How to Tell If You’re in a Wilbur Smith Novel

You have made a fortune and lost a fortune, not necessarily in that order

You aren’t racist. Definitely not. In fact, you have a close friend who is a noble son of a local tribe. He is tall and noble, with absolutely no sex drive. His profile is very noble, and despite knowing a lot more than you about the terrain, your mission and the local wildlife, he is always happy to do what you say.

You have been given a name in the local language that means something like ‘lion who strikes with a closed fist’ or ‘falcon who is right about everything’.

You frequently marry women who die shortly afterwards.

You frequently sleep with women who are probably working for, or related to, your enemies. They die too, as a result of their own lasciviousness and treachery.

Your brother has dedicated his adult life to thwarting your plans as a result of bitter childhood rivalry and something that happened on a hunting trip. You both have two sons, and name them after yourself and another member of your close family. They all grow to hate each other as well.

You once had to shoot your best friend as a result of an attack by a rabid hyena.

You were named after your father’s uncle, the black sheep of the family. You meet him over a game of cards and suspect he may not have your best interests at heart. But the business venture he proposes is certainly intriguing.

You left the trappings of civilisation to trek through the jungle, and managed to grow an impressive beard by the end of the first day.

The African sun has burned a deep vee onto your chest and touched the hair to gold. You often grip a cheroot between square, white teeth and grin lazily.

All the women you have ever met are either virginal, boyish and lovely, or scheming, large-breasted and lovely. This applies equally to the woman who marries your childhood friend, the Governor of Johannesburg’s daughter and your own mother.

You shoot a large animal then feel both melancholy and aroused.

You have learned never to trust a guide, emissary or First Mate who is either very overweight or has an arresting facial disfigurement.

You don’t have a problem with gay people, per se. It’s just that you feel an instinctive dislike of that arch, pampered ambassador with the long nails and heavily-perfumed hair, who won’t stop lounging around on silk cushions and looking meaningfully at his manservants. Your dislike is later justified when it turns out he is plotting against you with the help of the Dutch East India Company, and he dies in a manner that is both humiliating and symbolic.

You are straightforward and manly, with normal sexual desires. Your sworn enemy’s tastes are far more recherché, and seem to be described in a lot more detail.

Physical weakness and moral deficiency seem to correlate. Does the one cause the other? Who cares! Neither trouble you.

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