Wilbur Smith Biography: From Accountant to Full Time Writer

Wilbur Smith Biography, from a chartered accountant to a prominent author with over 130 million copies sold globally.

Wilbur Smith biography
Wilbur Smith biography

The man Wilbur Smith was a popular novelist in the genre of historical fiction thrillers. He wrote many novels that became bestsellers globally. Readers like him for his wealth in articulating fiction in a gripping and thrilling art form.

Wilbur Addison Smith was born in 1933 in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in Kabwe, the capital of Zambia’s central province.

Wilbur Smith survived cerebral malaria as a baby after a ten-day battle. Born of a farmer, he grew up at a ranch, mixing and mingling with the black farm workers.

His historical fictional novels, such as Storm Tide, are set in Southern Africa. They detail Africa’s relations with the international community. Therefore, his thrillers resonate well with both the black and white audience.

Smith had a passion in journalism as he grew up, with a special interest in South Africa’s social conditions.

But then his father advised him to take what he referred to a “real job”.  So, he had to settle for an accounting profession and became a chartered accountant.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce at the Rhodes University in South Africa.

Writing Career: Wilbur Smith Biography

In 1964, he wrote his debut novel: When the Lion which had its focus on the Courtney family. The family feature prominently in later a series of books, to follow their political and social influence through generations. A series of 17 historical fictional novels follow the Courtney dynasty.

When his debut novel got him a film contract, it gave him motivation to become a full-time writer.

He began with an emphasis on the social and political life in in southern African in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Wilbur Smith wrote many thrilling novels that got world-wide reputation.

Several of his thriller novels were made into films

He died at his Cape Town home at the age of 88, after a morning of reading and writing.

His writing style became such a global brand to the extent that publishers Harper Collins approached him with a deal. He entered a 15million-pounds deal that saw him work with co-authors.

In 2009, Smith had hinted on the effect of age on his rate of production of books which stood at one book in two years. Harper Collin’s deal made sure the Wilbur Smith brand production rate stayed high. They had to involve co-authors to help with donkey work.

History of Publishing Companies: Wilbur Smith Biography

Smith published with Mac Millan for forty-five years, before signing with Harper Collins in 2012, and later moved to Bornifer Zafier in 2017.

Some fascinating Facts About Wilbur Smith

  1. Wilbur Smith survived cerebral malaria as a baby. Doctors told his parents that he was better off dead as he would be brain damaged if he survived.
  2. Smith had polio as a teenager, which left him with a weak right leg but without many problems until late in life.
  3. He was married four times, two divorces and one wife died, before he married his last wife in 2000. He says of his first wife “”We got on well in the bedroom but not outside it”.
  4. His childhood mates were the sons of the ranch workers, small black boys who had similar interests and thinking as himself.
  5. He glorified his farmer, a man who worked with his hands mostly. His father was a ranch owner, a boxer and a strict disciplinarian.
  6. The name of his dynasty character family “Courtney” was derived from his grandfather – Courtney James Smith.
  7. As a teenager, he became a secret reader because his father felt that he was too obsession with books.
  8. He wrote his first story “On Flinder’s Face” under the pen name Steven Lawrence
  9. Wilbur Smith does not write for publishers, but rather for himself without thinking of who is going to read his book.
  10. As a teenager, he got lost in the bush for two days after taking his father’s Willy’s jeep for an adventure his without permission.

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