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BEST-SELLING novelist Wilbur Smith has signed a £15million agreement to produce six more books.
And the twist in the tale is that he doesn’t even have to write them himself.
The 79-year-old author, whose books have sold more than 122million copies since 1964, has promised to produce up to two titles a year for three years with the help of ‘carefully selected co-authors’.
Smith will reportedly sketch plot outlines and characters, leaving his appointed writers to flesh the skeletons out into full books.
The new arrangement means his output of novels will dramatically rise, delighting his fans and adding to his fortune, already estimated at £100million-plus.
But it will dismay literary purists – and appears to have been too much of a step for his previous publishers of 45 years, Pan Macmillan, whom he has just left to join HarperCollins.
The Sunday Times suggested yesterday that a key figure in advocating the new scheme was Smith’s fourth wife, Tajikistan-born Mokhiniso Rakhimova, who is 39 years his junior.
Smith’s first hint at his plans to take more of a back seat in the novel writing process came last month, when he said on his website: ‘I have plenty more books in my head clamouring to be written.’
Now HarperCollins has announced that it is to publish six Wilbur Smith books – the first being a sequel to his 1993 novel River God, set in ancient Egypt, and due to come out for Christmas 2014, marking his half century as an author. Smith said: ‘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.
‘For them, I am willing to make a change to my working methods so the stories in my head can reach the page more frequently.’
Smith married for the fourth time in 2000, five months after the death of his third wife. He had spotted ‘Niso’, as the former Miss Rakhimova is known, in London, and decided to approach her.
Fortuitously, she seems to have found the multi-millionaire instantly attractive. Smith recalled: ‘I saw this nubile little Asian thing going down Sloane Street and I joined her in the bookstore.’
A lunch invitation was soon followed by a successful proposal of marriage. The Zambia-born author has said: ‘With Mokhiniso beside me I look forward eagerly to each day. She has banished loneliness. She is the perfect lover and companion.’
Smith is not the only blockbuster writer to share the creative load with others. Thriller writer Tom Clancy has used a stable of co-authors to help produce some of his best-sellers, as have James Patterson and Clive Cussler. - Daily Mail