Wilbur A. Smith Biography

(Zambian-born British-South African novelist Who Specialised in Historical Fiction )

Birthday: January 9, 1933 (Capricorn)

Born In: Kabwe, Zambia

With historical fiction about international involvement in Southern Africa across four centuries as his forte, Wilbur A. Smith was an illustrious Zambian-born British-South African novelist. Although he was an accountant by training, his first novel, 'When the Lion Feeds', earned him a film contract. This motivated him to take up writing. The three long chronicles that he wrote about the South African experience became best-sellers, thus cementing his place as a writer. He was advised by his publisher Charles Pick to write about what he knew best. His works largely include his experiences, mining way of life, romance, conflicts and authentic detail of local hunting. He wrote about adventure and nature at large. He had published 49 books and had sold more than 140 million copies by the time of his death in 2021.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: Wilbur Addison Smith, Wilbur Smith

Died At Age: 88


Spouse/Ex-: Anne Smith, Danielle Antoinette Thomas, Jewell Sabbert, Mokhiniso Smith

father: Elfreda Smith

mother: Herbert James Smith

children: Christian Smith, Dieter Schmidt, Kawrence Smith, Shaun Smith

Born Country: Zambia

Novelists British Men

Died on: November 13, 2021

place of death: Cape Town, South Africa

Notable Alumni: Michaelhouse, Rhodes University

More Facts

education: Rhodes University, Michaelhouse

Childhood & Early Life

Wilbur A. Smith was born on January 9, 1933, in Kabwe, Zambia. While still an infant, he suffered from cerebral malaria and was diagnosed by doctors as doomed to live a life of brain damage if he survived at all. However, he survived the illness and went on to live an extraordinary life.

His father owned a cattle ranch and his mother was an avid book lover. She encouraged his love for literature, while his father did not approve of his pursuit of writing. He attended ‘Cordwalles Preparatory School’ in Natal, South Africa.

He next attended ‘St. Michael’s Academy for Young Gentlemen’. During his time there, the school showed little interest in literary pursuits. He started writing a column in the school newspaper and his column became popular and was circulated all the way to St. Annes and Wykham Collegiate.

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After graduating from ‘Rhodes University’ in Grahamstown, South Africa, he wanted to become a journalist. However, his father advised him to get a real job. Smith followed his father’s advice and became a chartered accountant.

In 1964, he published ‘When the Lion Feeds’, his first successful novel.

During the 1960s, he published ‘The Dark of the Sun,’‘The Sound of Thunder,’ and ‘Shout at the Devil’. His novel ‘The Dark of the Sun’ was adapted into a film titled ‘The Mercenaries’.

His novels ‘Gold Mine’ and ‘The Diamond Hunters’ were adapted into the movies ‘Gold’ and ‘The Kingfisher Caper’ respectively. His adventure novel 'Wild Justice' became the first best seller in the USA.

In the 1980s, Wilbur A. Smith published eight more successful novels, inlcuding ‘Men of Men’,‘Power of the Sword’ and ‘Rage’.

In 2001, his writing inspired the TV miniseries ‘The Diamond Hunters.’

From 2000 to 2015, he continued to impress his fans with works like ‘Warlock', 'Blue Horizon', 'The Triumph of the Sun', 'The Quest', 'Assegai', 'Those in Peril', 'Vicious Circle' and 'Desert God'.

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Major Works

In 1964, he published his first novel, ‘When the Lion Feeds’, which earned him his first film contract. His other major works include 'Shout at the Devil,' 'Eagle in the Sky,' 'The Dark of the Sun,' and 'The Sunbird.'

Awards & Achievements

Wilbur A. Smith earned the 'Inaugural Sport Shooting Ambassador Award' in 2022.

Personal Life, Legacy & Death

Wilbur A. Smith married Anne Rennie on 5 July 1957. They had two children together. They divorced in 1962.

He married Jewell Slabbart in 1964. They had a son. However, they later parted ways.

In 1971, he married Danielle Thomas. She died in 1999, from brain cancer.

Wilbur A. Smith married Mokhiniso Rakhimova in May 2000. 

He married Mokhiniso Rakhimova in May 2000. 

This prolific author sold more than 140 million copies across the globe by the time of his death in 2021. His books have inspired a number of films, mini TV series, and screenplays.

Wilbur A. Smith died on November 13, 2021, at the age of 88, at his Cape Town home. 


During an interview in 2011, the reporter questioned whether Wilbur was still writing. His response was, ‘I’m still breathing, aren’t I?’

See the events in life of Wilbur A. Smith in Chronological Order

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