Wilbur Smith is branching into children’s books by telling the story of the youngest member of the Courtney family for a new series of middle grade novels.
Smith is teaming up with Christopher Wakling, a novelist and travel writer, to write the books, which are set in the modern day. The first novel, Cloudburst, is based in the Democratic Republic of Congo and tells the story of Jack, and his two friends Amelia and Xander. It will be published in paperback in 6th February next year by Bonnier's Piccadilly Press.
Piccadilly Press acquired world rights to three MG books from Smith’s literary agent Kevin Conroy Scott.
“My readers have been asking me what the Courtney family are up to in our turbulent times,” said Smith. “For me the best way to explore their legacy was to see how their teenage children are caught between those Courtneys trying to save Africa from ecological catastrophe and those trying to pick it clean for profit and personal enrichment.”
The Courtneys have featured in Smith’s novels for more than 50 years, first appearing in When the Lion Feeds in 1964.
Felicity Alexander, senior commissioning editor at Piccadilly Press, said: “Readers can expect a terrific cast of characters – both good and bad – peril and betrayal at every turn, and two young Courtneys at the centre of it all. We are thrilled to be working with Wilbur on this new strand of publishing – and to welcome talented co-author Christopher Wakling to Bonnier Books UK.”
Bonnier Books UK poached author Wilbur Smith from HarperCollins in an eight-figure sterling deal, described as "one of the biggest in publishing history" by the company at the time. The author has sold more than 130 million copies of his novels worldwide, and is currently published in 25 languages, the company said.