May is ‘Get Caught Reading Month’ and in celebration I thought I would share four of the authors who hold a special place in my heart and my bookshelves, and who have inspired me to become a writer.
If you have a magnifying glass, you might just be able to pick out the titles of the books to the right in this picture.. The two top shelves of the book case contain my collection of Wilbur Smith books, the first ones going back as far as 1965 when I bought When the Lion Feeds... the first of the Courtney Saga. I have bought every one of them since.
You cannot read over thirty books by the same author without finding one or two that you don’t enjoy quite as much. I certainly find myself drawn to the historical novels in the Courtney, Ballantyne and Egyptian series rather than the modern novels but that is my preference. I still read and enjoyed them and certainly those that have been co-written offer a different element that works.
Those books on my shelves will now be joined by another Wilbur Smith title. On Leopard Rock which is the first memoir of this extraordinary author, and I cannot wait to read.
We had been living in Cape Town, South Africa for two years with my father who was serving in the Royal Navy. I attended a local school where I was introduced to Afrikaans, South African History and Geography. I was ten years old and had left my primary school in the last year. In South Africa at the time, you only moved on to secondary school at age 13, which was to result in me missing out on the first two years of the grammar school I was enrolled in when we returned back to the UK. They decided not to make me start in the first year but immediately moved me into the second year with girls my own age.
This put me at a disadvantage, as although my parents paid for me to be tutored in French, and I passed the 11+ in a special exam laid on for four of us by the navy. I was also behind in British History and Geography, and my English writing skills were also very rusty.
I went to school in Preston which was pleasant enough but it was also wet and very unlike the climate I had become used to in Cape Town. I was not happy and to be honest, I wanted to escape and the opportunity arrived when my father took out When the Lion Feeds from the library. I had seen him reading the book, and then put on the bottom of a pile of his four other books to be read stacked up beside his bed on the floor. I had about two weeks before he returned the books to read this African adventure and I devoured its contents every night with a torch under the bed covers.
I saved up my pocket money and when we returned to Portsmouth in 1967 and I started my part-time job along the seafront… I bought When the Lion Feeds and have purchased every book since then. Often in hardback to save waiting for the paperback to be released.
Over the last 50 years I have read each book several times… at least every decade and it is amazing what a different perspective you gain based on your own age and experience. Nuances that you missed the first time around as a teenager, certainly some of the adult content was way above my pay grade!
Wilbur Smith inspired to write my first short stories. I think that the major elements that I took away from his books, was to build characters that were memorable, and to craft stories that captured the imagination and left you wanting more. Still working on that!
The first book that I read was When the Lion Feeds.
About When the Lion Feeds
Brothers by birth. Enemies by blood.
Natal, 1860; the Courtney twins are born. Heirs to their father’s fortune, destiny divides the boys from the start – Garrick is eager to stay indoors with a book and escape the hardships of cattle-rearing, while Sean, strong and much-loved, wants to try his hand at everything.
When Garrick is forced to take ownership of their farm, Sean must explore the opportunities awaiting him: the rush and horrors of the Zulu Wars, the women who will fall for his charms, the rise and fall of gold fever and the deadly thrills of big game hunting on the African plains. But will Sean’s adventures really be his making – and at what ultimate cost . . .?
One of the books that stood out for me emotionally
About Eagle in the Sky
The Syrian plane disintegrated, evaporating in a gush of silvery smoke, rent through with bright white lightning, and the ejecting pilot’s body was blown clear of the fuselage. For an instant it was outlined ahead of David’s screen, cruciform in shape with arms and legs thrown wide, the helmet still on the head, and the clothing ballooning in the rush of air.’ He chose this life. And it may cost him everything.
From a young age it’s clear that David Morgan is ‘bird’-a natural pilot, most at home in the air. In the South African Air Force he receives plaudits beyond his years, and even his family begins to accept that David will do anything to stay away from the Morgan billion-dollar business, and to keep flying instead. Following his dream and in pursuit of Debra, a beautiful young Israeli writer, David soon joins the Israeli Defence Force and finds himself caught up in the country’s struggles. But when he pays a terrible price for his choices, will he be able to become the man he always hoped -or will he choose to disappear into the skies?
The first book in the epic Egyptian Series.
About River God
An ancient kingdom. An incredible destiny.
Taita is a humble slave; an expert in art, poetry, medicine and engineering, as well as keeping important secrets. He is the most treasured possession of Lord Intef. Yet when Intef’s beautiful daughter Lostris is married to the Pharaoh, Taita is commanded to follow her, and swiftly finds himself deeper than he ever could have imagined in a world of deception and treachery.
But outside the palace, the great kingdom of Egypt is divided, and in even greater danger. Enemies threaten on all sides, and only Taita holds the power to save them all . . .
A Courtney Series adventure – Book 3 in the Birds of Prey trilogy
Jim Courtney is protected by all the wealth and influence that his family’s successful business, the Courtney Brothers Trading Company, can provide in the Dutch-owned colonies of South Africa.
Louisa Leuven is an orphaned young woman who escaped the plague only to be unjustly imprisoned and transported to the Cape. When a storm destroys her prison ship, Jim is her only hope of escape.
But Louisa and Jim have greater adventures in the African wilds ahead of them: they must flee from Dutch forces who seek not only to recapture their prisoner, but also to hunt down and hang Jim Courtney – and punish the other member of the Courtney family, however they can…
You can find all the reviews and the books: https://www.amazon.com/Wilbur-Smith/e/B000APTHYK
And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wilbur-Smith/e/B000APTHYK
And to find the recommended order of the books to read by Wilbur Smith personally: http://www.wilbursmithbooks.com/books
And now the latest book from Wilbur Smith.. his memoir – On Leopard Rock.
About On Leopard Rock
The first ever memoir from the Number One global bestselling adventure author
Wilbur Smith has lived an incredible life of adventure, and now he shares the extraordinary true stories that have inspired his fiction. I’ve been writing novels for over fifty years. I was lucky enough to miss the big wars and not get shot, but lucky enough to grow up among the heroes who had served in them and learn from their example. I have lucked into things continuously. I have done things which have seemed appalling at the time,disastrous even, but out of them have come another story or a deeper knowledge of human character and the ability to express myself better on paper, write books which people enjoy reading.
Along the way, I have lived a life that I could never have imagined. I have been privileged to meet people from all corners of the globe, I have been wherever my heart has desired and in the process my books have taken readers to many, many places. I always say I’ve started wars, I’ve burned down cities, and I’ve killed hundreds of thousands of people – but only in my imagination! From being attacked by lions to close encounters with deadly reef sharks, from getting lost in the African bush without water to crawling the precarious tunnels of gold mines, from marlin fishing with Lee Marvin to near death from crash-landing a Cessna airplane, from brutal schooldays to redemption through writing and falling in love, Wilbur Smith tells us the intimate stories of his life that have been the raw material for his fiction. Always candid, sometimes hilarious, and never less than thrillingly entertaining, On Leopard Rock is testament to a writer whose life is as rich and eventful as his novels.
The hardcover is available in the US now… with other formats to follow this month. In the UK it looks like it will be 17th May for Kindle and Hardback with a paperback to follow in October.
Buy the book in hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/Leopard-Rock-Life-Adventures/dp/1499861249
And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leopard-Rock-Life-Adventures/dp/1499861249
About Wilbur Smith
Wilbur Smith was born in Central Africa in 1933. He was educated at Michaelhouse and Rhodes University. After the successful publication of WHEN THE LION FEEDS in 1964 he became a full-time writer, and has since written 30 novels, all meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His books have been translated into twenty-six different languages
To find out more about Wilbur Smith and his books: http://www.wilbursmithbooks.com/
I am about to read all his books again in my 66th year and I am looking forward to revisiting all friends, finding new perspectives and enjoying the adventures all over again.
I hope that if you have not already experienced the adventures of The Courtneys, The Ballantynes, The Egyptian Series, and stand alone thrillers, you will do so now.