Gérard de Villiers
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Gérard de Villiers
|Born||8 December 1929|
|Died||31 October 2013 (aged 83)|
Gérard de Villiers (French: [ʒeʁaʁ də vilje]; 8 December 1929 – 31 October 2013) was a French writer, journalist and publisher whose SAS series of spy novels have been major bestsellers. According to the New York Times, "His works have been translated and are especially popular in Germany, Russia, Turkey, and Japan. The SAS series has sold a reported 120 million copies worldwide, which would make it one of the top-selling series in history, on a par with Ian Fleming's James Bond books. SAS may be the longest-running fiction series ever written by a single author."
De Villiers' books are well known in French-speaking countries for their in-depth insider knowledge of such subjects as espionage, geopolitics, and terrorist threats, as well as their hard-core sex scenes. Vintage Books worked with his estate to publish his books in English translations posthumously, beginning in 2014 with The Madmen of Benghazi and Chaos in Kabul, Revenge of the Kremlin in 2015, and Lord of the Swallows in February 2016. Surface to Air was published in June 2016. All were translated by veteran literary translator William Rodarmor and bought de Villiers and his hero Malko Linge to English-speaking readers.
Born in Paris in 1929, Villiers was the son of playwright Jacques Adam de Villiers (known by his stage name of Jacques Deval) and his wife. His father was both prolific and a spendthrift. The younger Villiers attended lycee and graduated from Sciences Po Paris, France's most reputed Grande Écoles and a highly selective Political Science university. He also took a degree at the Ecole Supérieure de Journalisme de Paris (ESJ Paris, Superior School of Journalism in Paris).
He began writing in the 1950s for France Soir, a French daily, and became a foreign correspondent. He found "the blend of risk and cold calculation" in intelligence work to be "seductive". In 1964 Villiers began to write and publish spy novels. He continued to cultivate his connections among the military and intelligence services. He is the author of the spy novel series SAS, publishing his first volume in 1965. It tells the adventures of the Austrian prince and CIA agent Malko Linge, referred to in the first title as SAS. This is a play on initials and acronyms: Son Altesse sérénissime (SAS) is the French version of "His Serene Highness" (HSH). In addition, the British Special Air Service (SAS) is the principal special forces unit of the British Army.
Villiers wrote 200 novels in this franchise, selling more than 120 million books. In addition to France, they were translated and popular in Germany, Russia, Turkey, and Japan; and, since some have been published in English since 2014, in the United States and other English-speaking countries. They are said to be studied by various intelligence services and enjoyed by successive French heads of state.
Villiers published four titles per year between 1966 and 2005, increasing his production to five per year between 2006 and his death in 2013. Usually the locale of the story is featured in the title (as in, Les amazones de Pyongyang' [The Amazons of Pyongyang] or Putsch à Ouagadougou [Coup in Ouagadougou]). Villiers was well known for writing novels that incorporated contemporary events, such as wars or terrorist threats. He frequently visited theaters of operation, doing research and interviews to ground his stories with accurate facts. He typically researched each book by 15 days on location and then wrote it in another six weeks.
His sales were at a peak in the 1980s, but in the early 21st century, Villiers was still earning "between 800,000 and a million euros a year (roughly $1 million to $1.3 million)" for his books. This enabled him to keep a villa in St. Tropez and a "grand house" on Avenue Foch in Paris.
Villiers's mastery of international politics sometimes resulted in his publishing books that seem "prophetic". His Le Chemin de Damas (2012) was set in the middle of Syria's 21st-century civil war, and it described an attack on a government command center near the presidential palace, a month before such an attack took place. In an earlier book, he portrayed the assassinations of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat before the fact. Due to tips from spies, he was nearly finished writing SAS: The Hunt for Carlos when the freelance assassin known as Carlos the Jackal was captured.
Between 2014 and 2016, Vintage Books posthumously published five Malko Linge novels: The Madmen of Benghazi (ISBN 978-0-8041-6931-8) and Chaos in Kabul (ISBN 978-0-8041-6933-2), followed by three Russia-themed thrillers: Revenge of the Kremlin (ISBN 978-0-8041-6935-6), Lord of the Swallows (ISBN 978-0-8041-6937-0), and Surface to Air (ISBN 978-0-804-16939-4) in late 2016. The books were translated and adapted by French literary translator William Rodarmor.
His SAS novels have been adapted in both French and English-language productions.
- S.A.S. à San Salvador (dir. Raoul Coutard, 1983), with Miles O'Keefe (as Malko), Raimund Harmstorf, Dagmar Lassander, Anton Diffring, Sybil Danning
- Eye of the Widow (dir. Andrew V. McLaglen, 1991), with Richard Young (as Malko), F. Murray Abraham, Ben Cross, Mel Ferrer, Patrick Macnee
His novels related to the Brigade mondaine of the French national police have also received some adaptations:
- Victims of Vice (dir. Jacques Scandelari, 1978)
- Brigade mondaine : La secte de Marrakech (dir. Eddy Matalon, 1979)
- Brigade mondaine : Vaudou aux Caraïbes (Super Witch of Love Island, dir. Philippe Monnier, 1980)
- Robert F. Worth (January 30, 2013). "The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much". New York Times. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
- Robert F. Worth, "The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much", New York Times, 03 February 2013; accessed 14 November 2018
- Publisher's web site, accessed 2 November 2013
- Hugh Schofield, "Get out of Afghanistan: France's million-selling spy writer", Sunday Times Online, Sri Lanka, 7 October 2007, accessed 4 July 2011
- Alexandra Guillet (November 1, 2013). "Gérard de Villiers, l'auteur aux 200 "SAS", est mort". TF1. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
- Alan Riding, "France's James Bond Gets the Scoop on the Hunt for Carlos", New York Times, 18 September 1994, accessed 4 July 2011
- Christophe Deloire, « Gérard de Villiers : Le mercenaire du polar », Le Point, January 13, 2005
- Andrea Mrena "Auteur de romans érotiques - écrivain chez Gérard de Villiers" AGTH Books- Amazon 2014
- Jacques Guérin "dossier les coulisses de l'édition". Gérard de Villiers présente L'Exécuteur, March 22, 2014
- Gérard de Villiers on IMDb
- "Looking desperately for spies in Macau: from golden guns to nukes", Macau Business, 18 February 2014
- "Auteur de romans érotiques - écrivain chez Gérard de Villiers", Andrea M Rena blog, March 2018
- Portail anti-monde.gérardcambri: "Dossier les coulisses de l'édition"