In 1990, no publisher would take a chance on a first novel about a man torn between his girlfriend and his secret boyfriend, all of them black. Undaunted, the author, a successful IBM salesman who was used to breaking barriers, having been the first black editor of the yearbook at the University of Arkansas and the first black male Razorbacks cheerleader, decided to publish it himself. At black bookstores, book clubs, and beauty salons around Atlanta, he sold thousands of copies to gay men and straight women. A local sales rep mentioned the book’s popularity to the publisher of Anchor/ Doubleday, which quickly republished that novel, Invisible Life, and ten subsequent books by the phenomenal E. Lynn Harris. Nearly all of his books have been NYT bestsellers. His sixth and seventh novels, Not a Day Goes By and Any Way the Wind Blows both debuted at #2 on the NYT list. His author events regularly attracted 900 people or more. Upbeat, optimistic, and romantic, his stories never gloss over life’s struggles and pain. His memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted [Kindle], includes his own coming out story as well as bouts with depression, drinking, low self-esteem, and a suicide attempt just before he decided to start writing. His novel Basketball Jones confronted homophobia and double lives in the NBA. His final novel is In My Father's House was about Bentley Dean III, who ran a modeling agency in Miami:
"Strapped for cash, Bentley reluctantly agrees to supply gay, bi or very open-minded eye candy for a VIP party hosted by Prosperity Gentleman's Club, which is run by Emperor Seth Sinclair, a closeted gay celebrity. When Jah, an 18-year-old student Bentley's been mentoring, covers for a no-show model and begins an affair with Seth, big trouble looms. Harris's wry tale about second chances highlights what readers have long loved about his work: his ability to depict the pursuit of love and self-respect, regardless of societal and family pressures."
While on a business trip in Los Angeles in July 2009, Harris died of heart disease at age 54. To date his books have sold more than four million copies.