gold digger, hunter, warrior, adventurer, hero of the story.

Garrick Courteney

  Sean's younger twin brother. He is awarded the Victoria Cross after being wounded in battle which leaves him with a limp.
Waite Courteney   Sean Courtney's father and owner of Theunis Kraal. Killed at Rorke's Drift during battle.
Ada Courteney   Second wife to Waite Courtney, stepmother to Sean and Garrick.
Anna van Essen   Wife to Garrick Courtney. She is seduced by Sean Courtney and is the mother of Michael, Sean's illegitimate son. She marries Garrick to avoid scandal but remains cold and unloving to him until her early death.
Michael Courteney   Son of Sean and Anna. He is adopted by his uncle, Garrick.
Mbejane   Zulu warrior and servant of Sean.
David Pye   Bank worker in charge of surrounding land.
Dufford Charleywood   Mining expert, businessman and adventurer with Sean.
Candy Rautenbach   Beautiful proprietress of Candy's Hotel and part-time lover and business-partner of Sean Courtney.
Izzy Goldberg   Shrewd dealer and businessman in Johannesburg
Hradsky   Ruthless, sinister and clever rival businessman who eventually destroys Sean and Duff's goldmine fortune.
Max   Hradsky's right-hand man.
Katrina Leroux   First wife of Sean Courtney and mother of Dirk Courtney.
Jan Paulus Leroux   Boer brother of Katrina and brother-in-law to Sean.
Oupa & Ouma Leroux   Parents of Jan Paulus and Katrina.
Dirk Courtney   Only son of Sean and Katrina.


Interesting Information

First published in 1964 by William Heinemann Ltd.

Book dedication: This book is for Elfreda and Herbert James Smith, with love
Wilbur has been offered $250 000 for the handwritten copy of WHEN THE LION FEEDS, but has turned it down.
WHEN THE LION FEEDS is the only book to bare  the initial of his second name on the front of original hardcover.
Click here to find out more about the Courtneys of Africa family tree.
To find out more about the Anglo-Zulu War, click here.
Before becoming a published author, Wilbur 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.
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!
The name 'Courteney' was taken from Wilbur's grandfather, Frederick Courteney Smith.
The spelling of the name 'Courteney' originally had an extra 'e' for the first two Courtney novels, but was omitted in the third one A SPARROW FALLS due to an editorial error. That was a bit of lax editorial which I didn't pick up, because I'm not good at editing my own books, because I just tend to read the story rather than looking for little things.  And, after we'd published the book, then it was pointed out that we had now had a discrepancy in the spelling, and we now had to standardize on one or the other.  So we decided on Courtney without an 'e'. 
Researching WHEN THE LION FEEDS was apparently no problem. Smith had a vivid mental picture of the South African gold rush from stories told to him by his grandfather, who had actually carried supplies to the Witwatersrand. Smith's extensive reading and his own way of life -  his childhood on a Rhodesian cattle ranch and his knowledge of business - give the novel further authenticity. But it's not historical, he says. It just happens that the kind of men in my novel don't exist anymore, so it had to be set in the gold rush days. Nostalgic? Yes - I should have liked to have lived then. There's no place today for individual men; it's all big companies now.



Reader Reviews

From Andre' Mes - 5 out of 5
What a cracking novel! From the moment I opened the book I couldn't put it down. Smith descriptions of the South African countryside is spot on and his characterizations are so three-dimensional that they linger in the mind long after finishing the novel. Divided into three parts, each chapter of Sean Courteney's life takes the reader on an adventure whether it's to the battlefields between the Zulus and the British, the hard, cruel life of the goldfields in early Johannesburg, or even ruthless elephant hunting on the vast African savannas. What amazes me about Smith writing is the fact that it teaches history you while narrating a beautiful story. Highly recommended!
Pride of place goes to WHEN THE LION FEEDS because it is bigger, wilder, more full of plot than all the others put together. - Daily Telegraph
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 Scotsman
...with plenty of incident and colour, it can be recommended to those who are partial to the long, romantic epic. - The Observer
Raw experience, grim realism, history and romance welded with mystery... - American Library Journal



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