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Assegai [Unabridged] [Hardcover]

Wilbur Smith
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 15.37 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 April 2009

It is 1913 and ex-soldier turned professional big game hunter, Leon Courtney, is in British East Africa guiding rich and powerful men from America and Europe on safaris in the Masai tribe territories. One of his clients, German industrialist Count Otto Von Meerbach, has a company which builds aircraft and vehicles for the Kaiser’s burgeoning army. But Leon had not bargained for falling passionately in love with Eva, the Count’s beautiful and enigmatic mistress.

Just prior to the outbreak of World War I, Leon is recruited by his uncle, Penrod Ballantyne, Commander of the British Forces in East Africa , to gather information from Von Meerbach. He stumbles on a plot against the British involving the disenchanted survivors of the Boer War, but it is only when Eva and Von Meerbach return to Africa that Leon finds out who and what is really behind the conspiracy.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1st Edition 1st Printing edition (1 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230529208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230529205
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 167,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wilbur Smith was born in Central Africa in 1933. He became a full-time writer in 1964 after the successful publication of When the Lion Feeds, and has since written over thirty novels, all meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His books are now translated into twenty-six languages.
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Product Description


The highly popular historical novelist returns with another guaranteed best-seller. In the early 1900s, Second Lieutenant Leon Courtney decides to hang up his military career after a near-fatal mission in British East Africa (and a subsequent court-martial proceeding instigated by a vindictive superior office). He takes up big-game hunting, but that's only his cover: in reality, he is working as a spy, gathering intelligence for his uncle Penrod Ballantyne. Leon's target is Count Otto Von Meerbach, a German weapons manufacturer (the novel is set only a handful of years before World War I), but Leon doesn't count on falling in love with the target's seductive mistress, Eva. Can Leon foil Von Meerbach's plot to foment an African rebellion and, at the same time, protect the beautiful Eva? There is a reason Smith is a hugely popular writer of historical novels: his remarkable talent for re-creating historical periods and crafting characters we care about is virtually unmatched in the genre. Smith's novels of the Courtney and Ballantyne families (in 2005, he brought the two sagas together in The Triumph of the Sun) have been entertaining readers for nearly five decades, and if this novel is any indication, he is showing no signs of slowing down. -- David Pitt "Booklist" (03/15/2009)

About the Author

Wilbur Smith was born in Central Africa in 1933. He was educated at Michaelhouse and Rhodes University. He became a full-time writer in 1964 after the successful publication of When the Lion Feeds, and has since written over thirty novels, all meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His books are now translated into twenty-six languages.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another day at the office 29 April 2010
Back in the mid to late seventies when I was a young teen, a friend of mine persuaded me to put down the James Bond books and pick up 'Shout at the Devil' by Wilbur Smith. We spent the next two years nicking them off our parents, hunting them down in bric a brac shops and bartering, lending and swapping grubby and battered 'Smith's' in the playground. 'When the lion feeds', 'A sparrow falls', 'The dark of the sun', 'Sunbird' and more, all transported a couple of lads from rural Somerset to the plains of Africa. Action, adventure, sex and the exotic and untamed wilds of the dark continent! We couldn't get enough of them.

Now thirty years on I am afraid the magic has pretty much evaporated in the heat of the Sahara sun! Is this because Smith's powers have waned or I am now an old, haggered, cynical and miserable old git! Well I suspect a bit of both.

This book actually starts quite well, a battle, a daring escape and a court martial all in the first 100 pages or so. However then it seemed Smith just seemed to switch into auto pilot mode. The action became predictable, the dialogue absolutely terrible and there a couple of hundred pages of big game hunting. There is often a bit of this, it's never really done it for me. I've never quite understood the 'Wow what a fantastic beast, let's shoot it and skin it!'
Just as I was thinking of putting it down, the plot picked up with a bit of pre WWI intrigue. The hero (A Courtney) is persuaded to use his Big Game hunter status as cover to spy on the German activity in East Africa, whilst Germany sends Count Otto Von Meerbach into action to spy and stir up trouble on British East Africa. He is accompanied by his enigmatic mistress Eva.
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86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well I couldn't put it down... 4 April 2009
Wilbur Smith's story of a young big game hunter captivates you from the opening pages with its distinguished, convincing and evocative descriptions of colonial Africa. Whether you have visited Africa or not, an enriching experience of the continent is in store as the author transports you to confrontations with the big five, altercations with rebels, and the ghostly visions from the hero, Leon Courtney's, past, present and future.

The book is a page turner not just for an well-conceived plot. As 'Assegai' demonstrates in every lucid description, Wilbur Smith is a genuine writer, and a stylist of distinction. The writing is a joy to read. The cultural details expand upon the plot and never seem tacked on. The novel illuminates a crucial juncture in early twentieth century history, the steep incline to the First World War, the problems and pitfalls of imperialism.

What is most impressive is the way in which Smith marshalls and orchestrates the structure of this plot and his characters. The way the novel segues from a straightforward action and suspense largely focussed on Masai rituals and customs, to a Western intrigue in which Courteney is essentially the outsider looking in on the west is seemless. This deepens the characterisation of Courtney and genuinely questions ideas of national identity.

I have a few issues with some of the characters (Snell is your archetypal pen-pushing underachiever with an axe to grind), and sometimes the portrayal of Africans and their deference to the physically and morally excellent Courtney is a bit too conventional, but what's important is their interrelationships and interiorirty, and these have a palapable veracity at their core.

If you're a fan of Smith work then this is another winner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of time and money 7 Mar 2011
By Buster
I have read every book from Mr Smith for over 30 years, some I've read 3 or 4 times but this one will not be read again! If any people reading this review have not read any of this authors books then I recommend you start reading them in chronological order and stop a couple of books before this one. I would use the term 'the author has lost the plot' but with this book there didn't appear to be one to lose!

The first 200 pages took time I will never regain and were so irrelevant to anything that I wondered why on earth he had written them. Throughout the book, I found the constant reference to the, at times, quite graphic acount of the slaughter of wild animals disturbing (yes, I understand that no animals were harmed in the writing of this fictitious novel!!). Mr Smith has described these types of killings before but never in such glorified detail, it really did typify the very poor standard of the book. The main storyline (after the first 200 pages of pointless indulgence) was laughable and as shallow as a Sun newspaper exclusive. There was very little that resembled anything close to Mr Smiths earlier (many years ago) high standards and this has followed a downward spiral over the last few books.

The apparent waste of money by buying the book doesn't bother me, I've bought other poor books but I have this overwhelming feeling of being cheated like buying the much anticipated sports car only to find it's got a clapped out Skoda engine.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing again... 19 Oct 2009
By Heather
After the dreadful drivel of The Quest I was hoping for better when I saw he'd gone back to the area in which he had so much of his original success with the fabulous Courtney sagas - the books that got me hooked on his writing in the first place. Well this is better - but not much.

This may turn out to be the first time ever I've not bought a Wilbur Smith book on the publication of the paperback, preferring instead to borrow it from the library and frankly not really considering it worth spending the money to buy my own copy.

The plot is weak, predictable and full of holes. The characters are so stereo-typed that I found it hard to suspend my disbelief as Leon goes from rags to riches in 150 pages, with every woman falling for him and every native African willing to sacrifice his life for him. The love stories are naive and the hunting descriptions get tedious even if you don't find the "blood and gore" an issue.

Please Wilbur, get back to your roots and write something like The Sunbird or The Sound of Thunder. if you can't do that then maybe you should quit now before you write any more of this rubbish.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
good read - plot a bit predictable at times
Published 2 days ago by brian
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read. Another riveting and hard to put down ...
A great read. Another riveting and hard to put down book from Wilbur Smith.
Published 18 days ago by Dymphnamarie
5.0 out of 5 stars As usual Wilbur is the best this is the second time i have read this...
As usual Wilbur is the best this is the second time i have read this book and it was just as enjoyable as the first time.
Published 19 days ago by nicholasgreen.
5.0 out of 5 stars ::: P::: ...
:::P::: :::E::: :::R::: :::F::: :::E::: :::C::: :::T:::
Published 1 month ago by Ms. Julie A. Sinclair
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 1 month ago by bwgi
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Always enjoy Wilbur Smith books, they are such a good read. Book condition fine.
Published 1 month ago by Radio Fan
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done Wilbur
Just as expected for a WS novel, real good read .
Published 2 months ago by Gary
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre
A very average book from the hand of a man perhaps past his best in terms of storytelling, bearing in mind that he was a master storyteller. Read more
Published 2 months ago by J Doonan
4.0 out of 5 stars Wilbur
I am a Wilbur fan and have read most of his books over the years, this is another great book about Africa not to be missed.
Published 2 months ago by Des
5.0 out of 5 stars a great read!!
As usual a great read from a great author. Difficult to put down !! I have yet to read a bad novel from him!!
Published 2 months ago by Malcolm J Presland
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