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Author E. Lynn Harris Dies at 54

Author E. Lynn Harris has died while on a west coast book tour, Arkansas Sports reports:

Elynnharrris "Harris, a best-seller whose work dealt with black, gay culture and delved into athletics, was a passionate Razorbacks fan. For the past eight semesters, Harris served as a 'visiting' professor for the English department...Most recently, Harris' wrote his 11th novel, 'Basketball Jones', which involved an NBA player and the player's gay lover. Before 'Basketball Jones,' Harris penned 'Just Too Good To Be True,' a novel detailing the life of Heisman Trophy candidate Brady Manning. Harris' novel focused on the pressures surrounding Manning and the support system the star athlete leaned on to help him through dark and troubling times."

A Random House executive confirmed the death to BV Newswire. There are no further details about the cause of death, though the Arkansas Times reported hearing the author suffered a "serious health setback" earlier today.

The Arkansas Sports site did not name a source. I will publish any updates that come in here.

Patrik Ian Polk, the creator of Noah's Arc, was scheduled to see Harris today, and reported via Twitter that Harris went into cardiac arrest last night after dinner at his hotel in Beverly Hills.

UPDATE: "Publicist Laura Gilmore says Harris died Thursday night after being stricken while at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Gilmore says a cause of death had not yet been determined. A coroners' official in Los Angeles said only that a man matching Harris' name and date of birth had died Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center."

UPDATE II: New York Times obituary - "Mr. Harris clearly tapped a rich vein of reader interest with his racy and sometimes graphic tales of affluent, ambitious, powerful black men — athletes, businessmen, lawyers and the like — who nonetheless struggled with their attraction to both men and women. His books married the superficial glamour of jet-setting potboilers with an emotional candor that shed light on a segment of society that had received little attention: black men on the down low — that is, men who are publicly heterosexual but secretly have sex with men. Mr. Harris, who was openly gay but who lived for many years in denial or shame or both over that fact, was able to draw on his own experiences to make credible the emotional conflicts of his characters, and his readers, many of them women, were drawn to his books because they addressed issues that were often surreptitiously pertinent to their own lives."

Harris was the author of 12 novels, a memoir, and many stories.

Harris in a 2006 interview with CBS News Julie Chen, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. I'm shocked.

    Posted by: Hank | Jul 24, 2009 12:32:57 PM

  2. Tragic. A reminder to everyone to take care of your health.

    Posted by: Bill | Jul 24, 2009 12:41:43 PM

  3. Sad! He was such a gifted author

    Posted by: VpO | Jul 24, 2009 12:46:31 PM

  4. Wow. Speechless.

    Posted by: Lito S. | Jul 24, 2009 1:08:48 PM

  5. A hole in the story is that there are no July book tour dates on his site, and he did West Coast readings in February so chances are he wouldn't do it again now.
    Call me in denial, but it's still just a rumor.

    Posted by: Larry-bob | Jul 24, 2009 1:27:28 PM

  6. This saddens me greatly. His books have helped and entertained a lot of people...or at least they did so for me.

    Rest In Peace

    Posted by: Hank | Jul 24, 2009 1:28:27 PM

  7. R.I.P. *sigh* I'm so tired of writing that.

    Posted by: soulbrotha | Jul 24, 2009 1:41:33 PM

  8. DAMN... E. Lynn got me through so much growing up... so sad to see such a great writer pass on. RIP.

    Posted by: Drew | Jul 24, 2009 1:58:23 PM

  9. I am shocked. He was a favorite author of mine and a damned good writer. What a shame. I pray that he is at peace. God bless his soul.

    Posted by: mike | Jul 24, 2009 2:00:49 PM

  10. Sad, sad, sad. He meant a lot to his readers... gay Black men, Black women, and so many more. One of the writers who helped me face myself and come out so many moons ago.

    I met him three times in NYC -- one book signing, once walking around Midtown and once out in Chelsea. He always had a big smile, was always a bit flirty, and just had love for all the brothas. He was just a good spirit.

    R.I.P. E. Lynn

    Posted by: JTlvr | Jul 24, 2009 2:08:07 PM

  11. @Larry-Bob,

    His death has been confirmed by his publishers, Random House. What more do you want?

    Posted by: soulbrotha | Jul 24, 2009 2:10:43 PM

  12. WOW. What's going on???
    I'm getting over one and then another.
    God bless and rest in peace dear man.

    Posted by: GOT2BC.C. | Jul 24, 2009 2:15:27 PM

  13. That's so sad. His memoir moved me to tears, as well as a couple of his books. His other books were guilty pleasure for me. I got to interview him a few years ago for a queer newsmag & he was so kind. MJ's death did not affect me very much but this will.

    Posted by: scar2 | Jul 24, 2009 2:28:36 PM

  14. E. Lynn Harris Hand Carved Ceramic Art Tile

    Posted by: frankie blackenstein | Jul 24, 2009 4:24:36 PM

  15. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that there are a lot of Towleroaders who have no idea who Harris is but he had a quiet impact on the lives of a many young gay men of color through his NYT's best sellers.

    Posted by: Giovanni | Jul 24, 2009 5:01:14 PM

  16. I read a number of his books and met him at a book signing in the Castro. He was a great writer. He will be missed.

    Posted by: SFshawn | Jul 24, 2009 5:53:27 PM

  17. @Larry Bob--the "book tour" mis-info was in the first newsreport and no one has corrected it. He was not on a book tour. He was in LA having meetings about film/tv projects.

    Posted by: JeffNYC | Jul 24, 2009 7:38:12 PM

  18. Giovanni,

    I think you're right. I might be jaded but I think we are so divided as a community that his death will not get a lot of coverage in the mainstream Gay community which is sad. I admit that I don't read a lot of Gay fictions but I always heard when E Lynn Harris had a novel coming out. He was called the Tyler Perry of novels. (Not sure if bad or good) I know that this website is geared towards White Gay people but this is a loss to the whole Gay community.

    Posted by: db | Jul 24, 2009 9:15:22 PM

  19. rest in peace e. lynn harris. your books opened up a world not many knew of. in some ways it created more paranoia for blk women but at least opened up a dialog. thank you. thank you thank you. you got black people reading again.

    Posted by: kG | Jul 24, 2009 9:43:49 PM

  20. Are you suggesting that a lot of Towleroaders don't know who Harris is/was because he's a black author?

    I think you don't give your fellow Towleroaders enough credit.

    I saw him speak at the LGBT Center in NYC years ago. While I never read any of his books, I certainly was aware of him, who he was and what he meant to so many people.

    Posted by: Dante | Jul 27, 2009 5:06:12 AM

  21. i bought my first e. lynn novel at a gay bookstore in boston before i had come out and before you could probably find his books in the mainstream bookstores. i purchased my last one very recently in Borders, where it had it's own display. BTW, i am white and i love his books.

    Posted by: john | Jul 27, 2009 9:02:41 AM

  22. He was a great writer. I have seven of his books and look forward to reading the rest of them. His stories are easy to identify with whether you are gay, straight, black, white, male, female etc. Truly an outstanding voice for our community.

    Posted by: Jeff | Jul 27, 2009 8:56:44 PM

  23. Well Dante,

    By reading very little comments on his death here proves Giovanni right.

    And your point is???

    Some of them have no concern about E Lynn he's doesn't cater to what they like.
    I guess you can call it assimilation.

    Posted by: Shing Shing | Jul 28, 2009 12:50:14 AM

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