Patricia Nell Warren, author of the highly-influential 1974 novel The Front Runner, about a love affair between a running coach and his star athlete, has died at 82.
An out lesbian, Warren was the author of more than 10 books including Harlans’s Race, Billy’s Boy, and The Fancy Dancer. The Front Runner was the first work of gay fiction to make the New York Times best-seller list.
Wrote Warren’s friend John Selig on Facebook: “I have some sad news to share. My very dear friend Patricia Nell Warren passed away this morning. Patricia was a New York Times Best Selling author who was also an editor for over 20 years with the Readers Digest. In 1974 her ground breaking novel, The Front Runner, was published. Those of you who know me have often heard me speak about Patricia. She has been one of my closest friends for over 20 years. I am in Los Angeles and I was going to spend tomorrow with Patricia so I missed seeing her by one day. I last spoke with her yesterday. Patricia has been the kind of friend that one is lucky to find once or twice in a lifetime. For me Patricia has been a cross between a second mom and an older sister. Patricia was a phenomenal writer who loved to garden and cook. She was the best historian I have ever known and a master researcher for all of her writing, both fiction and non-fiction. She adored animals and loved to share stories of the Grant-Khors Ranch in Deer Lodge, Montana where she grew up…The world has lost an amazing talent today. I have lost a friend who has changed my life. RIP Patricia. I will love and miss you always.”
Wrote Cyd Zeigler at Outsports, of The Front Runner: “The novel exploded onto the scene when it was published. It was the first piece of contemporary gay fiction to reach the New York Times Best Seller list, and the Times called it “the most moving, monumental love story ever written about gay life.” Over 10 million copies have been printed in various languages. Before the Internet, ‘The Front Runner’ for many was that secret look inside gay life. With their bedroom door closed, countless young men locked themselves away as they read this incredible story of gay love. For many, it was the first time they felt someone was telling a story about their personal feelings and emotions. For gay sports fans and athletes, it was the first piece of gay culture that reflected them and their passion for sports.”
As news of Warren’s death spread, tributes began pouring out on social media about Warren, her writing, her many mentorships and friendships.