Wilbur Smith, whose multiple novels on South Africa won him international acclaim, died today at his Cape Town home. He was 88 and no cause of death was given on the author’s official website.
“Global bestselling author Wilbur Smith died unexpectedly this afternoon at his Cape Town home after a morning of reading and writing with his wife Niso by his side,” the statement said.
Born in Zambia in 1933, Smith suffered a bout with polio at age 16, but drew his character Garrick Courtney from that experience. He went on to write about the character in a series of 17 novels.
Smith wrote 49 adventure novels during his 50-year career, each climbing the best-seller lists. thanks to his gripping prose.
His 1964 debut novel, When the Lion Feeds, is considered his most famous work. Other well-known books include the first novel of his Ancient Egypt series, River God, and his 2018 memoir, On Leopard Rock.
Smith and his partner, Mokhiniso Rakhimova, founded The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation, which encourages readers to engage with adventure writing
“Wilbur Smith was an icon, larger than life, beloved by his fans who collected his books in hardbacks and passed his work down through generations, fathers to sons and mothers to daughters. His knowledge of Africa, and his imagination knew no limitations,” Smith’s literary agent, Kevin Conroy Scott, said.
“His work ethic and his powerful, elegant writing style made him known to millions. I cherish the role of working side by side with his wife Niso and the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation to keep the flame of his fictional universe alive for many years to come.”
Kate Parkin, from Smith’s publisher Bonnier Books UK, said: “It is with deep sadness that we mourn the death of our beloved author Wilbur Smith whose seemingly inexhaustible creative energy and passion for storytelling will long live on in the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. Wilbur never lost his appetite for writing and remained working every day of his life.”
She added, “He leaves behind him a treasure-trove of novels, as well as completed and yet to be published co-authored books and outlines for future stories.”