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Author E. Lynn Harris Dies at 54

E. Lynn Harris, a pioneer of gay black fiction and a literary entrepreneur who rose from self-publishing to best-selling status, died Thursday night after being stricken at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. He was just 54.

An improbable and inspirational success story, Harris worked for a decade as an IBM executive before taking up writing, selling the novel "Invisible Life" from his car as he visited salons and beauty parlors around Atlanta. He had unprecedented success for an openly gay black author and his strength as a romance writer led some to call him the "male Terry McMillan." He published 11 novels, 10 of which were on The New York Times best-seller list. There are over 4 million copies of his books in print, according to his publisher, Doubleday.

Matt Schudel is working on an article for tomorrow's paper, which will be online later today. In the meantime, tell us about your favorite books by him.

By Patricia Sullivan |  July 24, 2009; 4:01 PM ET  | Category:  Obituaries
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When I arrived home from work today, I was heartbroken to learn of the death of Mr. Harris. I was reminded of the first time I read his book "Invisible Life." It was in the 1994 and walked into a bookstore in Dadeland Mall in Miami, and could not believe here was a book that made me feel great about myself. Thanks for all of the great books. Rest in peace Mr. Harris.

Posted by: ebs70mxp | July 24, 2009 6:12 PM

Basketball Jones. Excellent book. Another great author gone.

Posted by: jwg9004 | July 24, 2009 6:22 PM

I was first introduced to E. Lynn Harris by my first love in college. I was only told that Harris' first novel, Invisible Life, was addictive and a must-read. In less than three days, I finished reading the novel and felt compelled to read another. As a young man, I quickly identified with his complex Black characters, who were also dealing with similar issues of love, sex, race, and friendship. His plots were always engaging and plausible; essentially a modern Greek tragedy with a Black gay twist.

In total, I have read nine out of his eleven novels and I prize my collection that sits on my bookshelf. He wasn't a Terry McMillan or a James Baldwin. His works are great enough to warrant stand-alone status. Although I am sadden that he has died, I greatly appreciate the gifts he left behind. Thank you Mr. Harris.

Posted by: Minsu5 | July 24, 2009 7:21 PM

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