The adventurous autobiography of one of the world’s most prolific and popular novelists.
South African novelist Smith (The Tiger’s Prey, 2017, etc.) has sold more than 120 million copies of his books, primarily adventure novels charged with family drama. Some of his work has been shadowed by accusations of racism and misogyny, charges the author seems to simultaneously deny and own up to in this otherwise breezy autobiography. In this chronicle of his life’s exploits, he narrates with the swagger of his heroes Hemingway and H. Rider Haggard. The book is replete with tales of hunting, flying, fishing, and near-death experiences like drinking with Lee Marvin, a star of the 1976 adaptation of Shout at the Devil (1968). The narrative is structured thematically with chapters like “This Hero’s Life,” “The High-Flying Life,” and so on, interlaced with anecdotes about his research and writing process. Smith’s depictions of the realities of apartheid-era Africa can be compelling, but his determined machismo sometimes sours the overall account. “I think one of the worst inventions of our century is political correctness,” writes the author. “It has forced a generation of men to keep their masculinity under wraps, made them too timid to admit their true views about the world.” Worse is his cantankerous scorn of the young: “We are spoiling whole generations of people now. You don’t have to work, you can claim benefits; if you want to write obscenities on the walls and go on the soccer field and swear your head off, you’re a hero.” Fans will appreciate the origins and inspirations of his popular characters, and Smith retains a mischievous sense of humor, but it’s a surprisingly unexciting memoir sporadically laced with notions best left behind.
A good read for his fans; a relic from another age for the rest of us.