Pioneering gay writer E. Lynn Harris dies

Sun. July 26, 2009 12:00 AM by Kevin Wayne

e. lynn harris

Best-selling author known for depicting black gay culture, including the "down-low"

Los Angeles - Bestselling writer E. Lynn Harris, a pioneer of black gay fiction, has died at the age of 54. He was in the middle of a West Coast tour to promote his 11th novel, Basketball Jones, when he passed away unexpectedly on Friday.

The openly gay African-American author is best known for novels that addressed questions of identity and sexuality among black men. Following the success of his self-published novel Invisible Life, Harris signed a book deal worth $8 million and went on to publish 11 novels including Just As I Am, Too Good To Be True, Abide With Me, as well as his 2004 memoir What Becomes of The Brokenhearted. Harris' first 10 novels were all on the New York Times bestseller list.

Harris was the first person to identify and write about the phenomenon known as the "down-low" in black gay culture.

Alison Rich, Doubleday's executive director of publicity, said in a statement: "We at Doubleday are deeply shocked and saddened to learn of E. Lynn Harris' death at too young an age. His pioneering novels and powerful memoir about the black gay experience touched and inspired millions of lives, and he was a gifted storyteller whose books brought delight and encouragement to readers everywhere. Lynn was a warm and generous person, beloved by friends, fans, and booksellers alike, and we mourn his passing."

Born Everette Lynn Harris in Flint, Michigan, he was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and most-recently taught English at the University of Arkansas as a visiting professor.

His novel, Basketball Jones, was published in January, while another book was due for release in October.