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Australian author Bryce Courtenay passes away

Australian author Bryce Courtenay passes away

THE Australian author Bryce Courtenay has passed away. He was 79.

Mr. Courtenay fulfilled his dream of becoming an author rather later in life than he had expected — he was 55 when his first book was published — but he went on to write more than 20 bestsellers.

Born in South Africa, Mr. Courtenay had spent part of his childhood in an orphanage. After studying journalism in London he decided, in 1958, to moved to Australia where he failed to find work in journalism but made his mark as an advertising copywriter.

He had set 35 as the age he would give up work and devote all his time to writing. But family circumstances were to make him push back the start-date of his writing career by a number of years.

By his mid-30s he was a married man with a family. One of his sons, Damon, was a haemophiliac and Mr. Courtenay felt it was better for his family to remain in a well-paid job in advertising.

His first book, The Power Of One — which told the story of a boy growing up during the apartheid era in South Africa — earned him a massive advance and went on to be an international bestseller.

He faced tragedy when his son Damon died from Aids, which he had contracted as the result of a tainted blood transfusion. On his death bed, his son had urged him to: “tell the world that Aids isn’t a punishment from God, it’s just a virus”.

As a result of the plea, Mr. Courtenay wrote April Fool’s Day, the heart-rending non-fiction account of his son’s death. He described the writing of the book as “the single most difficult thing I have ever done” (see below).

For many years, fans of the author could expect to buy his latest offering in the shops each Christmas. His publishers had been able to do this as a result of Mr. Courtenay’s prolific output. He would normally begin each book on the last day of January, delivering each completed chapter to the publishers and completing the manuscript by August. This enabled the finished book to be on the shelves in November each year.

His final book, Jack Of Diamonds, was published only days before the author’s death.

Mr. Courtenay had undergone major surgery for stomach cancer in 2011. 

When doctors told him he had only a short time to live, the author filmed a farewell message (see below) in which he told fans his “use-by date has finally come up”, adding that he didn’t mind having only a short time to live because: “I’ve had a wonderful life”.

To view a report which features excerpts from several interviews given by Mr. Courtenay, click here.

To see Mr. Courtenay’s farewell message, click here.

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