Bestselling French spy novelist De Villiers dead at 83

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Prolific spy novelist Gerard De Villiers, the creator of the top-selling SAS series often described as France's answer to James Bond, has died aged 83 in Paris, his lawyer said Friday.

De Villiers died on Thursday "after a long illness," said Eric Morain, his longtime attorney.

Never a darling of the critics, De Villiers was nonetheless a publishing phenomenon, with his publishers claiming his books had sold more than 100 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 gun, 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.

His death came as he seemed on the verge of realising a long-cherished dream of breaking into the English-language market, with reports he had signed a deal with a major US publisher for the release of translations of several SAS books.

© 2013 AFP

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