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Bryce Courtenay has died; beloved Aussie author wrote 'Power of One'

November 23, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • Bestselling Australian author Bryce Courtenay with his wife, Christine Gee.
Bestselling Australian author Bryce Courtenay with his wife, Christine… (Penguin Books )

Australian bestselling author Bryce Courtenay died late Thursday, his publisher has announced. The 79-year-old author succumbed to stomach cancer two weeks after the publication of his last novel, "Jack of Diamonds."

Courtenay was born in South Africa in 1933 and brought up partly in an orphanage. He studied in London and moved to Australia in 1958, where he went to work in advertising.

Thirty years later, when he was 55, he published his blockbuster debut novel, "The Power of One." The book, about an orphan boy with enormous dreams, earned him a $1 million advance and garnered glowing reviews.

That set Courtenay's career in motion. A tremendously dedicated writer who was said to work 12 hours a day, he fell into a pattern of publishing a book every November. Most were popular bestsellers in Australia.

"There's been much criticism about his literary merit but I don't think it's worth a pinch of salt," Maree McCaskill, chief executive of the Australian Publishers Assn., told the Sydney Morning Herald. "He sold millions and encouraged people who wouldn't normally read to pick up a book."

In "Jack of Diamonds," Courtenay addressed his readers directly.  "It's been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives," he wrote. "Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, 'Thank you. You have been simply wonderful.'"

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