Eric Jerome Dickey: 1961-2021

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Publishing has lost a beloved icon, New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey, who passed away on Sunday, January 3, in Los Angeles after battling a long illness. He was 59.

Eric Jerome Dickey was the author of twenty-eight novels, and his work has become a cultural touchstone over the course of his multi-decade writing career, earning him millions of dedicated readers around the world. He published his first book, Sister, Sister, with Dutton in 1996, and the imprint remained his publishing home throughout his entire career as he rose in the ranks as one of the best writers of contemporary urban fiction. Dickey was the author of multiple New York Times bestselling novels, including Milk in My Coffee, Cheaters, Chasing Destiny, Liar’s Game, Between Lovers, Thieves’ Paradise, The Other Woman, Drive Me Crazy, Genevieve, Naughty or Nice, Sleeping with Strangers, Waking with Enemies, Pleasure, Dying for Revenge, Resurrecting Midnight, Tempted by Trouble, An Accidental Affair, and Decadence. Recently, his book Sister, Sister was honored 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.

Eric Jerome Dickey’s novels Liar’s Game, Thieves’ Paradise, The Other Woman, and Genevieve 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. He 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. Dickey was additionally the author of a six-issue miniseries of comic books for Marvel Enterprises featuring Storm (X-Men) and the Black Panther, contributed to multiple anthologies, and wrote the screenplay for the movie Cappuccino.

News and tributes ran in many prominent outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, USA Today, ESSENCE, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, CBS News, NBC News, BET, Vulture, O Magazine, New York Post, and Variety, among others. ESSENCE wrote: “Dickey was the man behind several classic books about the more tender realities of Black life… It was through his work that many Black people were able to feel seen.”

There has been an outpouring of love and appreciation from fans online, including author Roxane Gay, who tweeted: “I am truly saddened to hear about the passing of Eric Jerome Dickey. His were some of the first novels I ever read about black people that weren’t about slavery or civil rights. He was a great storyteller.” Another notable fan, journalist Wesley Lowery, tweeted: “I remember sneaking around with my copy of ‘Friends and Lovers’ in middle school like it was contraband. Secretly reading an Eric Jerome Dickey novel was a teenage rite of passage for a generation of Black Americans.”

Sara Camilli, of the Sara Camilli Agency, who has worked with Dickey since signing him for his first novel, 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.”

Dickey’s final novel, THE SON OF MR. SULEMAN, will be published by Dutton on April 20, 2021. It was edited by Stephanie Kelly, who also edited his previous six titles. Christine Ball, Publisher of Dutton, said: “Having been with us for over 38 years, Eric Jerome Dickey was part of Dutton’s fabric. He loved the craft of writing, adored his fans, and gave advice willingly to up-and-coming writers. Above all he was kind, and genuine, and he will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege of working with him.”

Eric Jerome Dickey’s gratitude and appreciation of his readers was truly unparalleled. Once, when asked if the attention ever got overwhelming, he wrote: “I love it… Fan clubs. Book clubs. Random DMs. Never overwhelmed. Always appreciative. Makes me smile. Means someone is listening.” And when asked recently about his advice for aspiring writers, he said, “Write what stirs your soul, won’t let you rest, and moves you to stay up until 3 am.”

Posted: January 6, 2021