The Memphis-born New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey died on Sunday, January 3rd, in Los Angeles after battling a long illness. Dickey was 59.
His longtime publisher, Dutton, said: “Eric Jerome Dickey loved being a writer and all that it encompassed. He loved challenging himself with each book; he adored his readers and beloved fans and was always grateful for his success. We are proud to have been his publisher over the span of his award-winning career. He will truly be missed.”
Though the author was a resident of Los Angeles, California, he originally hailed from Memphis and was a graduate of the University of Memphis (then Memphis State). I had the opportunity to speak with Dickey in early 2020, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and I was blown away by his charm, humor, intelligence, and incredible generosity with his time. We spoke for almost two hours, not just about his most recent novel, The Business of Lovers, but about social distancing, Memphis and L.A., and how the coronavirus might change romance in fiction.
While the Flyer's office was closed for the winter holidays last week, I received an email from one of Dickey’s many ardent fans who was trying to track down hardbound copies of Dickey’s early novels. Since the announcement today of his passing, heartfelt tributes from fans and other authors have appeared on social media.
Prolific and hardworking, Dickey was the author of 29 novels. Recently, his debut novel, Sister, Sister, was listed as one of Essence’s “50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years,” and USA Today featured him on their list of “100 Black Novelists and Fiction Writers You Should Read.” More than seven million of his books have been published worldwide.
In 1994, Dickey’s first published short story, “Thirteen,” appeared in the IBWA’s River Crossings: Voices of the Diaspora: An Anthology on the International Black Experience. Soon after, Sara Camilli, of the Sara Camilli Agency, signed Dickey’s first novel and became an advocate for his work and a close friend. Dickey published his first book, Sister, Sister, with Dutton in 1996, and the imprint remained his publishing home as he made a name for himself in the field of contemporary urban fiction. Camilli said, “Eric and I have been together since the start of both of our careers. He’s been like a member of our family. His death leaves a large void not only in the literary world but in our lives as well. He was a writer’s writer — always striving to make everything he wrote the best it could be.”
Several of Dickey’s novels were nominated for the NAACP Image Awards, and his 2014 novel, A Wanted Woman, won the NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work. Dickey was also honored with awards for Best Contemporary Fiction and Author of the Year (Male) at the 2006 African American Literary Award Show and nominated for Storyteller of the Year at the first annual Essence Literary Awards in 2008. He was the author of a six-issue miniseries of comic books for Marvel Enterprises, and he contributed to multiple anthologies, including Got to Be Real: Four Original Love Stories, Mothers and Sons, and others. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie Cappuccino. Dickey’s final novel, The Son of Mr. Suleman, will be published on April 20, 2021.
Dickey leaves behind four daughters. Due to COVID-19, there will be no services at this time.