Reports: E. Lynn Harris dies during book tour

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UPDATED | Friday, 4:25 p.m.

Gay Atlanta author E. Lynn Harris died Thursday night while staying at a Beverly Hills hotel during a publicity tour for “Basketball Jones.”

Reports of the nine-time best-selling author’s death surfaced in blogs Friday morning. A Harris publicist and publishing executive confirmed his death with the Associated Press and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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.

Harris was a pioneer of gay black fiction and a literary entrepreneur who rose from self-publishing to best-selling status.

A Doubleday executive told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the company is “shocked and saddened” by Harris’ death.

In a statement to the AJC, Alison Rich, Doubleday executive director of publicity said: “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.”

Initial reports early Friday said Harris “suffered a serious health setback.” But a later report from ArkansasSports360.com, which does not cite a source, said Harris died.

Author E. Lynn Harris, cheerleading sponsor/coach for Arkansas and a passionate Razorbacks fan, has passed away at 53. He was on a book tour of the West Coast.

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.

Black Voices Newswire reports that a Random House executive confirmed Harris’ death. Random House publishes Harris’ novels.

Essence.com reports that the author’s personal assistant confirmed that Harris’ heath had declined.

The celebrated author’s personal assistant confirmed that his health had declined but would not provide any details as to what caused his death. Harris was in the middle of a West Coast book tour. His best-selling novels such as “Invisible Life” depicted African-American gay community in a unique way and exposed the down-low phenomenon of athletes.

Raised in Little Rock, the Michigan native became the first black cheerleader at his alma mater, the University of Arkansa at Fayetteville, and returned to teach adjunct courses in the English department last fall.

His work includes the memoir “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” and the novels, “A Love of My Own,” “Just as I Am,” “Any Way the Wind Blows,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “If This World Were Mine” and the classic “Invisible Life.” His latest book is “Just Too Good to Be True,” which was published in June.

His works have been named Novel of the Year by the Blackboard African American Bestsellers three times and “If This World Were Mine” won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence.

Harris appeared at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse in January to read from and promote his latest work, “Basketball Jones.” He also appeared at the store in July 2008 to promote “Just Too Cool to Be True.”

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