My friend Dianne called me this morning on my way to work to ask me why I hadn’t told her about “my buddy”. I had no idea who she was talking about. Well, it wasn’t pleasant news to my ears.
The “buddy” she was referring to is my favorite author, E Lynn Harris. E Lynn passed away on Thursday, July 23rd. This news was, and still is, such a shock to me. He was only 54 years old.
His Publicist, Laura Gilmore reported that E Lynn died Thursday night after being stricken at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. The cause of death has not been determined. Gilmore said that Harris fell ill on a train to Los Angeles a few days before and blacked out for a few minutes, but seemed fine after that.
Back to my friend, Dianne for a moment. Dianne introduced me to E Lynn’s work years ago when she was living here in Southern California. I immediately fell in love with his writing style after the first book! I bookmarked his website and got on his e-mail list so I could keep up with the latest novel he was writing and his book signing schedule across the States.
Every year when E Lynn would come to Southern California, I would go to his book signings. And because my friend, Dianne had introduced me to what is now one of my all-time favorite authors, I would purchase a second copy of his latest novel and have him sign it “Happy (whatever her age was that year) Birthday, Dianne – E Lynn Harris”. That was my birthday gift to Dianne for several years, until E Lynn had to limit his book signing tours due to his teaching schedule at the University of Arkansas where he taught writing.
I always looked forward to E Lynn coming to town. I still remember the first time I met E Lynn in person. I drove out to Riverside in rush hour traffic on what had to be the hottest day of the summer! Ooooh, but it was so worth the trip. He read from his latest book (which I had already read the day after the book was released!), answered questions from the audience and then signed everyone’s books.
I have a photo with E Lynn that was taken at that Riverside event, but I can't find it right now. In the large hall where the event was being held, the fans filled the room to capacity. And although I had gone alone, I didn’t feel alone, as I met other fans that had driven even further than I had! It was such a nice evening.
me and E Lynn Harris at Esowan bookstore in 2006
I became such a huge fan in the years that followed, that I wanted to “give back” to my favorite author. My first gifts to E Lynn were a few handmade journals. I took photos of the journals, but it was before I had a digital camera, so the prints are in a box somewhere.
Anyway, I presented the journals to him at a book signing at the Los Angeles bookstore – Esowan. He was so surprised and very appreciative. He told me that it was the first time someone had given him a gift at a book signing, and that he would be using one of the three journals to pen notes for his next book. Of course I was flattered!
To E Lynn's left is the paperbag photo album I made him in 2006
His publicist had asked me to put my name and address on a card the night of that book signing. And true to the type of person he was, a thank you note followed in the mail soon after – handwritten I might add *smiles*.
The next time E Lynn came to the greater Los Angeles area, I again presented him with a handmade gift. This time I made a paperbag book (see pictures below) that included photos of his family and friends throughout his travels.
I think E Lynn was REALLY floored with that one. He made a comment to me, and the audience, when he opened the box, that I must have waaaay too much time on my hands! Everyone laughed and E Lynn asked if it was ok if he passed the book around for everyone to see.
From time to time we would e-mail each other. He wrote once that the album sits on his coffee table at his home in Atlanta. I’m hoping that his mother will be the recipient of it now.
on the spine of the book are little laminated copies of all of the books E Lynn had written up to the making of my album for him. One of the book covers I put in a bottle cap.
In addition to another handwritten thank you note this time, I also received a little blue box . . . yep, THAT little blue box. A bottle of Tiffany Perfume was wrapped inside with a perfect white bow on the outside. A gift for a gift? Wow, what a sweet person to do something like that. The perfume has since been used up, but I kept the little blue box.
I haven't purchased E Lynn’s latest two novels - The Greatest Pretenders and Basketball Jones yet. I just "hadn’t gotten around to it”. They've been on my book list on my blog since they were released. I never would have thought that these latest novels would be the last two he would ever get to write.
My heart is heavy today. I know that E Lynn is in a much better place now, but it sure hurts those of us that loved him that have been left behind.
Rest in Peace E Lynn - Love, Sherry