10 Best Authors Like Wilbur Smith To Make You Question Life, War, and Love

If you love how Wilbur Smith combines war, romance, family drama, and betrayal into single novels, you’ll love our guide with more genre-melding authors like Wilburn Smith.

Born in North Rhodesia and raised in South Africa, Wilbur Smith is remembered for his historical fiction books, including When the Lion Feeds. Throughout his career, Smith sold more than 120 million books worldwide. Much of Smith’s work focused on international issues affecting South Africa. He was careful to stay focused on telling stories rather than trying to write the next great novel.

The author often discussed drawing inspiration from real life. Smith believed in the power of words and often encouraged writers to believe in the power of their craft. If you love the gritty style of Wilbur Smith, you’ll want to add the authors in our guide to your must-read list. 

Best Authors Like Wilbur Smith Ranked

1. Patrick O’Brian, 1914 – 2000

Patrick O'Brian
Patrick O’Brian

O’Brian was known for his authentic prose that allowed readers to fully understand what life was like in the 1800s. Fans of O’Brian appreciate his attention to detail when describing historical events and how his writing style, which has stayed as true to history as possible, by incorporating his characters into historical events. O’Brian was recognized repeatedly throughout his career, being awarded an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin in 1997 and the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for lifetime achievement in 1995.

Master and Commander is the first of British author Patrick O’Brian’s twenty-novel series that focuses on the friendship of English sea captain Jack Aubrey and Irish-Spanish doctor Stephen Maturin. The novels follow the two through the Napoleonic Wars following the French Revolution. If you want to discover historical fiction authors, check out our guide to the best historical fiction authors! Or you can also search for the best authors from different genres and countries by searching “best authors” in our search box.

“But you know as well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.”

 Patrick O’Brian, Master & Commander
Master and Commander (Book 1)
  • Great product!
  • O'Brian, Patrick (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 411 Pages - 08/17/1990 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

2. Bernard Cornwell, 1944 –

Bernard Cornwell
Bernard Cornwell

British-American historical fiction author Bernard Cornwell is known for his novels centered around Richard Sharpe, a soldier fighting for England during the Napoleonic Wars. Cornwell is celebrated for several other historical fiction series, including the Warlord Chronicles, the Grail Quest novels, the Saxon Stories, and the Starbuck Chronicles.

The author believes he is a descendant of Uhtred the Bold, an 11th-century British ruler. Cornwell based his Saxon Stories on Uhtred. The author has also written several thriller novels, all of which are centered around sailing. His novel The Last Kingdom was adapted for film by BBC.

“Only a fool wants war, but once a war starts then it cannot be fought half-heartedly. It cannot even be fought with regret, but must be waged with a savage joy in defeating the enemy, and it is that savage joy that inspires our bards to write their greatest songs about love and war.”

Bernard Cornwell, Excalibur
Excalibur (The Warlord Chronicles), cover images may vary
  • Cornwell, Bernard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 436 Pages - 07/16/1999 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Griffin Press (Publisher)

3. Campbell Armstrong, 1944 – 2013

Book cover of Letters From The Dead by Campbell Armstrong
Book cover of Letters From The Dead by Campbell Armstrong

Born Thomas Campbell Black, Campbell Armstrong was a famous Scottish author, professor, and editor. While he typically wrote under the name Campbell Armstrong, he also used additional pen names, including Thomas Altman and Jeffrey Campbell. The Bad Fire is a fan favorite. This novel follows Detective Eddie Mallon as he returns to his hometown of Glasgow, where he’s faced with solving his father’s murder. Many of Campbell’s works are written in series format but can all be read as standalone works. 

“Eddie touched the back of his mother’s hand and thought: she seems to be taking it well. But why shouldn’t she? She hadn’t seen Jackie Mallon for thirty years, and so far as Eddie knew hadn’t spoken to him in all that time. She’d loved him enough to marry him, but after so long a separation even the strongest of loves would surely deteriorate into a series of small regrets and smudged memories.”

Campbell Armstrong, The Bad Fire
The Bad Fire
  • Hardcover Book
  • Campbell Armstrong (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 05/21/2001 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (Publisher)

4. Colin Falconer, 1953 –

Colin Falconer
Colin Falconer

English-Australian Silk Road author Colin Falconer is known for writing historical and contemporary thrillers. Fans of Falconer’s novels appreciate his ability to stay committed to historical accuracy and while writing impressive character development.

In Silk Road, readers are taken on a journey exploring the Holy Wars in the 13th century, following Templar warrior Josseran Sarrazini as he works to escort the Pope through Mongolia. In Lucifer Falls, a contemporary thriller novel, protagonist Charlie works to solve the murder of a crucified priest and find a missing police officer, digging into the dark world of London underground crime. Looking for more authors to explore? Check out our guide to the best 11th century authors. Or you can find different authors from other centuries by searching the keyword “century” in our search bar.

“They remove to York, that cold and godless place, where not even the devil could get warm.”

Colin Falconer, Isabella: Braveheart of France
Isabella: Braveheart of France
  • Falconer, Colin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 295 Pages - 04/21/2015 (Publication Date) - Lake Union Publishing (Publisher)

5. Frederick Forsyth, 1938 –

Frederick Forsyth
Frederick Forsyth

Renowned author Frederick Forsyth started his career as a journalist after his Royal Air Force service. Forsyth wrote in a journalistic style, carefully researching the historical details of his novels to weave fiction and reality.

His first novelDay of the Jackal, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. Many of Forsyth’s novels, including The Dogs of War, were adapted into films. The author received the Cartier Diamond Dagger award from the Crime Writers Association in 2012 for his lifetime achievements.

“It is cold at six-forty in the morning on a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad.”

Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal
The Day of the Jackal
  • Forsyth, Frederick (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 09/04/2012 (Publication Date) - G.P. Putnam's Sons (Publisher)

6. Bradley Wright

Book cover of Enemy Lines by Bradley Wright
Book cover of Enemy Lines by Bradley Wright

American mystery author Bradley Wright is known for his series of thrillers, including Alexander KingLawson Raines, and Saint Nick. Wright has a direct and to-the-point writing style that makes his writing stand out. His first book in the Alexander King series, The Secret Weapon, follows King, a CIA agent, as he must fake his death and disappear.

Wright’s works take readers on journeys of politics, international travel, war, and lies. Often compared to Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, and Lee Child, Wright’s similar style is perfect for readers who love following a protagonist who constantly has to invent new ways to escape what seems to be their certain demise. 

“Basically, be all the things a king is, but remember to enjoy life through the unjaded eyes of a prince?”

Bradley Wright, Whiskey & Roses
Whiskey & Roses: A Thriller (The Alexander King Prequels Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Wright, Bradley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 345 Pages - 03/31/2016 (Publication Date) - King's Ransom Publishing (Publisher)

7. Dick Francis, 1920 – 2010

Dick Francis
Dick Francis

A winning steeplechase jockey, crime author Dick Francis wrote novels centered around the British horse racing circuit. Francis’ characters appear to be do-gooders to the public but have nefarious secrets that leave readers wondering who they should be rooting for.

With more than 40 international bestsellers, readers and critics alike agree that many of Francis’ works walk the line between believable and reaching the brink of what’s realistic. Many of Francis’ novels, including Knockdown, feature characters who fall in love almost instantly and must balance their relationships with crime-related challenges they’re working to overcome

“I’ll bid your horse up to a good price if you give me a share of what you get.

Dick Francis, Knockdown
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Francis, Dick (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 229 Pages - 05/02/2019 (Publication Date) - Canelo USA (Publisher)

8. Jason Kasper

Book cover of The Enemies Of My Country: A David Rivers Thriller by Jason Kasper
Book cover of The Enemies Of My Country: A David Rivers Thriller by Jason Kasper

USA Today bestselling author Jason Kasper is an Army veteran who puts his experience to work in his thriller novels. In The Enemies of My Country: A David Rivers Thriller, readers follow CIA agent Rivers, an elite assassin, as he works to covertly carry out international missions to keep U.S. soil safe.

Much like Wilbur Smith, Kasper works to weave true-life detail into his novels, bringing them into the world of his protagonist, drawing on his own life experience as an Army veteran to explain the challenges Rivers faces as he works to keep the U.S. protected by fighting enemies around the globe.

“Police succeeded by having protocol. Thieves succeeded by having none—at least, none that the outside world could decipher until after the job was done.”

Jason Kasper, The Spider Heist
The Spider Heist (Spider Heist Thrillers Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Kasper, Jason (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 354 Pages - 11/22/2019 (Publication Date) - Severn River Publishing (Publisher)

9. Mo Hayder, 1962 – 2021

Mo Hayder
Mo Hayder

Born Claire Damaris Bastin, Mo Hayder writes under several other names, including Beatrice Clare Dunkel, Theo Clare, and Candy Davis. Best known for her 1999 novel Birdman, Hayder had an impressive start to her career, working as a model before becoming an English teacher. She was surprised when she turned to writing and was immediately picked up by a leading literary agent and offered a two-book deal.

Birdman was described as violent, powerful, gripping, and believable. Her novels were regarded as extremely well-developed yet disturbing. The author passed away at 59, and her book The Book of Sand was published posthumously under the name Theo Clare in 2022.

“I’m not very good at knowing what other people are thinking, but I do know that you can see tragedy, real tragedy, sitting just inside a person’s gaze. You can almost always see where a person has been if you look hard enough.”

Mo Hayder, The Devil of Nanking
The Devil of Nanking
  • Hayder, Mo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 01/14/2014 (Publication Date) - Grove Press (Publisher)

10. Hammond Innes, 1913 – 1998

Book cover of The Wreck Of The Mary Deare by Hammond Innes
Book cover of The Wreck Of The Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

Ralph Hammond Innes, the author of more than 30 novels, was known for his attention to detail, largely due to his personal experience as an aircraft gunner in WWII. After completing his service, Innes went on to write full-time. Fans of Innes love his ability to transport readers to settings with impeccable attention to detail.

Often, Innes wrote about everyday people forced into heroic roles, allowing readers to imagine that they could be catapulted to greatness. The author was known for weaving family issues into his works, such as in The Doomed Oasis. The book follows a father and son searching for oil in the Arabian desert while also searching for a way to get to know each other.

“His thighs and legs tapered away like a bull terrier’s hind quarters so that they looked on the verge of buckling under the weight of that great barrel of a body.”

Hammond Innes, The Wreck Of The Mary Deare
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (Vintage Classics)
  • Innes, Hammond (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 06/06/2013 (Publication Date) - Vintage Classics (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of authors like Robert Ludlum!