E. Lynn Harris ( pictured ) , a former Chicagoan and author of best-selling books about Black gay life, has died at age 54, according to his publicist. He was on a tour for his new novel, Basketball Jones. See 2003 coverage by Windy City Media Group's BLACKlines Magazine of Harris' Memoirs at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Also see In the Life's online tribute to E.LynnHarris at www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqXsWMs9fMs
Laura Gilmore said he died July 24 at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. The cause of death is still unknown.
Harris was a pioneer in Black gay fiction, once selling his books out of the back of his car when no one would pick up his works for mainstream distribution. Born in Flint, Mich., and raised in Little Rock, Ark., Harris spent some time in Chicago before hitting it big as an author.
In 1991, he self-published Invisible Life, which three years later found a new life through Anchor Books. He eventually published 10 more novels and a memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted. His books had not just a gay following, but also many straight women could relate to the emotions Harris wrote about.
On his blog for TheDailyVoice.com, activist Keith Boykin wrote that he has been friends with Harris for 17 years, and that he owes his own literary career to Harris. "Lynn was also one of the most prolific writers I've ever met. I think he was the most prolific popular African American male writer in America the past 15 years," he wrote. "As someone who takes years to write a single book, I always envied Lynn's ability to produce on deadline."
"He was also a man of the world," Boykin wrote. "When I first met him, he lived in Chicago, but he had lived in many places since then. He had a beautiful home in Atlanta, loved going to his alma mater at the University of Arkansas to teach and work with the cheerleaders, and loved to visit New York City, where he once lived in a beautiful apartment in the Trump Tower building in Columbus Circle."
Patrick Henry Bass wrote on Essence.com that Harris "single-handedly carved out a space for contemporary African-American male novelists such as Eric Jerome Dickey, Colin Channer, RM Johnson, Carl Weber, Van Whitfield, and Omar Tyree. He was a tireless champion for the Hurston/Wright Foundation and had his own foundation. Harris was known in the literary community for his generosity to his fans ( often remembering birthdays and holidays ) ; his love of the Arkansas Razorbacks ( he was the first Black male cheerleader for the school ) , and his support for burgeoning writers."