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“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,” Sessions said.

Courtenay divorced his first wife, Benita, in 2000. She died in 2007 aged 72.

He married his partner of seven years, Christine Gee, last year. He is also survived by his sons Brett and Adam.