My friend is gone…

My favourite author is dead. As I’m writing this, I am crying for a man that was not part of my life but he has been woven into my life for decades. I met him once. I have his autograph. He was coming to my favourite bookstore for a signing and the owners knew how much I cared about him, about his books. So, they made arrangements for me to meet him first. He looked tired. But he also looked me straight in the eye when I told him how much his books had meant to me and said that we were friends already. I never forgot that. I also didn’t wash my hand for a while. Silly girl.

Thirty some odd years ago I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have anything new to read. My mother handed me a Readers Digest collection of stories. They were abridged books. I read one by an author I had never heard of and was hooked. I promptly went out and bought the full version. That was the beginning of a relationship with an individual on the other side of the world. I have spent more time in his presence than any other man (except my father).

I am a reader. Sometimes voraciously so. At my peak I was averaging two and three books a week. I did that for years. So, when I find an author that I like that has many books to his name I will splurge, I will binge and I will be in seventh Heaven. That began my romance with Wilbur Smith. He did not know my name or anything about me but my relationship with him was, in many ways, incredibly intimate.  I would take his books to bed and read for hours. I would park myself on a chair on my balcony and immerse myself in the fields of Africa listening to Lions cough and elephants roar.  It was breathtaking. And I can visit anytime I want by simply opening the pages of one of his books.

His stories have taken me to Diamond fields and Gold mines, he showed me cattle grazing on the open pastures and the animals that stalk them. I met people who were larger than life and as flawed as I am.  He wove his stories into the fabric of the country and it all sounded so incredibly real. It was real for as long as I was reading it and probably for a short time afterwards.  I feel that I have been to South Africa and have met the people that live there, of all walks of life. He did that. And he did that for millions of people all over the world. Our relationship was not exclusive, nor should it have been.  Rest in peace my friend. You will live forever between the covers of your books.

 

Wilbur Smith,   9 January 1933 – 13 November 2021

47 thoughts on “My friend is gone…

  1. Darlene

    He was a well respected and loved writer, as proven by your wonderful tribute. I feel the same about a few writers. One that comes to mind is Alexander McCall Smith who writes the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. When an author transports us to another world, it is amazing.

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  2. Murphy’s Law

    What a lovely tribute to your favorite author/friend. It’s clear how much you admired him and his writing. I hope you take some comfort knowing his books are always right there with you.

    I confess I haven’t heard of him, but I am going to check out one of his books from my library. Your description of his stories has peaked my interest.
    Ginger

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  3. beth

    I really understand this pam, and it is quite a loss when we are connected to someone in such a meaningful way. I felt this way about author pat conroy, and meant to write him a letter to tell him how much his books meant to me, but he passed away before I wrote it and I regret that.

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  4. cjparsons

    Thank you for sharing this story. My author was Essie Summers. We exchanged letters and I fell in love with New Zealand through her stories. You are the kind of reader authors live for and I am so happy you had a chance to share your experience with Mr. Smith. It’s what keeps us telling stories.

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  5. Tony Payne

    Oh no, how sad, especially if you have read so many of his books over so many years.
    I read a couple of Wilbur Smith books last year, inherited them from my cousin and I read a lot of books last year during lockdown. I’m currently halfway through Desert God as well.
    I really like his writing style, 88 isn’t a bad age I suppose, but still too soon.

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  6. Dale

    What a lovely tribute, Pam. You have now inspired me to want to read him.
    My author was Maeve Binchy. There are still a few of hers that I have not read and it’s like I’m delaying her passing by delaying to read them. Silly, I know.

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  7. joylennick

    Hi Pamela, What a heart-warming piece you wrote about Wilbur Smith, a writer you obviously admired. Sad to say I have only read one of his books. I have felt an affinity with a few writers. I loved John Steinbeck’s books and style of writing. I bet Wilbur would have felt great pleasure at reading YOUR words, for all writers, surely aim to please! R.I.P.

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  8. Dan Antion

    This is a very nice tribute, Pam. It’s sad when we lose someone who has meant so much to us fo such a long time. Some of my favorite authors are gone, an I am sad that I will never read anything new written by them. I am sorry for your loss.

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  9. K.L. Hale

    Pam, I feel your pain in this loss; I’m sorry. I regret that I have not heard of him. Reading about his impact on your life in the last 30 years is heartwarming. You have honored him and I wish to read his work-his gift. What a legacy he has left for you and his readers. I’ve dreamt of Africa my entire life. Thank you for sharing your precious friend with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. Léa

    I’m sorry for your loss. Alas, I must disagree. He was a part of your life in a way that some don’t comprehend as a real relationship. He had an effect on your thoughts, that is very personal and the hardest part of love is letting go. He has left you the gift of his writing so he can always be nearby.

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