E. Lynn Harris, whose self-published 1991 debut novel "Invisible Life" endeared him to millions of readers, died on July 24, 2009. He was 54 years old. According to the Arkansas Times, Harris suffered a "serious health setback" while on a West Coast book tour for his recent novel "Basketball Jones." In subsequent novels such as "Just As I Am," "If This World Were Mine" and "Any Way The Wind Blows," featuring the glamorous and gritty lives of Black strivers, closeted and openly gay men, the former IBM executive became one of the country's most popular writers, whose book signings were often standing-room-only events.
In a glossy style that combined elements of posh 1950s melodramas, daytime soap operas and homespun morality tales, Harris detailed the fictitious lives of young and stunningly attractive African-Americans, navigating their way through the NFL and NBA; Hollywood and Broadway; magazines and the music industry. Readers eagerly anticipated the return of Harris's fictitious fixtures such as closeted attorney Raymond Tyler, Jr., Johns "Basil" Henderson, and Yancey Harrinngton, and propelled nearly all of his novels onto the New York Times Best-Sellers List. Harris, who had more than 2 million copies of his novels in print, ranks as one of the most popular African-American novelists of all time.
Everette Lynn Harris, who often spoke in a soft, Southern drawl courtesy of his Arkansas upbringing, always dreamed of becoming an author. His road to his true calling wouldn't come easy, yet would inspire countless writers to tell their stories. Born in Flint, Michigan, Harris grew up in Little Rock. "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted," his 2003 memoir, documented his painful childhood, including abuse by his stepfather and a 1990 attempted suicide. For nearly a decade, before he tried to end it all, Harris lived a double life: He was a closeted, successful executive by day. After hours, he slept with men on the down-low and fell into a depression. A close friend asked Harris to write his story. In 1991, Harris wrote "Invisible Life," which received countless rejection letters from mainstream publishers.
In a now legendary story, Harris, who had relocated to Atlanta, sold the novel out of the trunk of his car at local beauty parlors. The novel soon landed in the hands of Martha Levin at Doubleday, Harris's long-time publisher. Harris's story inspired dozens of authors to self-publish their novels. ESSENCE was one of the first publications to feature Harris's work and he began a long affiliation with the publication.
He visited our officies last year, met with interns and signed copies of "Basketball Jones," and gave us a sneak peek of his latest novel featuring Yancey, including the first working lines of the novel: "How did this b---- get my life?"
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. He combined his passion for both of the latter by returning to his alma mater as an adjunct professor, where he taught as recently as last fall. He divided his time between Atlanta and Arkansas, but ultimately, always made the time for his readers, who he credited with saving and changing his life.
Best-Selling Author E. Lynn Harris Dies at 54 - Essence.com
I Bleed Purple-Baltimore and Proud!
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)