Author Bryce Courtney died last week at age 79. Just two months prior, he announced on Facebook: “It is with great sadness that I am writing to let you know that Jack of Diamonds my new book due out in November this year shall be my last ... I have been diagnosed with terminal gastric cancer”. Born in South Africa in 1933, Bryce Courtney lived a fascinating life which included being brought up in an orphanage, working in the mines in Zambia and going to university in London before immigrating to Australia in 1958. He had a career in advertising before he started his second career – that of writing.
His debut was The Power of One, in 1989. It is set in the 1930s and 1940s in South Africa. It is a coming of age story about PK, a young white boy in South Africa, with English heritage who finds strength and compassion from other outsiders like his Zulu nanny, and a German friend of his Grandfather’s, Doc. PK is taught how to box, and this sport becomes a metaphor for overcoming adversity and how the power of one person can change the world. It was an international best seller and made into a movie.
At the age of 55, Bryce Courtney found fortune and fame. He wrote 19 more novels. Each year he would begin writing in January and finish the book by August in time for it to be marketed and on sale for Christmas. Not many people can do that. He was one of Australia’s most commercially successful novelists last book, Jack of Diamonds, will be released in time for Christmas 2012.
You can read more about his life in this obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald.