The international bestselling author Wilbur Smith died unexpectedly on Saturday afternoon at the age of 88, his publicist said.
“We are sorry to announce that the beloved, global bestselling author Wilbur Smith passed away unexpectedly this afternoon at his Cape Town home, with his wife Niso by his side,” wrote Smith’s office on Twitter.
“We are so grateful to his millions of fans across the world who cherished his incredible writing and joined us all on his amazing adventures,” the office said.
A statement shared on his official website said that “Wilbur Smith was an icon, larger than life, beloved by his fans who collected his books in hardbacks and passed his work down through generations, fathers to sons and mothers to daughters.”
The 88-year-old South African novelist published 49 books in his long career and sold more than 140 million copies worldwide.
Known for his adventure writing, Smith’s stories spanned historical landmarks in Africa like the dawn of colonial Africa and the apartheid era in South Africa.
His debut novel When the Lion Feeds in 1964 was inspired by his own experience of running wild on his father’s ranch where he grew up in the tough life of cattle farming, his website obituary reads. Smith’s other bestsellers include The River God and The Triumph of the Sun.
Zambian-born Smith’s life was as eventful as his work, as he travelled the world seeking inspiration and entered four marriages through the course of his life.
“Another marriage producing a son failed, and then he met young divorcee Danielle Thomas whom he married in 1971 until she died from brain cancer in 1999, following a six-year illness,” the obituary reads.
“It wasn’t until he met his fourth wife, Mokhiniso Rakhimova from Tajikistan, in a bookshop near Sloane Square in London, that Wilbur found true happiness and peace of mind. They married in May 2000.”
In his 2018 memoir On Leopard Rock, Smith had written about the course of his life and that he wants to be “remembered as somebody who gave pleasure to millions”.
‘I’ve had tough times, bad marriages, people I loved dearly dying in my arms, burnt the midnight oil getting nowhere, but it has, all in the end, added up to a phenomenally fulfilled and wonderful life,” the memoir by Smith reads.
His literary agent Kevin Conroy Scott described him as “an icon, larger than life, beloved by his fans who collected his books in hardbacks and passed his work down through generations, fathers to sons and mothers to daughters”.
Smith is survived by his wife Mokhiniso Rakhimova and his four children.