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Author Bryce Courtenay dies 2 weeks after publishing final novel

Author Bryce Courtenay (L) holds the hand of a lady after he signed a copy of his latest book titled "The Night Country" for her at a Sydney
Author Bryce Courtenay (L) holds the hand of a lady after he signed a copy of his latest book titled "The Night Country" for her at a Sydney

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Best-selling Australian author Bryce Courtenay, who wrote about the struggles of life in Australia and South Africa, died at his home in Canberra, his publisher said on Friday, just two weeks after his latest novel was published.

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

"We'd like to thank all of Bryce's family and friends and all of his fans around the world for their love and support for me and his family as he wrote the final chapter of his extraordinary life," his wife Christine Courtenay said in a joint statement with publisher Penguin Books.

Known for his dedication to work and prolific output, often writing for 12 hours a day, Courtenay sold more than 20 million books. He 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 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", 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, and featured a farewell from Courtenay to his readers.

"It's been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives. Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, 'Thank you. You have been simply wonderful'."

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

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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