• France's news in English
 
French spy novelist De Villiers dies at 83
French spy thrillers writer and 'SAS' series book editor Gerard de Villiers poses in his home in 2007 in Paris. Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP

French spy novelist De Villiers dies at 83

Published: 01 Nov 2013 13:18 GMT+01:00

Prolific spy novelist Gerard De Villiers, the creator of the top-selling SAS series with a hero often described as France's answer to James Bond, has died aged 83 in Paris.

Friends and family said he had died on Thursday after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

Never a darling of the critics, De Villiers was nonetheless a publishing phenomenon, claiming his thrillers sold up to 150 million copies worldwide.

The 200th book in the series -- "SAS: The Kremlin's Revenge" -- was released last month.

Instantly recognizable by their lurid covers inevitably featuring a femme fatale brandishing a handgun or assault rifle, his work was shunned by France's literary establishment.

But outside literary circles, De Villiers was often praised for his geopolitical insights and was known for cultivating a vast network of intelligence officials, diplomats and journalists who fed him information.

In a profile early this year headlined "The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much", The New York Times said his books were "ahead of the news" and "regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere".

His death came as he seemed on the verge of realizing a long-cherished dream of breaking into the English-language market, with reports he was working on a deal with a major US publisher.

In an interview with newspaper Le Monde this summer, De Villiers said Random House had offered him $350,000 (260,000 euros) for the rights to five SAS books that would be translated into English. He said he hoped the deal would eventually lead to Hollywood films.

De Villiers gleaned much of his information from field trips around the world, giving credence to the exploits of his aristocratic Austrian hero, Malko Linge, who works as a freelance agent for the CIA to fund the restoration of his family chateau.

The books stuck to a well-trod formula -- fast-moving plots, exotic locales and generous doses of graphic sex.

"I never had any pretensions of being a literary writer," De Villiers told AFP in an interview this year. "I consider myself a storyteller who writes to amuse people."

He was also considered eerily prophetic, detailing a plot to kill the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat a year before his actual assassination in 1981 and describing a secret CIA command centre in the Libyan city of Benghazi in early 2012.

The true existence of the CIA site eventually came to light after an attack on US facilities in Benghazi in September 2012 that left four dead, including US ambassador Christopher Stevens.

His work was reportedly required reading in some intelligence circles and followed by spies far outside France.

"The (intelligence) services used SAS novels countless times to send messages to their counterparts," said De Villiers's longtime lawyer, Eric Morain.

Born in Paris on December 8, 1929, De Villiers was working as a journalist when he drew inspiration from the success of Ian Fleming's James Bond series to write his first novel, "SAS in Istanbul", in 1965.

He went on to publish an average of four SAS novels -- so-called after Linge's honorific "Son Altesse Serenissime" (His Most Serene Highness) -- every year, writing them over a month on an aged typewriter.

He was often lambasted for his right-wing views and his overtly sexual portrayals of women, and accused of racism.

But De Villiers was unapologetic.

"Some women are sexual objects in my books but others are beautiful, intelligent and brave. And I am always warmly welcomed in Africa, where I have very many readers," he said.

De Villiers's wife Christine said he had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer since May.

"The last weeks he was conscious but very weak. He could not endure the chemotherapy," she told AFP. "It is exactly the death that he did not want."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Do the French really not care about Christmas?
Do the French really not care about Christmas? Photo: AFP

Do the French really not care about Christmas?

An opinion poll published this week concluded the French were the least bothered about Christmas of all northern European countries. But do the French really not give a s**t about Santa? Or are these polls best ignored? READ  

Chocolate-fed monkey terrorizes Marseille
An aggressive monkey fed on a diet of Kinder chocolate has been terrorizing Marseille. Photo: Shutterstock

Chocolate-fed monkey terrorizes Marseille

An aggressive monkey, fed on a diet on Kinder chocolate, had been terrorizing a neighbourhood in the French city of Marseille in recent weeks until it was finally tamed by police, with the help of a Taser gun. READ  

High testosterone linked to love of spicy food
The 'manlier' you are the more spice you'll add to your food. Photo: Shutterstock

High testosterone linked to love of spicy food

After carrying out experiments with 114 men and some red hot chili sauce French scientists have concluded there is a clear link between testosterone levels and an appetite for all things hot and spicy. READ  

Paris show on women's periods 'breaks taboo'
Twenty-four photographs that showcase a woman and her period, from her teens through to her menopause. Photo: Marianne Rosenstielh

Paris show on women's periods 'breaks taboo'

A renowned French photographer is inviting a Paris audience with an open mind to venture into the world of women's menstrual cycles at an exhibition she's perhaps appropriately called 'The Curse'. READ  

JobTalk France
Working in Paris: Making a career out of odd jobs
Odd jobs, the key to surviving in Paris. Photo: Moyan Brenn/Flickr

Working in Paris: Making a career out of odd jobs

When many expats come over to Paris their major concern is getting a job, and hopefully a good one. But writer William Prendiville’s argues, that even in the midst of an economic crisis it’s possible to survive in Paris for many years thanks to odd jobs. And plenty of them. READ  

France to pump millions into hard-up ‘hoods’
France wants to reduce inequalities by pumping billion into rough neighbourhoods and disadvantaged schools. Photo: AFP

France to pump millions into hard-up ‘hoods’

French President Francois Hollande has set his sights on tackling inequality in France by confirming his government will stump up €5 billion to revamp the country’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It's alongside a new bill to prioritize funds for struggling schools. READ  

Violent theft on France's public transport rises
Financially motivated crimes with violence on the metro, train and bus went up by 16 percent in the first semester of 2014. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

Violent theft on France's public transport rises

Thieves on France's public transport are increasingly using violent methods rather than pick pocketing when targeting their victims, the country's Interior Ministry warned on Wednesday. READ  

France's Alstom 'to pay $700m' in US for bribery
France's Alstom is to pay $700 million in the US over a series of bribery cases.Photo: AFP

France's Alstom 'to pay $700m' in US for bribery

French industrial giant Alstom has agreed to pay $700 million to settle US corruption charges related to the paying of bribes, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday. READ  

'Essential beauty' tips, by France's SNCF rail chiefs
Photo: Wencor Toe/Flickr

'Essential beauty' tips, by France's SNCF rail chiefs

France's state-owned rail company SNCF has been slammed for being sexist over a document they published giving female employees "essential beauty" tips. READ  

Bordeaux vineyards set to produce 'rare' vintage
Bordeaux's 2014 wines are set to be a rare vintage. Photo: AFP

Bordeaux vineyards set to produce 'rare' vintage

It was another poor harvest this year for that most famous of French wines, but Bordeaux enthusiasts can celebrate a "rare" vintage blessed by an abundance of autumn sun, local producers say. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
So what does the web tell us about the French in the year 2014
National
Immigration in France: Hollande hits back at the scaremongers
Culture
What's on: 10 things to do in France before Christmas
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
National
Muslims rule France in 2022: The bad boy of French literature is back
Gallery
There's so many things that claim to be French but aren't. Here's 12.
National
Crazy cat stories: Moggie returns after 1,200km trek across France
National
Tea sets for boys? French feminists protest 'gendered' Christmas presents
National
Jacques Chirac's 'head' - The perfect place to hide 1.5 kilos of weed
Gallery
Myths debunked: 11 things you (wrongly) presumed about France
National
Prices are tumbling but the property ladder is increasingly out of reach for the French
Education
IN IMAGES: French universities 'in ruin'. The students have the evidence
National
Life's about to get a lot cheaper for Paris commuters. Or is it?
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for partying with the French this Christmas
National
Some famous French fine wines are under threat from high speed trains
National
VIDEO: Homeless bodybuilder turns the streets of Paris into his gym
Business & Money
Noble Prize for Economics: Six things to know about Jean Tirole
Culture
Nobel Literature Prize: Ten things to know about Patrick Modiano
Gallery
Looking for a good Christmas market in France? Here's our top 10
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The top 15 new inventions to come out of France
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Gallery
Miss France Farmer: The contest to find a 'real French beauty'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Lyon's spectacular festival of lights dazzles once again
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Ten French Bond girls through the ages
National
Outrage forces French city to scrap yellow triangle ID cards for homeless
Gallery
Who does Christmas better - The French or Anglos? We decide.
National
All you need to know about the new French Bond girl Léa Seydoux
International
'My iPod's broken' - French jihadists moan about lack of home comforts
National
Race you to the top of the Eiffel Tower. No seriously, I'll race you.
National
And what if Mona Lisa was really a slave from China?
Opinion
Why company bosses in France have just about had enough
National
What impact did a 'giant butt plug' in Paris have on sales of sex toys?
Travel
National Geographic's top world destination for 2015 is in France.
Society
French babies switched at birth: Families seek €12 million damages
National
Why are so many French police officers taking their own lives?
Society
Immigration in France: Ten numbers that matter
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
National
Sarko is back in the ring: Did he ever really leave it?
National
IN IMAGES: Yet more fatal floods hit the south of France
Gallery
Forget tourism and wine, here are 10 OTHER ways France leads the world
Education
Is Paris really the best place in the world to be a student?
Society
The things gynecologists say that drive French women mad
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
National
A pill to make flatulence smell like roses? A Frenchman has cracked it
Culture
Rare 400-year-old Shakespeare work found in northern France
National
Paris air pollution: 'It's like being in a room with eight smokers'
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se