Author Bryce Courtenay remembered
Bryce Courtenay has died at the age of 79. Jason Steger is joined by Courtenay's former publisher and friend, Bob Sessions, to reflect on the bestselling author's life.PT9M0S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-29xgx 620 349 November 23, 2012
Millions of readers will feel sadness at the passing of Australia's biggest-selling author, Bryce Courtenay, at 79, but those who called themselves more "literary" writers owed a great debt of gratitude to Courtenay too, key publishing figures have said.
Author Thomas Keneally said the title of Courtenay's best-known book, The Power of One, had entered the language as a phrase for good reason: he was a good narrative plotter who knew how to market his books "when other writers were stumbling around".
Keneally said writers such as Courtenay and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling have allowed "thousands of flowers to bloom", their bestsellers financing "the publication of of books that might sell more humbly".
He said it took "guts" that Courtenay - who succumbed to stomach cancer in Canberra late on Thursday with his wife Christine, his family pets, Tim, the dog, and Cardamon, the Burmese cat by his side - had finished his book when he was so ill.
"There's no doubting readers will feel sadness and I hope they will raise their glasses for a toast to Bryce as they unwrap their presents of his latest book on Christmas Day," said Keneally.
Keneally acknowledged many so-called "literary" writers were dismissive of Courtenay's work. "I'm not so certain we authors can afford to be so sniffy about each other, because who says any of our works will survive long after our deaths?"
Bestselling author Di Morrissey said: "What I loved about Bryce was his passion - for everything! But he was most passionate about writing and reading.
"He was such an advocate for popular fiction, puncturing the puffed-up pretensions of the literary establishment.
"He always told me that being a storyteller was a great and noble profession. And that it is a gift and how lucky he felt that he could entertain people, enthuse non readers to read and that becoming a writer had changed his life.
"He approached every book - as indeed he embraced life - with enthusiasm, excitement and exuberance.
"He encouraged so many people to read, to tell their own stories, and he helped countless people in so many ways. He was generous, outrageous, loveable and there's a huge hole left in the Australian publishing industry but his legacy will live on. But I'll miss him."
Author Matthew Reilly said: "I think we've lost one of Australia's greatest storytellers. He single-handedly paved the way for mass market authors like me and I thank him for that."
Australian fantasy author Fiona McIntosh said she was inspired to become a writer at one of Courtenay’s masterclasses, held in Hobart 12 years ago.
"In five days it changed the course of my life. An epiphany occurred and everything made sense to me to me," she said. "I wrote a book and sold it within weeks to Harper Collins."
She described Courtenay as a "gutsy guy" who "lived his life on his terms, he had a good long life and he's gone out on his terms.
"He was teaching right up to (the end) ... I did a masterclass with him just two weeks ago. I though it was extraordinary that he was still teaching, still alert, still pounding these writers with the stuff he taught me years ago.
McIntosh said she saw Courtenay dozens of times over the past decade.
"He was brilliant. But I'm not allowing myself to be sad. I'm allowing myself to admire him and think back about what he's done for me and given back to my life."
The chief executive of the Australian Publishers Association, Maree McCaskill, said there was no doubt Courtenay was one of Australia's most popular authors.
"There's been much criticism about his literary merit but I don't think it's worth a pinch of salt," she said. "He sold millions and encouraged people who wouldn't normally read to pick up a book.
"He didn't have any literary snobbery and he was about getting his books read by as many Australians to read. We owe him a huge debt in Australia for making reading popular."
Christine Courtenay said in a statement released by Penguin publishers: "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."
Courtenay recorded a farewell message in October in which he said his "use-by date has finally come up".
He said he didn't mind that he had only a short time to live because "I've had a wonderful life" and he added: "All I'd like to say as simply as I possibly can is thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."
with STEPHEN CAUCHI