I should, on paper, really dislike Wilbur Smith. He is most definitely not PC. But I’ve been reading his novels since I was about nine or ten, probably firstly in the condensed versions put out by Reader’s Digest to be found on my grandparent’s bookshelves. I think the Digest, er, digested their novels by removing anything remotely sexy or saucy or too violent, which is why I was allowed to read them. Thanks to that series I developed a guilty taste for Ken Follett and Smith. I didn’t learn about the birds and bees from them though, unlike Boris Johnson, who surreptitiously read them at Eton. I’ll leave that one there.
Desert God isn’t that sexist by Smith standards, I say to myself, in an attempt to feel a bit better about reading it. The female characters are strongly written and not just there as some sort of very-retro-sexual arm-candy. even if their plots are driven by their romantic interests in the male characters. Of most interest to me, as with Exodus, was his description of life in Ancient Egypt. Stephen King is quoted as claiming Smith to be the best historical novelist. This is hyperbole, but as with Follett, Smith doesn’t skimp on the research and his descriptions of historical sites are rich and interesting.
I still feel grubby though, so I am going off to read some Herodotus on Egypt to make myself feel better.