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Wilbur Smith Best Selling Author Retiring?

Updated on June 12, 2015

The Young Wilbur Smith

Born in Rhodesia in 1933, Wilbur Addison Smith was the son of a metal worker who bought his own cattle farm, a tough man who worked with is hands and never read books.

Wilbur was very sick when he was little and had cerebral malaria but made a full recovery. He spent a lot of time on the farm and hunted, went fishing, hiking and on adventures with the sons of the labourers on his fathers farm. Smith's mother used to read to him every night and gave him books of adventure and escape which inspired him to have an interest in fiction.

His father did not want him to become a writer but at boarding school in Kwazulu Natal, Smith had an English master who encouraged him to read, form characters and write. He loved writing and escaping with different characters from the stories which encouraged and influenced him to write.

During his time at Michaelhouse, also a boarding school in Kwazulu Natal, he did not fit in with the other students as he felt that he did not have the same interests or goals but he did start the school newspaper and his column became famous among other schools too.

A young Wilbur Smith

The Author, Wilbur Smith and his first published novel, "When the Lions Feed"
The Author, Wilbur Smith and his first published novel, "When the Lions Feed"

Inland Revenue to Action Writer

In 1954, Wilbur became a qualified accountant and graduated with a Bachelor of commerce degree from Rhodes University. He began to work for the Inland revenue service as his father suggested he find a real job, instead of becoming a writer.

During this time he attempted to write a novel but it was rejected and he then returned to working for the Salisbury Inland Revenue Service but was not satisfied with his career choice and felt delighted when one of his stories was sold to a magazine for 70 pounds which was twice his salary.

His first successful novel was written whilst working for the Revenue Service and it became a success with a movie deal in place too. The book, "When the Lion's Feed" was published in 1964 and this encouraged Smith to become a full time writer.

Wilbur Smith Book List - Courtney Series

When the Lion Feeds
The Sound of Thunder
A Sparrow Falls
The Burning Shore
Power of the Sword
A Time to Die
Golden Fox
Birds of Prey
The Triumph of the Sun

Ballantyne Book Series Wilbur Smith

A Falcon Flies
Men of Men
The Angels Weep
The Leopard Hunts in Darkness

Publication of Egyptian Series - Wilbur Smith

River God
The Seventh Scroll
The Quest
Desert God

Hector Cross Books and Standalone Novels

Those in Peril
Vicious Circle
The Dark of the Sun
Shout at the Devil
Gold Mine
The Diamond Hunters
The Sunbird
Eagle in the Sky
The Eye of the Tiger
Cry Wolf
Hungry as the Sea
Wild Justice
Elephant Song

Wilbur Smith Early Years

Wilbur Smith a successful author
Wilbur Smith a successful author
Wilbur Smith and 4th wife Mokhiniso
Wilbur Smith and 4th wife Mokhiniso

Wilbur Smith, Love, Family and Money

Wilbur had success after success with his writing and the character in his first book was a tribute to his grandfather.

He was married at an early age and had two children, but the marriage ended badly and Wilbur was divorced by the age of 24, leaving him penniless after alimony payments.

Smith remarried after publishing his first successful novel and had one child in the marriage, which also ended in divorce.

After the union broke down he then met a divorcee who had been born in the same town as Wilbur and she had read all of his books, which by now was over 20 novels. They married in 1971 and all of his books were dedicated to her, "Danielle Thomas" until she died of brain cancer which she had been suffering with for six years.

Whilst married to Danielle, Smith cut off from his children from both marriages and became close to Danielle's son from a previous marriage. He adopted him and was later in a court battle with a dispute over assets, which then left them estranged. Wilbur reconciled with one of his sons from his first marriage.

In 2002 he married a Tadjik girl who was 39 years his junior and she had just received her law degree from Moscow University. Mokhiniso Rakhimova became his wife and they have been together ever since.

Wilbur has homes in London, Cape Town ,Malta and Switzerland and has said that he can be the most giving person but if he is let down then he will cut you off, without hesitation.

Wilbur Smith and his 15 Million Pound Deal towards Retirement

Wilbur Smith's books have made it to the movie world 7 times and his novels had three different series; THE Ancient Egypt Series, The Ballantyne Series and the Courtney Series which have been followed by millions of readers all over the world.

In 2012, Smith signed a deal with Harper- Collins for six novels which he would not have to write completely but oversee the writing for a fat sum of 15 million Pounds. He has assigned two writers who will work with him on the Taita Series but he says that he might continue to write them all on his own.

At the age of 81 he says that at some point he will have to slow down, considering he has had a heart valve replaced, which inspired him to stop writing.

As a writer he says that you can never stop and he will continue to do so until he cannot anymore.

Wilbur Smith and his two Kids from his first marriage
Wilbur Smith and his two Kids from his first marriage

Respect and Family

Wilbur says that his life is private and he recently sold part of an Island home in the Seychelles as this was their secluded space away from the public, whom he has tried to avoid. The press have gotten involved in his life a few too many times and he has said that you have to laugh it off with their comments.

As for family, he blames his estrangement on the writing but at the same time said that his family did not earn his respect and when people have wanted and wanted, focusing on the money, then that would be the time for him to run.

His daughter had a tabloid interview saying that her father neglected his kids and Wilbur brushed it off saying that the deepest hurt you can get is from your family.

Smith's first wife got tired of the long hours and the lack of money coming in which is why she chose to leave. His second wife was unfortunately ill and as he took a liking into her son, adopted him but had disputes over money after his wife's death.

His son from his first marriage reconnected with him but as a family man, estrangement and broken ties is what Wilbur Smith has to his heritage.

Books and writing are his life, always has been and always will be.

The Seventh Scroll Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith Filmography

The Youtube video shows part one of the Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith in his Egyptian series of books.

Many of them became movies or television series;

Diamond Hunters - series

The Seventh Scroll - mini series

Wild Justice - Screenplay

Mountain of Diamonds - Movie

Shout at the Devil - Screenplay

Kingfisher Caper - Movie

Gold - Movie

The Last Lion - Movie

The Mercenaries - Movie

Wilbur Smith 2014
Wilbur Smith 2014

Wilbur Smith Historical Writer

Described as the best Historical novelist by Stephen King, James Rollins said that, "Every book is an event, a cherished time to get lost in ancient worlds," Wilbur Smith's book sales have been able to speak for themselves.

Smith has sold over 125 million copies of his books worldwide and it has been translated into 26 different languages.

His success as a writer has lasted for half a century and he does not intend to give it up anytime soon, even though he has said that he is getting older and has commissioned two writers to help him continue, he will write most of his novels on his own and continue on with the Taita series.


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    • Tashaonthetown profile image

      Natasha Pelati 2 years ago from South Africa

      Sallybea I love his books and they are filled with adventure and familiar names which makes it fun to read.

      He does look a little familiar doesn't he

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Such an amazing writer. I grew up reading his books and buying them for gifts for people when living in South Africa. It is so nice to be reminded of some of the places he was schooled at as I have not given them much thought over the years.