PARIS: Prolific spy novelist Gerard De Villiers, the creator of the top-selling SAS series with a hero often described as France’s answer to James Bond, has died aged 83 in Paris.

De Villiers’s wife Christine said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May and had been undergoing chemotherapy.

“The last weeks he was conscious but very weak. He could not endure the chemotherapy,” she told AFP. “It is exactly the death that he did not want.”

Never a darling of the critics, De Villiers was nonetheless a publishing phenomenon, claiming his books sold between 120 and 150 million copies worldwide.

The 200th book in the series — “SAS: The Kremlin’s Revenge” — was released last month. Instantly recognisable by their lurid covers inevitably featuring a femme fatale brandishing a handgun or assault rifle, his work was shunned by France’s literary establishment. But outside literary circles, De Villiers was often praised for his geopolitical insights and was known for cultivating a vast network of intelligence officials, diplomats and journalists who fed him information. The New York Times newspaper ran a profile on him early this year in which it said his books were “ahead of the news” and “regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere”.–AFP