E. Lynn Harris dies, age 54; best-selling African-American author was early self-publishing success
BY NICOLE LYN PESCE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Updated Friday, July 24th 2009, 5:42 PM
E. Lynn Harris poses in the living room of his home in Atlanta in July 2008. He died Friday at age 54 after suffering a decline in his health, his assistant confirmed.
Best-selling author E. Lynn Harris, who debuted with the self-published hit novel "Invisible Life" in 1991 and was beloved by millions of readers, died Thursday night at age 54.
His publicist, Laura Gilmore, told the Associated Press he passed away Thursday night after being stricken while at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. A cause of death has not been determined.
An official for the coroner's office in Los Angeles confirmed that a man matching Harris' name and date of birth had died Thursday night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Harris suffered a "serious health setback" while on a West Coast book tour for his eleventh tome, "Basketball Jones," according to the Arkansas Times.
The author's sudden and untimely death quickly became the most-searched term on Google this afternoon.
Harris, an openly-gay writer who spent a decade as a closeted IBM executive, specialized in stories following attractive young African-American men who were in the closet or keeping their sexuality on the "down-low" in novels including "Just As I Am," "If This World Were Mine" and "Any Way The Wind Blows."
Harris' first 10 novels were all on the New York Times bestseller list, and have also appeared on the bestseller lists of the Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, according to his Web site.
His 2003 memoir, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted," was also a New York Times best-seller, and there are more than four million copies of his books in print.
Born Everette Lynn Harris in Flint, Michigan, the soft-spoken Southerner grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas dreaming of becoming an author.
Success didn't come easily. His memoir recounted his troubled childhood, which included abuse by his stepfather and a suicide attempt in 1990 when his own "down-low" lifestyle led him into a deep depression.
A friend convinced him to share his story, but his first novel, "Invisible Life," was rejected by numerous mainstream publishers. In what has since become the stuff of legend, Harris began hawking copies out of the trunk of his car at Atlanta beauty parlors. His book found its way into the hands of Martha Levin at Doubleday, which been Harris' publisher ever since.
Alison Rich, Doubleday's executive director of publicity, said in a statement that "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."
Besides publishing his eleventh novel, Harris recently taught English at the University of Arkansas as a visiting professor.
With Gina Salamone"
SOURCE.: DAILY NEWS