Full Name: Arthur Bryce Courtenay

Description: Author, South African, Australian
Known For: One of Australias most commercially successful authors
Location: Australia

Date Born: 14th August 1933
Location Born: Johannesburg, South Africa

Date Died: 22nd November 2012
Location Died: Canberra, Australian Capital, Australia


Web Site:

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Bryce Courtenay AM

A South African-born Australian novelist and one of Australia’s most commercially successful authors.

Born Arthur Bryce Courtenay in Johannesburg, South Africa, he spent most of his early years in a small village in the Lebombo Mountains in the Limpopo province.

In 1955, while studying journalism in London, Courtenay met his future wife, Benita, and eventually emigrated to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. They married in 1959 and had three sons – Brett, Adam and Damon.

Courtenay entered the advertising industry and, over a career spanning 34 years, was the Creative Director of McCann Erickson, J. Walter Thompson & George Patterson Advertising.

His award-winning campaigns included Louie the Fly, the original Milkybar Kid commercial and the Australian Labor Party’s 1972 election campaign, It’s Time.

In 1991, Damon (who was born with the blood condition haemophilia) died at age 24 from AIDS-related complications, contracted through a blood transfusion.

Courtenay divorced Benita in 2000 and acknowledged some indiscretions during their 42-year marriage. He later lived in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory with his second wife, Christine Gee.

His novels are primarily set in Australia, his adopted country, or South Africa, the country of his birth. His first book, The Power of One, was published in 1989 and, despite Courtenay’s fears that it would never sell, quickly became one of Australia’s best-selling books by any living author. The story was made into a film, as well as being re-released in an edition for children.

Courtenay was one of Australia’s most commercially successful authors. He built up this success over the long-term by promoting himself and developing a relationship with readers as much as marketing his books; for instance, he gave away up to 2,500 books free each year to readers he met in the street.

However, only The Power of One has been published in the United States. Courtenay claimed that this was because “American publishers for the most part have difficulties about Australia, they are interested in books in their own country first and foremost.

However, we receive many e-mails and letters from Americans who have read my books and I am hoping in the future that publishers will recognize that there is a market for all my books in the U.S.”

In September 2012, Courtenay announced that he was suffering from terminal gastric cancer and that his last book would be Jack of Diamonds.

He died on 22 November at his Canberra home.

Further information can be obtained at the web sites listed on the Links button above


Awards and honours

Member of the Order of Australia (AM): 1995; in recognition of service to advertising and marketing to the community and as an author
Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) (honoris causa): 2005; from the University of Newcastle
Australia Post Literary Legend: 2010; honoured on an Australian postage stamp


African books

The Power of One (1989)
The Power of One: Young Readers Edition (1999)
Tandia (1992)
The Night Country (1998)
Whitethorn (2005)

Australian trilogy

The Potato Factory (1995)
Tommo & Hawk (1997)
Solomon’s Song (1999)
Nick Duncan SagaThe Persimmon Tree (2007)
Fishing for Stars (2008)

Other fiction

A Recipe for Dreaming (1994)
The Family Frying Pan (1997)
Jessica (1998)
Smoky Joe’s Cafe (2001)
Four Fires (2001)
Matthew Flinders’ Cat (2002)
Brother Fish (2004)
Sylvia (2006)
The Story of Danny Dunn (2009)
Fortune Cookie (2010)
Jack of Diamonds (2012)

Non-fictionApril Fool’s Day (1993)