E. Lynn Harris, who found unlikely success writting books about black gay men, passed away in Los Angeles on Thursday. The cause of death is still unknown.
According to Harris' publicist, he fell ill while on a train to Los Angeles, and saw a doctor, but everything seemed fine. He died shortly after that. The Atlanta resident was going to the west coast to promote his 11th novel "Basketball Jones," the story of a professional basketball player who lives on the downlow, or has sex with men in private while living publicly as a heterosexual.
Though Harris was openly gay, this was a theme common to almost all of Harris' 11 books, such as If This World Were Mine, A Love of My Own, and Any Way the Wind Blows. Nothing about Harris' popularity seems likely. Working as a computer salesman, he began his literary career by self publishing Invisible Life in 1991. It was later published as a trade paperback and started off his series of hits. He had 10 books, including his autobiography What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, on the New York Times best-seller list.
Though the characters in his books often lived lives of largess, Harris grew up poor in Alabama with a step father who beat him and who often called him a "sissy." He studied journalism at the University of Arkansas where he was also a cheerleader. Though he was never known for his literary prowess, his pot-boilers gave a voice to a relatively unseen population and his works resonated with audiences black and white, male and female, gay and straight.