Bryce Courtenay 1933 – 2012

A media release accompanying the release of Bryce Courtney’s latest book announced it would be his last because he had terminal cancer.

The news of his death,  therefore, wasn’t unexpected.

It is with sadness Penguin Group (Australia) wish to advise that Bryce Courtenay AM passed away peacefully at 11:30pm on Thursday 22 November in Canberra with his wife Christine, his family and his beloved pets Tim, the dog, and Cardamon, the Burmese cat by his side. He was 79.

Christine Courtenay said this morning, “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. And may we make a request for privacy as we cherish his memory.”

Gabrielle Coyne, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Group (Australia) said, “It has been our great privilege to be Bryce’s publisher for the past 15 years. We, as well as his many fans will forever miss Bryce’s indomitable spirit, his energy and his commitment to storytelling.”

Bob Sessions, Bryce Courtenay’s long standing Publisher at Penguin said, “Bryce took up writing in his fifties, after a successful career in advertising. His output and his professionalism made him a pleasure to work with, and I’m happy to say he became a good friend, referring to me as ‘Uncle Bob’, even when we were robustly negotiating the next book contract. He was a born storyteller, and I would tell him he was a ‘latter-day Charles Dickens’, with his strong and complex plots, larger-than-life characters, and his ability to appeal to a large number of readers.
“Virtually each year for the last 15 years, I have worked with Bryce on a new novel. He would write a 600 page book in around six months, year in, year out. To achieve that feat he used what he called ‘bum glue’, sometimes writing for more than 12 hours a day. He brought to writing his books the same determination and dedication he showed in the more than 40 marathons he ran, most of them when he was well over 50. Not to have a new Bryce Courtenay novel to work on will leave a hole in my publishing life. Not to have Bryce Courtenay in my life, will be to miss the presence of a very special friend.”

The last word belongs to Bryce himself. In a moving epilogue in his final book, Bryce said to 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.’

My farmer heard Courtenay speak at a conference and said he was one of the most engaging and inspirational men he’d ever listened to.

I first came across his work when I was doing book reviews for radio and enjoyed the novels.

But it was his autobiographical, April Fools Day, the story of the life and death of his son, a haemophiliac who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion which really moved me.

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