22 November 2012 11:17 PM, PST | Huffington Post | See recent Huffington Post news »

Canberra, Australia — Best-selling Australian author Bryce Courtenay, whose first and final books drew on his tough early-life experiences in Africa, has died of stomach cancer. He was 79.

He started writing in midlife and called his first novels "practice books," but his debut was a success. "The Power of One" was published in 1989, translated into 12 languages and became a hit movie.

His publisher Penguin Group said Friday that Courtenay died at his family home in the Australian capital Canberra late Thursday surrounded by his family and pets.

His 21st novel, "Jack of Diamonds," was published on Nov. 12 and included a moving epilogue to his readers.

"It's been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives," he wrote.

"Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, `Thank you. You have been simply wonderful,'" he added.

Courtenay was »

- AP

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