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Popular author E. Lynn Harris dies in LA

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Popular novelist E. Lynn Harris is dead at age 54. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall says he died Thursday night in Los Angeles.

The author of 11 novels and a memoir had a gift for telling a page-turning story. He also enjoyed the gift of timing. After years as a computer salesman, E. Lynn Harris emerged as a writer just as the publishing industry recognized the buying power of African-American readers – and just as that audience was ready to accept fictional reflections of sensitive topics.

Harris wrote about gay, straight, and bisexuality in ways no black American author since James Baldwin had. His books were popular with reading clubs, and Harris cultivated his fan base with frequent appearances at those groups, bookstores and literary fairs – and on TV shows including Oprah.

Harris lived in Atlanta and in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he taught as a visiting professor at the University of Arkansas. He was on a West Coast book tour when he died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.