Prolific adventure novelist Wilbur Smith was born 9 January 1933 in Broken Hill, Northern Rhodesia now Kabwe, Zambia. As a child he ranged through the bush, hiking, hunting, and trapping birds and small mammals. His mother read to him every night and later gave him novels of escape and excitement, which piqued his interest in fiction. He went to boarding school at Cordwalles Preparatory School in Natal (now Kwa-Zulu Natal). While in Natal he continued to be an avid reader and would discuss the books he had read with his English master, who encouraged his reading. Next he went to Michaelhouse (St Michael’s academy for young gentlemen) situated on the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains.
After he left Michaelhouse He became a journalist, writing about social conditions in South Africa, then worked as a Chartered Accountant for a while before turning back to fiction. He sold his first story to ‘Argosy’ magazine & then wrote his first novel, ‘The Gods First Make Mad’.His next novel, When the Lion Feeds, was published in 1964, and tells the story of Sean Courtney and his twin brother Garry as they grow up on an African cattle ranch. The story weaves in facts about Smith’s own father and mother. He added in some early African history and included the perspective of black people and white. He wrote about hunting, gold mining, carousing, women, love, sex, and hate. The book gained a film deal and its success encouraged Smith to become a full-time writer.
His writings include 16th and 17th century tales about the founding of the southern territories of Africa and the subsequent adventures and international intrigues relevant to these settlements. His books often fall into one of three series. These works of fiction draw on history and help to explain the rise and historical influence of the Dutch and British settlers in southern Africa that eventually claimed this diamond and gold rich and disputed territory as home. Smith currently has over 30 novels published and now lives in London, but states that Africa is his major inspiration and avows an abiding concern for the peoples and wildlife of his native continent.