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Australian author Bryce Courtenay died in his Canberra home at the age of 79 after suffering from stomach cancer.

His wife Christine released a statement saying "we would like to thank all of Bryce's family and friends and his fans around the world for their love and support as he wrote the final chapter of his extraordinary life.

"May we make the request for privacy as we cherish his memory."

Courtenay was born in South Africa and came to Australia in the 1950s. He came to writing late after working for over 30 years in advertising in Sydney.

The best-selling author was most known for his book The Power of One, a story about a child's journey to adulthood under South Africa's apartheid regime.

Eight million copies of the book were sold and it was also made into a Hollywood film.

He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra in October and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1995.

Courtenay's long standing publisher at Penguin Books, Bob Sessions, paid tribute: "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."

Sessions said the author was prolific in his writing and used to write for more than 12 hours a day, completing a 600 page book in around six months.

He brought the same determination to the more than 40 marathons he ran, most of them when he was over 50 years of age.

He is survived by his second wife Christine and his children Adam and Brett.

His son Damon passed away in 1991 after contracting HIV/AIDs during treatment for haemophilia.

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.’

Bryce Courtenay

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