Wilbur Smith is a South African novelist specialising in historical fiction about the international involvement in Southern Africa across three centuries, seen from the viewpoints of both black and white families.
An accountant by training, he gained a film contract with his first published novel When the Lion Feeds. This encouraged him to become a full-time writer, and he developed three long chronicles of the South African experience which all became best-sellers. He still acknowledges his publisher Charles Pick’s advice to “write about what you know best”, and his work takes in much authentic detail of the local hunting and mining way of life, along with the romance and conflict that goes with it. As of 2014 his 35 published novels had sold more than 120 million copies, 24 million of them in Italy.
1. Pauline Gedge
Pauline Gedge is a Canadian novelist best known for her historical fiction trilogies, Lords of the Two Lands and The King’s Men. She also writes science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her 13 novels have sold more than six million copies in 18 languages.
She studied at the University of Manitoba and at a teachers’ college in New Zealand. Gedge wrote unpublished poetry for years. She tried to write contemporary mainstream fiction in the early 1970s and then gave up, turning to ancient Egypt for inspiration. She based her first published novel, Child of the Morning, on the historical figure of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s only female pharaoh. She wrote the novel in six weeks and went on to win the Alberta Search-for-a-New Novelist Competition in 1977.
The Eagle and the Raven received the Jean Boujassy award from the Société des Gens de Lettres in France and The Twelfth Transforming won the Writers Guild of Alberta Best Novel of the Year Award. She has also written in other genres. Stargate is science fiction, The Covenant is contemporary horror fiction, and Scroll of Saqqara incorporates some fantasy elements.
Gedge’s ex-husband, Bernie Ramanauskas, provided the historical research for many of her novels. Gedge has two sons, Simon and Roger.
David Ball has been to 60 countries on six continents. He has lived and worked in various parts of Africa. In the course of researching his novel Empires of Sand, he crossed the Sahara desert four times, and got lost there only once. Research trips for other novels have taken him to China, Istanbul, Algeria, and Malta – a little island where so far he hasn’t gotten lost at all.
A former pilot, sarcophagus maker, and businessman, David has driven a taxi in New York City and built a road in West Africa. He installed telecommunications equipment in Cameroun and explored the Andes in a Volkswagen bus. He has renovated old Victorian houses in Denver and pumped gasoline in the Grand Tetons.
He has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and enjoys skiing, fishing, running (some have described it as more like hobbling), baseball, and opera.
His novels include Empires of Sand, China Run, and Ironfire. A short story, The Scroll, appears in the anthology Warriors, another, Provenance in the anthology Rogues.
David lives with his wife, Melinda, and their children, Ben and Li, in a house they built in the Rocky Mountains.
James Clavell born Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell, was an Australian-born British (later naturalized American) novelist, screenwriter, director, and World War II veteran and prisoner of war. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape (1963) and To Sir, with Love (1967).
Clavell’s first novel, King Rat (1962), was a semi-fictional account of his prison experiences at Changi. When the book was published it became an immediate best-seller, and three years later it was adapted for film. His next novel, Tai-Pan (1966), was a fictional account of Jardine-Matheson’s rise to prominence in Hong Kong, as told via the character who was to become Clavell’s heroic archetype, Dirk Struan. Struan’s descendants would inhabit almost all of his forthcoming books. Tai-Pan was adapted as a film in 1986.
Clavell’s third novel, Shōgun (1975), is set in 17th century Japan and relates the story of an English navigator, based on that of William Adams. When the story was made into a TV series in 1980, produced by Clavell, it became the second highest rated mini-series in history with an audience of over 120 million.
Clavell’s fourth novel, Noble House (1981), became a number one best-seller that year and was made into a 1988 miniseries.
Christian Jacq is a French author and Egyptologist. He has written several novels about ancient Egypt, notably a five book suite about pharaoh Ramses II, a character whom Jacq admires greatly.
Jacq has a doctorate in Egyptian Studies from the Sorbonne. He and his wife later founded the Ramses Institute, which is dedicated to creating a photographic description of Egypt for the preservation of endangered archaeological sites.
Between 1995 and 1997, he published his best-selling five book suite Ramsès, which is today published in over twenty-five countries. Each volume encompasses one aspect of Ramses’s known historical life, woven into a fictional tapestry of the ancient world for an epic tale of love, life and deceit.
Jacq’s series describes a vision of the life of the pharaoh: he has two vile power-hungry siblings, Shanaar, his decadent older brother, and Dolora, his corrupted older sister who married his teacher. In his marital life, he first has Isetnofret (Iset) as a mistress (second Great Wife), meets his true love Nefertari (first Great Wife) and after their deaths, gets married to Maetnefrure in his old age. Jacq gives Ramses only three biological children: Kha’emweset, Meritamen (she being the only child of Nefertari, the two others being from Iset) and Merneptah. The other “children” are only young officials trained for government and who are nicknamed “sons of the pharaoh”.
5. Simon Scarrow
Simon Scarrow is a UK-based author, born in Nigeria and now based in Norfolk. Simon completed a master’s degree at the University of East Anglia after working at the Inland Revenue, and then went into teaching as a lecturer, firstly at East Norfolk Sixth Form College, then at City College Norwich.
He is best known for his Eagle series of Roman military fiction set in the territories of the Roman Empire, covering the second invasion of Britain and the subsequent prolonged campaign undertaken by the rump of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. As of June 2016, there are 14 books in the series; the latest, Invictus, is due to be published in November 2016.
He has also written another series, Revolution, focusing on Wellington and Napoleon, whose first title, Young Bloods, was published in 2006. The second volume, The Generals, was released on 31 May 2007 and the third volume Fire and Sword was released in January 2009. The fourth and final novel of the series was released in Jun 2010 and is called The Fields of Death. He began publishing a new series in 2011 titled Gladiator.
6. André Brink
In the 1960s, he and Breyten Breytenbach were key figures in the Afrikaans literary movement known as Die Sestigers (“The Sixty-ers”). These writers sought to use Afrikaans as a language to speak against the apartheid government, and also to bring into Afrikaans literature the influence of contemporary English and French trends. His novel Kennis van die aand (1973) was the first Afrikaans book to be banned by the South African government.
Brink’s early novels were often concerned with the apartheid policy. His final works engaged new issues raised by life in postapartheid South Africa.
7. Conn Iggulden
Conn Iggulden is a British author who mainly writes historical fiction. He also co-authored The Dangerous Book for Boys. Born in 1971 to an English father and Irish mother (whose grandfather was a seanchaí), he attended St Martins School in Northwood before moving on to Merchant Taylors’ School. He studied English at the University of London, and went on to teach the subject for seven years, becoming head of the English department at Haydon School, where one of his students was Fearne Cotton. He eventually left teaching to write his first novel, The Gates of Rome. He is married, has four children and lives in Hertfordshire, England. In August 2014, Iggulden was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September’s referendum on that issue.
The author has written a fifth book in the series, Emperor: The Blood of Gods, which deals with the rise of Augustus and events after the end of The Gods of War. This book was published on 26 September 2013.
After completing the fourth book in the Emperor series, Iggulden began research for his next series of books, the Conqueror series, based on the life of Mongol warlords Genghis, Ogedai and Kublai Khan. His first book was available from 2007. Bones of the Hills, the third in the series, was released on 1 September 2008. In September 2010 Empire of Silver was released, which revolves around the life of Genghis Khan’s son, Ogedai. Whilst Iggulden had initially confirmed on his official website that he would be writing two more books after Empire of Silver on Kublai Khan, the author’s note at the end of Conqueror states that it would be the last in the series. Iggulden explains his desire to leave the character when he still had much left to accomplish, rather than tracing him through to his eventual downfall, as he did with Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan.
8. Robert Ruark
Robert Ruark was an American author, syndicated columnist, and big game hunter. Born Robert Chester Ruark, Jr., to Charlotte A. Ruark and Robert C. Ruark, a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocery, young Ruark grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. His brother, David, was adopted, and little is known about him. The Ruark family was deeply affected by the Depression, but still managed to send Robert to college. He graduated early from New Hanover High School, and enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at age 15. His studies included a few journalism classes but, contrary to popular belief, he did not earn a degree in journalism.
In the 1930s, Ruark was fired from an accounting job in the Works Progress Administration, and did a hitch in the United States Merchant Marine. He worked for two small town newspapers in North Carolina: the Hamlet News Messenger and, later, the Sanford Herald.
In 1936, Ruark moved to Washington, D.C., and was hired as a copy boy for The Washington Daily News, a Scripps-Howard newspaper. In just a few months he was the paper’s top sports reporter. During World War II, Ruark was commissioned an ensign in the United States Navy, and served ten months as a gunnery officer on Atlantic and Mediterranean convoys.