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Wilbur Smith excited to meet Indian readers

books Updated: Dec 03, 2011 08:48 IST

Megha Mahindru, Hindustan Times
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That Wilbur Smith’s latest book, Those In Peril, is set against the backdrop of The Indian Ocean has little to do with his five-city India tour. The author, who kick-starts promotions for the novel from Mumbai today, says his interest in the country has been a two-decade-old fixation.

“The first time I came to India was over 20 years ago. I’ve been to Mumbai five times since, but this is the first time I’m visiting the place as an author. So the excitement is different,” he says.

Born in Northern Rhodesia, Africa (now Zambia), the 78-year-old novelist, known for his larger-than-life protagonists and thrilling adventures in Africa, is not sure of the secret of his success worldwide.

“It’s not just African adventures. A lot of my work is also set in the 16th and 17th centuries. I feel we are all creations of history, so people are interested to read about it,” says the prolific writer.

His latest book, which is set in contemporary times, is a story of Somalian pirates that was inspired by an incident while he was in Seychelles. Ask him if he is deliberately surprising his readers by shifting from his Courtney series (made famous by his first novel, When the Lion Feeds (1964) and Egyptian series (like River God) considering each of his series appeals to a different set of readers, and he shoots back, “I don’t have a best-selling formula. If a book works, I cannot replicate it, else I would bore my readers. So I look for newer adventures which can be from the present era or even 6,000 years ago.”

With 33 bestsellers in his kitty, where does the grandmaster of action and adventure seek new escapades?

“I’m glad I was born in a fascinating continent, which is a treasure house of stories. My life was quite adventurous,” says Wilbur, who grew up on a cattle ranch, elaborating, “Hunting and game meat is a part of African life. A woman once told me that the Bible states that you can kill animals, only if you eat them. And I thought it was good advice. So, I’ve tried lion, leopard, crocodile and python meat… though I wouldn’t recommend lion.”

For now, the high point of his Indian adventure is meeting his fans. “I’ve been meeting fans for over 50 years now. But I’m most excited to meet my Indian readers. They are like the family I’ve never met.”