FOR a man famous for his words, Bryce Courtenay's final message to his millions of loyal readers was uncharacteristically pithy.

Mr Courtenay died at his Canberra home at 11.30pm on Thursday night after a brief battle with stomach cancer.

He was surrounded by his wife Christine, his family and his beloved pets Tim, the dog, and Cardamon, the Burmese cat by his side. He was 79.

Two weeks earlier he recorded a video message, which was later posted to YouTube. 

The video was shot to coincide with the release of Jack Of Diamonds, which he knew would be his final book.

"It's my last book because my use-by has finally come up," Mr Courtenay says in the minute-long video.

"I've probably got just a few months to live. I don't mind that - I've had a wonderful life.

"But 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 ... for what has been an incredible journey.

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

He delivered a similar message in the epilogue of Jack Of Diamonds, in which he described his readers as "simply wonderful".

Mr Courtenay , who moved to Australian in the 1950s, came to writing quite late in life after a successful career in advertising.

While he would go on to write more than 20 books, he will possibly be best remembered for his first, The Power Of One, which was published in 1989.

The book drew on Mr Courtenay's experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa.

He sold more than 20 million books worldwide, and in 1995 was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to advertising and marketing to the community and as an author.

News of Mr Courtenay's death was greeted with tributes from his millions of fans, right through to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Thousands of people left heartfelt messages on his fan Facebook page.

Ms Gillard offered her condolences to Mr Courtenay's family, saying his stories had "delighted people around the world".

"Millions and millions of people have loved to read his books, to absorb his stories.

"Bryce Courtenay came to Australia from South Africa and the way in which he told that tale of apartheid I think helped people really understand at a human level was apartheid meant, and what an evil it was.

"Many Australians will take a moment today to reflect on his remarkable career."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott described Mr Courtenay as a "remarkable man" and a "remarkable writer".

"One way or the other, he has had a great impact on our lives and on our popular culture. He will be missed. Bryce Courtenay has gone but his work lives on and that's to the benefit of all Australians," Mr Abbott said.

In a statement issued by publisher Penguin Books Australia, Mrs Courtenay asked for privacy while the family grieved.

"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," Mrs Courtenay said.

Mr Courtenay's long-time publisher at Penguin, Bob Sessions, said his "good friend" had been a "born storyteller".

"I would tell him he was a 'latter-day Charles Dickens', with his strong and complex plots, larger-than-life characters, and his ability to appeal to a large number of readers," Mr Sessions said.

"Virtually each year for the last 15 years, I have worked with Bryce on a new novel. Not to have a new Bryce Courtenay novel to work on will leave a hole in my publishing life," he said.

"Not to have Bryce Courtenay in my life, will be to miss the presence of a very special friend."

It will be a feeling felt by many.



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