Born: July 16, 1932; Died: September 23, 2013.
Christopher Koch, who has died aged 81, was a novelist who was acclaimed as one of Australia's greatest. He came to greater prominence when his novel The Year Of Living Dangerously was adapted into a film starring Mel Gibson, but for Koch the movie was a bit of a millstone. He believed that he had written much better novels than The Year of Living Dangerously.
He was born in Hobart, Tasmania, and educated at the University of Tasmania, but left Australia for Britain when he was young man. He worked in London for several years but after being told he would have to do his national service, he headed back to Australia.
He worked as a radio producer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as well as trying to develop as a writer. He published his first novel in 1958, The Boys in the Island, which relates the story of a young man born in Tasmania, as he had been, and dreaming of a new life on the mainland.
By the early 1970s, he was ready to give full-time writing a go. The Year Of Living Dangerously was published in 1978 and was based on his brother Philip's experiences working as a foreign correspondent. The novel follows a reporter working in Indonesia in the 1960s as the regime of President Sukarno disintegrates.
The book was made into a film in 1982 with Mel Gibson as the Australian journalist Guy Hamilton and Sigourney Weaver as an official at the British Embassy. The film's biggest gamble was to cast Linda Hunt as the male character Billy Kwan - a gamble which upset Koch.
The producer of the film, Peter Weir, said: "My feeling was that it was worth a gamble, but can you imagine how horrified Chris Koch must have been to hear that a woman was going to play his precious creation?"
Koch went on to write two other novels which won high acclaim, The Doubleman in 1985 and Highways To A War in 1996 - they both won him Australia's Miles Franklin Award. For Koch, though, there was always the millstone of the Mel Gibson movie.
"I've written other books since," he said, "that I think might be better, but people always come back to that one and it's because it was a film. That's how much film dominates out culture."
He wrote eight novels in all and held a creative writing fellowship at Stanford University. His final novel, Lost Voices, was published last year.
In later life, he settled back in Tasmania and is survived by his second wife, Robin, and his son, the classical guitarist Gareth Koch.
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