Australian author Bryce Courtenay, best known for his novel The Power of One, has died with his family and pets by his side. He was 79.

The writer of bestsellers such as The Potato Factory, Jessica, and Tommo & Hawk, died at 11.30pm on Thursday at his Canberra home.

Courtenay did not let his fight with stomach cancer slow him down, with his final book, Jack of Diamonds, was released only 11 days ago by Penguin.

The South African-born author left his final word in a moving epilogue in this last book.


Courtenay wrote: "It's been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives. Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, Thank you. You have been simply wonderful."

Courtenay's widow Christine has expressed her gratitude for the support she's received.

"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," she said in a statement released by Penguin Australia on Friday.

"And may we make a request for privacy as we cherish his memory."

Penguin Australia chief executive officer Gabrielle Coyne paid tribute to Courtenay's energy and commitment.

"It has been our great privilege to be Bryce's publisher for the past 15 years. We, as well as his many fans will forever miss Bryce's indomitable spirit, his energy and his commitment to storytelling," Coyne said in the statement.

Courtenay's long-standing publisher at Penguin Bob Sessions noted that the late novelist took up writing in his fifties, after a successful career in advertising.

"His output and his professionalism made him a pleasure to work with, and I'm happy to say he became a good friend, referring to me as Uncle Bob, even when we were robustly negotiating the next book contract," Sessions said.


"He was a born storyteller, and 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."

Courtenay is survived by Christine, who is his second wife, his sons Brett and Adam, and grandsons Ben, Jake and Marcus. His other son Damon died in 1991 from AIDS-related complications arising from a blood transfusion.