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Author Bryce Courtenay dies 2 weeks after publishing final novel

posted 23 Nov 2012, 04:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 23 Nov 2012, 04:39 ]

Best-selling author, Bryce Courtenay, dies of cancer two weeks after publishing his last novel.

AUSTRALIA  (AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION) -  Australia's top-selling author Bryce Courtenay, who wrote about the struggles of life in Australia and South Africa, has died at his home in Canberra, his publisher said on Friday (November 23), just two weeks after his latest novel was published.

His death late on Thursday (November 22) came less than three months after he told fans he had stomach cancer. He was 79.

"I call him the Charles Dickens, the latter day Charles Dickens. And, I say that because I think he writes these big colourful novels that people just gobble up and we're going to miss that, readers a going to miss it, we're going to miss him," said Courtenay's publisher at Penguin Books, Bob Sessions.

Known for his dedication to work and prolific output, often writing for 12 hours a day, Courtenay sold more than 20 million books and turned to writing in the late 1980s after a 30 year career in advertising.

His first novel, the Power of One, the story of a child growing up under apartheid in South Africa, was an instant hit, selling more than 8 million copies and later being made into a movie.

Born into poverty in South Africa, Courtenay studied journalism in London and then settled in Australia with his first wife, Benita, in 1958.

In 1993, he turned to non-fiction with April Fool's Day, which was a personal account of his son Damon's death after he contracted the AIDS virus from a routine blood transfusion.

He usually wrote a book each year. His final novel, Jack of Diamonds, was published in early November.

In the weeks leading up to his death, Courtney recorded an emotional video farewell to his readers.

"The book coming out this year, Jack of Diamonds, is my last book. It's my last book because my use-by date has finally come up and I've probably got just a few months to live. I don't mind that. I've had a wonderful life," Courtenay said.

"But part of that wonderful life has been those people who have been kind enough to pick up a Bryce Courtenay book and read it, and enjoy it, and buy the next one, and be with me in what has been, for me, an incredible journey. And all I'd like to say is, as simply as I possibly can, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you," he added.

Courtenay is survived by his wife Christine, and two sons from his first marriage.