South African Wilbur Smith, master of the adventure novel, dies

South African bestselling author Wilbur Smith, a master of adventure novels, some based on his own life, died Saturday at age 88, his office said.

Success came in 1964 with the publication of his first novel, “When the lions eat,” the story of a young man growing up on a cattle farm in South Africa.

From there he developed the Courtney family saga over many volumes, following it for three centuries, from colonial Africa to apartheid, making it “the longest in publishing history,” according to its publisher.

Wilbur Smith said that the core of his work was “African history.”

“I have written about blacks and whites. I wrote about hunting, gold mines, parties and women,” said the best-selling author in his autobiography posted on his official website.

His second great family saga, after the Courtneys, is that of the Ballantyne family, which begins with “Fly the Falcon.”

From the first Dutch settlers to apartheid and decolonization, he tells the story of South Africa and Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia), where he himself was born to British parents in 1933.

In the early 1990s, he started an Egyptian series with titles such as “Sacred River” or “The Seventh Papyrus” and “Children of the Nile”.

In his 50-year career, Wilbur Smith wrote 49 novels translated into some thirty languages, of which about 140 million copies have been sold, according to his publisher.