South African-born author Bryce Courtenay dies at 79

Bryce Courtenay signs a copy of his book The Night Country, which was published in 1998.(Reuters)

Bryce Courtenay signs a copy of his book The Night Country, which was published in 1998.(Reuters)

One of Australia's best-selling and most popular authors, Bryce Courtenay, who shot to prominence with his first book The Power of One, has died.

The South African-born Courtenay, who moved to Australia in the 1950s and sold more than 20-million books, had been suffering from stomach cancer and died at his Canberra home on Thursday evening with his family at his side.

"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 said on Facebook.

Courtenay's biggest success was The Power of One, about a young English boy raised during the apartheid era in South Africa.

It was made into a successful film starring Stephen Dorff, John Gielgud, and Morgan Freeman, with James Bond star Daniel Craig appearing in his first major screen role.

Courtenay came to novels late in life after years working in the advertising industry, with the Power of One, published when he was 55 and selling eight million copies.

He went on to write 21 books, including The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk, and Solomon's Song. Courtenay did not let his fight with cancer slow him down, with his final book, Jack of Diamonds, being released this month.

'Wonderful life'
He knew he was dying and in a moving final video clip to accompany the book, he said: "This is my last book because my use-by date has finally come up and I've probably got just a few months to live.

"I don't mind that," he added.

"I've had a wonderful life.

"Part of that wonderful life has been those people who have been kind enough to pick up a Bryce Courtenay book and read it and enjoy it and buy the next one and be with me in what has been, for me, an incredible journey.

"All I'd like to say is, as simply as I possibly can, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."

His long-standing publisher at Penguin, Bob Sessions, paid tribute to Courtenay as "a born storyteller".

Courtenay is survived by his second wife Christine, and his children Adam and Brett. Another son, Damon, died in 1991. – Sapa/AFP

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