BIFF doco reveals Mongolia’s hip-hop underground

Mongolian Genghis Kahn to ghetto beats: Mongolian Bling hits BIFF.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s hard to imagine the land of Genghis Khan as a hip-hop mecca.

But that’s exactly what tour guide turned filmmaker Benj Binks discovered while working in the region.

“I guess I rocked up expecting herders and nomads and this ancient lifestyle, but stumbled into Ulaanbaatar, which is modern … I heard the hip-hop and thought it was cool,” says the 33-year-old Victorian.

Friends back home couldn’t believe there was an underground hip-hop scene in the Mongolian capital, so after completing a filmmaking course, Binks decided it would make a great subject for a documentary.

“For some reason I thought going back to Mongolia and shooting a documentary in winter, in a foreign language, would be easy,” he laughs.

Mongolian Bling took five years to make, with shoots in 2006, 2008 and 2010. It’s now doing the festival circuit, and screens at BIFF on Friday night.

The film follows several key players in the country’s burgeoning hip-hop industry, but also poses the hypothesis that due to its rich heritage of epic song cycles, throat singing and spoken word, hip-hop has its roots in Mongolia.

It’s an interesting premise that makes for a charming 90 minutes in the cinema, with a cast of passionate and talented characters.

“We just started interviewing people, and every single time we would interview someone, they would say “you need to speak to this person, and this person, and this person’,” Binks says.

There are three main protagonists in the film – Gee, a popular rapper influenced by Western styles, Quiza, who mixes hip-hop with more traditional music, and Gennie, Mongolia’s first female rapper, whose frenetic vocals are a revelation.

“They’re three great stories from a cross section of the industry,” says Binks.

Binks is proud of making what he feels is the first documentary about modern Mongolia, rather than its nomadic origins.

“Realistically only about a quarter of the population live like that,” he says.

Indeed, Mongolia is urbanising at a rapid rate, with about half its 3 million citizens living in or near Ulaanbaatar. But about 70 per cent of those people live in the “Ger Districts”, the traditional tent shelters of the nomads, where there is crime and poverty.

Mongolian Bling examines the way hip-hop is being used by the country’s young people to criticise the government for corruption and failing to do more for its people – particularly as it sits on the cusp of a resources boom.

“Gennie sings about mining in particular, quite explicitly, about foreign companies coming in and tearing up the land,” says Binks.

“They’re genuinely concerned about what that’s doing to their country, their nation, their homeland.”

Mongolian Bling screens at the Brisbane International Film Festival at 6pm, Friday November 23, at the Tribal Theatre 2.

It will also screen on ABC2 this Sunday 25 November at 11pm. See the Mongolian Bling website for more information. (www.mongolianbling南京夜网)

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Forget Cooper, I’ve got a Test to run, says Deans

FLORENCE: Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has declined to comment on uncertainty surrounding Quade Cooper’s future in Australian rugby.
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Deans said he had “no idea” what the state of play was with Cooper’s contract and was knee-deep in preparations for the Wallabies third Test of their spring tour, against Italy on Sunday.

“[I am] not interested in talking about it, we’re preparing for a Test,” he said. “No idea what [is happening].”

Cooper is reportedly poised to announce his intentions at a media conference on Monday after the ARU tabled an offer understood to be smaller than the contract offered before he publicly criticised the Wallabies, coach Robbie Deans and the ARU and was fined $40,000.

Neither Cooper nor his manager have made any public comments about the offer, while ARU high performance manager David Nucifora on Tuesday rejected claims it was a “rookie” level contract and denied there was bad blood between the union and the estranged Reds playmaker. Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe said on Monday Cooper’s departure would be a loss for Australian rugby.

The Wallabies have spent the week preparing to face what fullback Berrick Barnes called an “enlivened” Italian outfit.

“I think they’re a fair bit more expansive than in the past … [coach] Jacques Brunel has enlivened them a bit and they were particularly good last week, you’ve only got to go with Conrad Smith’s quote saying it was one of the toughest games they’d played all year to know they mean business,” Barnes said.

“It’s just shown this year that in the top 10 teams this year there’s not a hell of a lot of difference between each one and we’ve walked away with our tails between our legs many times this year by not aiming up. This is an important game.”

Brunel made two changes to the starting side that played the All Blacks last weekend, replacing lock Antonio Pavanello with Quintin Geldenhuys and openside flanker Simone Favaro with Robert Barbieri.

Queenslander Luke McLean, who moved to Italy to play five years ago, will start from the bench.

Deans said the four personnel changes Australia made for this Test were all about giving the Wallabies “fresh legs” against a tough competitor.

Halfback Brett Sheehan, who will earn his seventh Test cap but maiden start tomorrow, is one of the changes, along with hooker Stephen Moore, winger Drew Mitchell and back rower Scott Higginbotham.

Sheehan, who came into the Test side as injury cover after Will Genia injured his knee, said he was hoping to bring a “bit of noise” to the Wallabies, as well as his trade mark physicality.

“I’m extremely excited to get the call up and starting,” he said.

“[I was] given the opportunity to join the squad three months ago and I’ve absolutely loved it and been able to take my chances when I’ve been given a go.

“I’ve hung in there and it’s good to be able to back myself and give it a go and hopefully give the team a bit of a boost as well.”

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Is skipping the ads stealing the content?

Would you pay to filter out every online ad in your home?
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Ad-blocking is a sensitive subject, especially when your income comes from editors whose budgets are funded by advertising. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds, I think it’s worth looking at AdTrap — a crowd-funded Kickstarter project designed to filter out every ad from your home internet connection.

Ad-blocking is nothing new and we’ve had browser-based ad-blocking for years. AdBlock Plus is probably the best known browser plugin. I started experimenting with AdBlock Plus back when mobile broadband was insanely expensive and I didn’t feel like paying for the privilege of watching multimedia ads.

These days I use AdBlock Plus on all my computers and only turn it off for specific sites. It’s not that I have some kind of moral objection to advertising. Like I said, without advertising I’d be out of a job. I don’t mind online advertising until it becomes so intrusive that it jumps in front of what I’m trying to read, or makes my browser grind to a halt. You might even consider blocking all Flash and social media content by default for these reasons. Every time I turn off AdBlock Plus the intrusive advertising is even worse than I remember it, just like the odd occasion when I listen to commercial radio or watch live commercial television.

If the advertising isn’t too over the top then I’m usually prepared to disable AdBlock Plus on specific sites to support them. I guess that leads into the big question here — if you block the ads, are you “stealing” the content? You could ask the same about skipping ads in television shows. It’s a grey area and everyone tends to draw their own moral line in the sand.

And so we come to AdTrap, a $120 box designed to sit between your broadband modem and your home network. This way it can filter out ads not only on computers but also smartphones, tablets and any other internet-enabled device. It even targets the pre-roll ads in online videos. I can see how this would appeal to some people but personally I think it’s overkill. The ads on smartphones and tablets don’t tend to be as intrusive as desktop ads so they don’t bother me too much.

If you’re blocking absolutely every ad coming into your home, do you support the provider in some other way such as subscribing or donating? When you’re supporting the provider you’re also helping people put food on the table. It’s amazing how many people expect all their content to be free yet presumably still expect to be paid for their own job.

Does the AdTrap grab your interest? Where do you draw the line in terms of advertising, online or otherwise?

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Motorcyclist killed in collision north of Narooma

A 29-YEAR-OLD motorcyclist from Moruya was killed in acollision with a car just north of Narooma last night.
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Detective Inspector Justin Marks said the man was riding hisbike northbound when at 9.15pm for unknown reasons he crossed the centreline of the Princes Highway,just north of the Mort Avenue, Dalmeny turn-off.

He collided with a southbound Holden Commodore, was ejectedfrom the motorcycle and was thrown some distance coming to rest on the side ofthe highway. Both the 1000cc Kawasaki road bike and the car sustainedsignificant damage.

Witnesses performed CPR on the motorcyclist before Ambulanceparamedics arrived on scene taking over, but the man died on the way to Moruyahospital from significant injuries.

A crime scene was established with both local officers andforensic investigators with the northbound lane closed most of the night.

Roads and Maritime Services workers and volunteers from theDalmeny Kianga Rural Fire Service brigade directed traffic during the investigation.

The 26-year-old driver of the Commodore was also taken toMoruya Hospital for mandatory blood and urine tests, while the Narooma policewill prepare a report for the Coroner.

Inspector Marks said police could not rule out speed or anyother factor at this time.

The stretch of highway just north of the Dalmeny turn-off hasseen a number of fatal accidents in the last few years.

The motorcyclist came to rest mere metres away from theroadside memorial to local woman Chantell Eldridge killed on the same corner ofthe Princes Highway.

METRES AWAY: The motorcyclist came to rest mere metres away from the roadside memorial to local woman Chantell Eldridge killed on the same corner of the Princes Highway.

FATAL CORNER: The fatal corner is the first bend in the highway for vehicles heading south past the Dalmeny turn off.

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Wanted to ‘silence’ witness: man jailed for murder

The man who killed 14-year-old Edward Lee and murdered the wife of a man he believed was going to give evidence against him has been sentenced to at least 30 years jail.
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Mustapha Dib, now 29, was found guilty of the murder of Anita Vrzina, 20, and the shooting with intent to murder of her de facto husband, Ahmed Banat, then 22, at Punchbowl on November 23, 2000.

Dib was aged 17 years and 10 months at the time of the murder, however, in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Acting Justice Graham Barr made an order allowing his name to be published. Previously he had been known as “Z”.

Dib was 15 when he stabbed Korean schoolboy Edward Lee in a street brawl between two gangs of Asian and Lebanese youths in Telopea Street, Punchbowl, in 1998. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2001.

The Crown Prosecutor, Craig Patrick, said Dib’s motivation was to “silence” Banat “because he could become a witness against him in the Lee case”.

Banat and his wife were in their car with their two-year-old son in the back when a stolen Nissan Pulsar drove up beside them and a gunman fired four to six shots through a door window.

Ms Vrzina was fatally shot in the chest. Banat was shot in the neck but survived following emergency surgery in St George Hospital.

The Crown case was that, while he was in intensive care, Banat wrote notes to police identifying Dib as the gunman.

However, once he was discharged from hospital, Banat recanted and claimed he did not know who the killer was.

During the trial, Banat told the jury that police “took advantage” of him being under heavy medication and pressured him to wrongly identify his wife’s killer.

In sentencing Dib, Justice Barr said the jury rejected Banat’s version. In a twist, Banat was found guilty of four counts of perverting the course of justice in the Sydney District Court on Tuesday.

Justice Barr said Dib planned the public execution of Banat, either to prevent him giving evidence regarding his part in the killing of Edward Lee, or because he found out that Banat was a police informant.

Dib believed informants should be killed, as should their “next of kin” and any witnesses, Justice Barr said.

Although the murder and the shoot with intent to murder were in the worst category of crime, Justice Barr declined to impose a life sentence because Dib was a minor at the time.

He said Dib had some prospects of rehabilitation.

Dib was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years and maximum 35 years for the murder of Ms Vrzina. He was also sentenced to a minimum 15 years and maximum 20 years for shooting with intent to murder Banat.

With time served and some accumulation of the sentences he will be eligible for parole in July 2041. His total sentence expires in July 2051.

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The life of Bryce Courtenay

Bryce Courtenay launches novel Solomons Song. Solomons Song is about Australia’s journey to nationhood. Pictured left to right is Sir William Keys and Bryce Courtenay. Photo: Fairfax Archives Bryce Courtenay. Photo: Fairfax Archive
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The Family Frying Pan by Bryce Courtenay. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Bryce Courtenay. Photo: Rick Stevens/Fairfax Archive

Bryce Courtenay at an event. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Bryce Courtenay at a book reading session in Paddington. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Bryce Courtenay pictured at his North Sydney office shortly after the release of his book,”The Potato Factory”. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Gareth Evans with Bryce Courtenay and today to speak about a GST on books. Pic by Heath Missen.

Bryce Courtnay holding a ‘Yowie’ CD.ROM. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Bryce Courtenay with some year prep and 1 students from Williamstown North Primary School at Taronga Zoo to launch the yowie education CD. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Hazel Hawke and Bryce Courtenay sign the ‘Sorry Book’ on National Sorry Day. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Bryce Courtenay at the launch of his new book Tommo and Hawk. Photo: Nick Moir

Bryce Courtenay at Geoff Pikes home in Cremorne, Sydney. The two produced a craze among young children with ‘Yowies’ – the wrapped chocolate with an Australian animal inside to build. Photo: Nick Moir

Bryce Courtenay embraces a friend at one of his book launches. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Bryce Courtenay embraces a friend at one of his book launches. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Bryce Courtenay talks about his new novel. Photo: Narelle Autio

Bryce Courtenay talks about his new novel. Photo: Narelle Autio

Bryce Courtenay. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Bryce Courtenay. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Bryce Courtenay. Photo: Fairfax Archive

Best-selling Australian author Bryce Courtenay passed away on Thursday evening after suffering from terminal gastric cancer since September this year.

Courtenay was a well known and loved author, responsible forcaptivating the imagination of adults and children around the world with 20of hisfictitious novels.

Nerd alert: it ain’t always easy

Nabil Morshed has done the occasional job for NearbyNerd fixing computers in Sydney’s western suburbs.Ever dreamed of starting an online business that will just sweep the cyberspace? Turning a web page into commercial success can take longer than anticipated, discovered Gilad Bakas, the founder of computer-help site, NearbyNerd.
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It’s been more than three years since the 30-year-old immigrant from Israel launched the website, aimed at connecting the technology-savvy with those among us who despair over hung computers, broken iPhone screens and network problems.

The idea was as simple as it was compelling: If you have an issue with your computer, mobile phone or tablet device, you get online, put in your postcode and find a local nerd who can fix the problem. Clients pay the nerds – many of them computer science or electrical engineering students – an agreed-upon sum, usually below the rates of professional IT consultants.

When they take on jobs, the nerds pay Bakas’s site a commission of $10 for standard repairs to $25 for more complex tasks. Customers evaluate the nerds online for other users to see.

So what defines a nerd? “It’s someone who is passionate about technology,” Bakas says, dismissing notions of the technically advanced, socially awkward overweight kid speaking in binary code.

Promoting his venture on online tech forums such as Whirlpool and university job boards, Bakas has been able to build up an impressive network of more than 1900 tech geeks across the country, ready to take on the odd troubleshooting job to make a few bucks on the side.

“And what I found is it’s much easier to get nerds because they are already online and have huge incentives to join,” says the entrepreneur, who emigrated to Australia five years ago as a computer programmer. “It’s much, much harder to get the customers.”

So far, about 4000 clients have taken up NearbyNerd’s services. So what’s holding the business back? Is it the fact that people actually have to go online to find nerds when they already have troubles with their computer?

That’s “not a major issue,” Bakas maintains. “Nowadays the majority of people have more than one device to access the internet – they can always find a mobile phone, the work computer, there’s always another way.” His most common clients are users aged 25 to 45, who have multiple digital devices and are used to finding solutions on the internet, as opposed to older people who might “find the whole concept of the internet a bit frightening maybe”.

And adding a call centre to help people over the phone would prove too costly, he says.

Bakas reckons it comes down to getting better known as a business, and he has stepped up investments in TV advertising and search engine optimisation to direct more traffic to his site.

“Talking to people in the industry…. I still see the issue that people are not aware [of the concept], and not that people are aware of it and don’t like it,” he says.

It’s an impression shared by one of his geeks, Nabil Morshed. The second-year electro-engineering student has done the occasional job for NearbyNerd fixing computers in Sydney’s western suburbs. He charges $40 for the first hour and $20 for every subsequent hour, but calls for help come in irregularly: “I don’t think a lot of people know about the company,” he says.

Still, Bakas is optimistic his concept will eventually take off on a larger scale.

Three years in, the site now largely pays for itself in terms of ongoing costs. Having pumped more than $70,000 into his start-up using money he made working as a commercial IT consultant, the business was “probably just crossing the line of being profitable,” Bakas says. “It is growing all the time and to keep it going doesn’t take much work.”

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From postal clerk to chairman of the Post

John Stanhope.John Stanhope, the former chief financial officer of Telstra, has been named chairman of the federal government-owned Australia Post.
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He has been appointed to the position for four years, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said.

‘‘Mr Stanhope brings to the role extensive experience in finance, commercial strategy and communications technology,’’ Senator Conroy said.

Mr Stanhope began his career in 1967 as a clerk at the predecessor of both Australia Post and Telstra, the Postmaster-General’s Department, moving to Telecom Australia after it split from the department in 1975.

By 1995, he was Telstra’s director of finance and was deeply involved in the three-stage privatisation of the telco and the marathon negotiation that culminated last year in Telstra’s agreement to take part in the national broadband project. He replaces David Mortimer, who retired in September.

He takes up his term as the Australia Post chief executive, Ahmed Fahour, reduces the group’s dependence on ”snail mail” by ramping up express delivery operations and expanding into digital mail.

Physical mail volumes are down 17 per cent since 2008 and Australia Post’s regulated mail business lost $148 million in the year to June 30. But non-regulated operations, including express parcels, earned $546 million. The group’s overall profit rose by 16 per cent to $281 million.

Mr Stanhope’s appointment is interesting given that he was lined up against the government and its National Broadband Company in the negotiations over Telstra’s participation in the broadband network – negotiations Telstra is now considered to have driven successfully.

He retired as CFO of Telstra at the end of last year and his experience at the top of that group as it managed its digital transition would have counted in the latest appointment.

Australia Post is also becoming a long-range privatisation contender. The government has not flagged a sale, but Mr Stanhope is well schooled in the process.

Mark Darras has been acting chairman of Australia Post since Mr Mortimer retired in September and will continue as deputy.

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Alchemia seeks to pull biotech rabbit out of hat

One definition of alchemy is that it is a process by which paradoxical results are achieved or incompatible elements are combined with no obvious rational explanation.
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It is also supposed to be the forerunner of medieval chemistry, based on the supposed transformation of matter, leading to all that glittering gold.

By these definitions, ASX-listed biotech Alchemia, is well named. At 58¢, its shares have climbed 38 per cent since Radar mentioned the stock back in May when it was 42¢.

If there is any alchemy, we would suggest it has been at the hands of the corporate financiers and 19 per cent shareholder Allan Gray (previously Oribis Capital), which is making an absolute motza from the part of the $21 million it pumped into the company this time last year at 24¢ a share.

D-day is approaching for the company as it is about to split in two on December 5, and the question of what a company is worth has never been more vexing, at least for this columnist.

Alchemia’s market cap is currently just under $163 million, and we understand that chief executive Pete Smith and his team are racing around the US trying to raise about $US50 million ($A48.2 million) for its cancer treatment, which is supposed to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and is in phase three trials.

Alchemia is being split into its fondaparinux drug on the one hand, which is relatively low risk and starting to earn good money (the reason behind all this), and on the other, its high risk cancer R&D.

Alchemia’s name and management will remain with the former, while the cancer R&D vehicle will be listed on the Nasdaq and on the ASX and will be called Audeo Oncology. Alchemia shareholders will own 70 per cent, and the new US shareholders will own the remainder.

Fondaparinux (code-named Jane within the company) is a generic version of GlaxoSmithKline’s drug used to remove blood clots and deep vein thrombosis. It is being manufactured and distributed by Dr Reddy’s and yesterday Alchemia said it received $1.5 million in net royalties for the June quarter.

By all accounts, this business is going well, having increased market share to about 41 per cent at the pharmacy level, and 6 per cent of hospitals. It will need to grow quickly to justify a market cap north of $100 million, and will be based on the effectiveness of Dr Reddy’s marketing.

At the current share price, the market is valuing Jane in the order of 40¢ a share, according to Scott Power of RBS Morgans, versus his valuation, which is about the current share price, of 58¢.

Radar’s scepticism has more to do with the 40¢ a share valuation of the cancer R&D business, which we think is on the high side, and was arrived at by the underwriters Leerink Swann and Oppenheimer & Co. If Audeo raises the $50 million or so as planned, this values the company, which will have the ASX code AKQ, at $160 million (more or less).

No doubt Alchemia’s cancer treatment is promising, and the company says that the recruitment for its final stage trials are going well, but we are talking about the riskiest end of the biotech curve. It’s said that the US Food and Drugs Administration would not approve aspirin if it were discovered today.

To our knowledge, Alchemia’s (soon to be Audeo’s) HA-Irinotecan compound, which at this stage is targeting bowel cancer, does not have the backing of a big pharmaceutical company. For valuation reasons, if a small biotech only has one or two products in development, the incentive is very strong for management to push that product through the various stages of development.

In any event, the $50 million raised will only be enough to fund its phase three program, the results of which are due in the second half of next year. It will need to raise more if it needs to run additional trials. Such is the life of a biotech.

Click here to access the fortnightly newsletter Under the Radar Report: Small Caps, edited by Richard Hemming. Visit here for more Under the Radar articles.

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Bestselling author Bryce Courtenay dies, aged 79

Bryce Courtenay … died aged 79.Obituary: the man who ‘made Christmas presents’Leave a tribute to Bryce Courtenay here
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EACH November for the past 20 years or so, Bryce Courtenay has produced a bestselling blockbuster that has delighted many thousands of loyal readers. This year’s offering, Jack of Diamonds, is little different in style or content. But it will be his last.

Courtenay, who has been suffering from stomach cancer, died in Canberra late on Thursday with his wife Christine, his family pets, Tim, the dog, and Cardamon, the Burmese cat by his side. He was 79. He knew he had little time left, but approached his final chapter with his characteristic cheerful spirits and brave face.

“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,” Mrs Courtenay said in a statement released by Penguin publishers.

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.”

In a final interview for Penguin, the man who has regularly been Australia’s most popular novelist said he was going to die at precisely the right time, while he still had his intellect and energy. “The time is right, it’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous.”

His long-time publisher and friend, Bob Sessions, who will deliver the eulogy at the writer’s funeral, told Fairfax when Courtenay let him know him that Jack would be the last book he was stunned and saddened. And there was the question of the book – the plan had been for there to be two.

“I said to him, but what about Jack? And Bryce said ‘don’t worry, I’ll tell them what happens’. And he also took the opportunity (in the book) to say farewell to his readers.”

Sessions said Courtenay’s strength as a novelist was that he was a marvellous storyteller. “I often likened him to Charles Dickens and I don’t say that lightly. He tells sweeping stories and he had larger-than-life characters. And the readers had a sense of learning something about the world.”

Courtenay had always wanted to be a storyteller and writing The Power of One, which was published in 1989, “changed his life”. Courtenay, then 50, was in advertising and, according to Sessions, “overstressed, drinking several bottles of wine a day, and smoking a hundred cigarettes”. He realised his lifestyle would be the death of him and he changed it to write. Courtenay always said becoming a writer was the proudest moment in his life.

Bryce Courtenay’s reputation for storytelling in print extended to the telling of his own story, which was frequently embellished. He was born in South Africa in 1933 and brought up partly in an orphanage. There he told stories to avoid being bullied and also learned to box. When I interviewed at his former home in Bowral he said a schoolmate told him: “If you can’t bullshit your way out then you better know how to fight.” Courtenay added that he had been bullshitting ever since.

He got a scholarship to a smart school in Johannesburg and when he left opted to study journalism in London. He paid for that by becoming a “grizzly” man doing dangerous work with explosives in the copper mines of the then Rhodesia.

In 1958 he left London for Sydney and the beginning of what he called his love affair with Australia. But he didn’t manage to get into journalism and started writing advertising copy. His plan was to work until he was 35 and then write novels. But with his son Damon a haemophiliac, he needed a regular income and eventually reached the top of the advertising business. Signing a $1million publishing deal for The Power of One when he was 55 changed all that.

He followed up the story of Peekay the orphan with the heart-rending April Fool’s Day, the story of Damon and his death from Aids, which he  contracted from a tainted transfusion in April Fool’s Day.

Courtenay wrote a further 19 novels, including Jessica, Tommo & Hawk, and Sylvia, starting each one on the last day of January and completing it by August. He delivered the book to Penguin chapter by chapter so the book could be in the shops in time for Christmas. But he didn’t stop there: he also had a serious say in how they were marketed.

Courtenay loved Australia. He loved what it had given him. “It’s the only country where you’re entitled to reinvent yourself,” he told me in Bowral. “Look at me – I’ve reinvented myself as an author.”

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