Friday, July 24, 2009
E. Lynn Harris Dead at 54
E. Lynn Harris, a pioneer of gay black fiction whose books sat on the nite-stands of wives and girlfriends but men rarely bothered reading them, and was a literary entrepreneur who rose from self-publishing to best-selling status, has died, his publicist said Friday. He was 54 years old.
Publicist Laura Gilmore said Mr. Harris died Thursday night after being stricken at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, and a cause of death hadn't been determined. She said Mr. Harris, who lived in Atlanta, fell ill on a train to Los Angeles a few days ago and blacked out for a few minutes, but seemed fine after that.
Ms. Gilmore said an autopsy would be performed Monday or Tuesday.
An improbable and inspirational success story, Mr. Harris worked for a decade as an IBM executive before taking up writing, selling the novel "Invisible Life" from his car as he visited salons and beauty parlors around Atlanta. He had unprecedented success for an openly gay black author and his strength as a romance writer led some to call him the "male Terry McMillan." He went on to mainstream success with works such as the novel "Love of My Own" and the memoir "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted."
His writing fell into several genres, including gay and lesbian fiction, African-American fiction and urban fiction. But he found success in showing readers a new side of African-American life: the secret world of professional, bisexual black men living as heterosexuals.