He may have been writing swashbuckling adventures for more than half a century but there’s life in the old lion yet as his new novel, Pharaoh, proudly proclaims it was “written solely by master storyteller Wilbur Smith”.
The international best-selling author – often claimed as a local due to studies at Rhodes University and a spell living in Port Elizabeth – will be back in South Africa next month to promote Pharaoh.
Set in the ancient world that ranges from the temples of Luxor to the Citadel of Sparta, Pharaoh is described as “an intense and powerful novel magnificently transporting you to a time of threat, blood and glory”.
So far, so Smith and certainly a lifetime away from when he worked as a chartered accountant on his father’s insistence that he “get a real job” rather than follow his early dream of becoming a journalist.
After failed attempts at getting his first book published, he became a full-time writer in 1964 after writing the blockbuster adventure yarn When the Lion Feeds, which was banned in South Africa for its portrayal of mixed-race relationships and blasphemy.
It was the first of 30 novels from his prolific pen and many of which went on to become whole series. Pharaoh, for example, is the third in Smith’s Egypt series, with Desert God and River God.
Smith’s novels have inspired movies, been translated into 26 languages and sold 120 million copies, making him rich and famous.