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Wilbur Smith, author. (Author categories: Literature & Fiction)

Wilbur Smith

The best selling author, Wilbur Smith was born on January 9, 1933 in Kabwe, Zambia. Best known for his intriguing stories set in Africa during the 16th and 17th century eras, Wilbur takes his reader on a historical ride of fiction revolving around the influence of the English and Dutch in Southern Africa.

Smith was struck with an episode of cerebral malaria in infancy. Although the doctors did not give any hope of a normal life for Smith after the disease, Smith, however, survived it and surely did not grow up to lead a normal life. He became a best selling and exceptional writer. His adventurous childhood was spent roaming around his father’s 12,000 hectare ranch where he played with the small black sons of ranch workers. The boys would spend long afternoons on the ranch hiking, hunting and trapping small birds and mammals by making use of their slingshots. At night, his mother would read him novels full of excitement and escape which developed in Wilbur an early interest for reading and writing. Wilbur Smith was primarily educated at a boarding school, Cordwalles Preparatory School in Natal and also at Michaelhouse, located on the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. At Michaelhouse, Wilbur wrote most of the content of a school newspaper he had started.

Moving on to obtaining a higher education, Wilbur enrolled at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa becoming a journalist upon graduation. He wrote excessively about the social issues and conditions in South Africa. However, his father who had never been supportive of Wilbur’s writing, insisted him to get a real job. Therefore, Wilbur studied further to become a Chartered Accountant. Smith married and had two children. The marriage, however, ended in a disastrous divorce when Smith was only twenty-four. Smith was held responsible for paying an allowance and child support which left him completely broke. Wilbur turned back to writing in an attempt to fix his life. His first novel, The Gods First Make Mad was rejected and he was forced to resume working as a tax accountant. But the urge to write pinned him again and in 1964, Wilbur published his first successful novel, When the Lion Feeds. The story is a blend of African history, perspectives of white and black people, hate, love, hunting, gold mining and women. Smith decided to become a full time writer when the book was offered a film deal Wilbur accepted.

After the publication of his first novel, Smith married once again and had another child. This marriage too ended in a divorce. In 1971, Smith married for a third time, his new wife, Danielle Thomas was a divorcee who had been born in the same town as Smith. She was his fan who had read all his books. Smith dedicated all his books to her until her death after a 6 year illness of cancer in 1999. Smith’s fourth marriage took place in May 2000. He met his fourth wife, Mokhiniso Rakhimova, a Tadjik girl in a bookstore in London. Mokhiniso, a law graduate was 39 years his junior.

An author to over 30 novels, Wilbur Smith continues to write best selling novels. He currently resides in London. He was presented the Inaugural Sport Shooting Ambassador Award by the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities in 2002.