Park Engineering

 John Park, 32 the Loaning, Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, Strathclyde, Scotland, U.K. ML1 3HE

       mobile 0781 8618547

 "e" mail jpark8@btinternet.com (click on this to send me an "e" mail)
 
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Wilbur Smith my favourite story teller

On the publication of his 32nd novel Wilbur Smith described what it was like to finish writing a book. "You know that feeling when you finish a final exam. and you think, I never want to do that again" ? Well I have the same feeling when I finish a novel," he said. "Each time I say, I think I may retire now" and then after six months the Ideas start to Churn again. I could never stop"       Three years on the 79-year-old teller of ripping African yarns has found an original compromise. He can still have the Ideas and the publisher HarperCollins will pay him £15 million for the plot lines of six new novels. But he wont actuary have to write them. That task will fall on a team of co-authors who will put In the hard graft at the word processor.      "For the past few years my fans have made it very clear that they would like to read my novels and revisit my family of characters faster than I can write them", says Smith, who now has 33 published novels under his belt  with combined sales of 122 million. "For them all I am willing to make a change to my working methods so the stories can reach the page more frequently. It's exciting to think that the dynamic team at HarperCollins will enable my fans to enjoy the gems from my story vault for many years to come.       Born in what was then Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, Smith was brought up on his parents 250,000 acre ranch, where he grew up 'shooting for the pot'. He was given a rifle for his eight birthday, and shot his first lion at 14. Sent away to school in Johannesburg he was a lonely pupil, who read everything in the library. When a teacher asked the class to list every book they had read in the past month Smith's catalogue was so long that he was accused of lying. He was only believed when he proved he knew what happened in each book.            He wanted to be a journalist but his father said he would end up starving to death and told him to get a proper job so after university he became a tax accountant for the South African Government. His first novel, which was described as "a piece of rubbish" was turned down by everybody he sent it to.        At his second attempt he wrote for himself rather than the hope of publication and then concentrating on what he new. The story of two brothers brought up on an African cattle farm in the late 19th it was an adventure yarn that borrowed heavily on his own family history. London publisher William Heinemann paid him an advance of £2,000 - a huge sum for a first novel in 1964 - and he never looked back.     He has written ever since about hunting, gold mining, fighting, with a heavy dose of bonking, with readership evenly split between men and women. Two separate sagas-the Courtneys and the Ballantyne series - chronicles of white families in Africa over several centuries while a third is set in Egypt at the time of the Pharaohs. His work has made him a multi-millionaire, dividing his time between London and Cape Town plus a retreat in the Seychelles.    Asked by a fellow novelist during a radio interview on the BBC's Book Club if he minded being seen as heir to Victorian adventure H. Rider Haggard, author of She and King Solomon's Mines, he said he was flattered by the comparison.     "I read all of Rider Haggard's books" he said "For me he had the romance of Africa with a little bit of mysticism. I'm delighted to be looked upon as his heir and to be categorised as an adventure novelist because that's exactly what I am.     Four times married he parted on bad terms with his first two wives but had a strong third marriage to Danielle Thomas. They married in 1971 and remained together until she died of brain cancer 28 years later. Since 2000 he has been married to Mokhiniso Rakhimova, a lawyer 39 years his junior from the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan. She is a strong backer of the idea of employing co-writers, as is her husbands agent Kevin Conroy Scott. They took the proposal to Smith's previous publisher Pan McMillan, which did not share their enthusiasm for a scheme that could keep the Wilber Smith going as a literary franchise after his death. That lead to the novelist's defection to HarperCollins.      "Adventure and epic story-telling will never lose their appeal and it is a great privilege to welcome one of the world's masters to HarperCollins," says Victoria Barnsley, chief executive of the publishing giant. "Wilbur Smith is already a truly global brand and we are looking forward to continuing to delight his existing loyal readers".    World book club host Harriett Gilbert says the idea of paying him to write film-style "treatments" of his novels is a new departure.     "I'ts an extension what they already do when they find somebody to write a new book in the style of a dead author with a strong following like Ian Flemming," She says "But what they are doing here is asking Wilbur Smith to lay down some plots before he dies. I say good luck to him.     The point, she says, is that Smith is celebrated as a story teller rather than a s a stylist. "It's the plot that counts. That's why people buy and read Wilbur Smith. So if you get jobbing writers to write the prose in his style I don't see the harm in it. If they want to keep his books going I think this is a better way of doing it than have another writer invent a Wilbur Smith Plot.                                    

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