The Most Prolific Author You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

January 31, 2013 § 1 Comment

This is Gérard de Villiers, an 83-year-old Frenchman who has been churning out spy novels at the rate of four or five books a year for nearly 50 years. He is currently on his 197th novel, and his books comprise one of the most popular series in the world, with over 100 million copies sold worldwide. That puts him on par with Ian Flemming, the author of the James Bond novels—so why haven’t we heard of him?

Quite simply, because we’re Americans, and his books haven’t been translated into English.

De Villiers came to my attention because of this excellent article about him in the New York Times Magazine. He is unique in the world of writing not only because of his high sales and the incredible speed at which he writes, but also because his books describe real world events before they happen.

Last June, he released a book set in the middle of Syria’s recent civil war. It described events that actually happened, but hadn’t happened at the time of publication.

And most striking of all, it described an attack on one of the Syrian regime’s command centers, near the presidential palace in Damascus, a month before an attack in the same place killed several of the regime’s top figures. “It was prophetic,” I was told by one veteran Middle East analyst who knows Syria well and preferred to remain nameless. “It really gave you a sense of the atmosphere inside the regime, of the way these people operate, in a way I hadn’t seen before.”

So how did he foretell the future? It turns out that de Villiers is extremely well connected in the spy world:

De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves.

This guy’s contacts are the same people the French foreign minister gets his intel from. That’s impressive. So impressive, the French foreign minister invited the author to lunch to discuss it.

And de Villiers is just as much a character as his characters. With the wealth his books earned him, he bought “an impressively grand” house not far from the Arc de Triomphe … and made his study into “a kind of shrine to old-school masculinity and kinky sex.” (The author goes on to describe some of the decor.) His girlfriend is 30 years younger than him. He … ah, hell, just go read the article for yourself.

Here’s to you, Gérard de Villiers. I hope some of your books find English translators soon.

Dave Borcherding


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