'For me this country has meant everything. 'Everything!’ So said the late Bryce Courtenay following his appointment as Canberra’s Australia Day Ambassador earlier this year (Canberra Times, 26 January 2012). The South African-born Courtenay migrated to Australia as a young man in 1958. He worked in advertising for more than three decades before turning to a career as a writer. His first book, The Power of One (1989), was the first of a series of international bestsellers.
Courtenay’s punishing researching and writing schedule enabled him to
publish a new title almost annually. Although not embraced by the
literary establishment, Courtenay’s novels were much loved (and much
anticipated) by readers, as evidenced by sales of over 20 million books.
Best known for his novels such as The Potato Factory (1995) and Jessica (1997), Courtenay also wrote non-fiction, short stories and children’s books. April Fool’s Day (1993) told of Courtenay’s anguish over his son Damon’s death from AIDS, The Family Frying Pan (1997) related mostly Russian-themed stories and Courtenay provided editorial input for the publication of Roy Kyle’s 2003 autobiography An ANZAC’s Story. Less widely known is a series of children’s books Courtenay wrote in 1997 with Geoff Pike. The Yowie series,
featuring an array of mythical characters such as ‘Rumble the Redgum
Yowie’, promoted a chocolate figurine manufactured by Cadbury Australia.
Courtenay described himself as ‘essentially an entertainer and a
storyteller’. He chose not to directly address claims about the accuracy
of his version of his early years in South Africa. Instead, he said,
‘Judge me on what I have done here and what I have said here and what I
have been here and what contribution, if any, I've made whilst I've been
here. That's what concerns me, not my childhood.’ (‘Bryce Courtenay: Australia’s Master Storyteller’).
Courtenay was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1995 and
received an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra in
September 2012. He died at his Canberra home, aged 79, just days after
the publication of his final novel Jack of Diamonds.
Source: AustLit News