April 14, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Eric Jerome Dickey dies: Bestselling novelist was 59

Eric Jerome Dickey, the bestselling author of “Milk in My Coffee,” “Friends and Lovers” and several other influential works, has died at age 59.

The celebrated novelist died Jan. 3 in Los Angeles after battling a long-term illness, publisher Penguin Random House confirmed Tuesday morning. Throughout his illustrious career, Dickey wrote dozens of novels, including his final project, “The Son of Mr. Suleman,” which hits shelves on April 20.

“Eric Jerome Dickey loved being a writer and all that it encompassed,” his longtime publisher, Dutton, said Tuesday in a statement. “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.”

After his short story “Thirteen” was published in the 1994 collection “River Crossings: Voices of the Diaspora: An Anthology on the International Black Experience,” Dickey went on to write a host of works centering the experiences of contemporary Black characters. His 29 novels entertained millions of readers with quick pacing, a conversational style and fluency in genres ranging from crime to romance.

His 1996 debut novel, “Sister, Sister” — about young Black women navigating love and friendship — was recently named one of the “50 most impactful Black books of the last 50 years” by Essence magazine.

Other popular Dickey titles include “Cheaters,” “Liar’s Game” and “Milk in My Coffee,” all of which made the New York Times and Blackboard bestsellers lists.

Though he moved to Los Angeles to become a software developer in the aerospace industry, Dickey later cultivated his creative talents as an actor, comedian, poet and short story writer. Before breaking through in book publishing, he attended creative writing classes at UCLA as a recipient of a SEED scholarship from International Black Writers & Artists.

The city of L.A., where Dickey moved from his native Memphis, Tenn., in 1983, featured prominently in much of his work. His first book was picked up by the Sara Camilli Agency, and Camilli paid tribute to her longtime friend and collaborator upon learning of his death.

“Eric and I have been together since the start of both of our careers,” she said in a statement released Tuesday.

“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.”

Condolences from the literary community and beyond poured in for Dickey on Twitter. “Bad Feminist” author Roxane Gay recommended a few of her favorites: “Milk in My Coffee,” “Sister, Sister” and “Friends and Lovers.”

“I am truly saddened to hear about the passing of Eric Jerome Dickey,” Gay wrote. “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.”

“I remember being a little kid, wondering if I’d ever be a writer or author of any kind,” tweeted writer and audio producer Morgan Givens, “and seeing this man’s name — Eric Jerome Dickey — on the covers of books, as I browsed, was a reminder every time that I could, too, that my Blackness was not a disqualifier. He was a gift.”

Among the first to mourn Dickey was his cousin, La Verne Madison Fuller, who confirmed his death with a heartfelt Facebook post.

“Guys, when God tells you to do something, just do it,” Fuller wrote. “Just a few weeks ago, God woke me up to text [Dickey] and say that I loved him. He let me know that he loved us too. This is the second time within twelve months, that this has happened. This is real.”

Over the years, Dickey collected numerous awards, including a 2014 NAACP Image Award for “A Wanted Woman.” He also scored NAACP Image Award nominations for “Liar’s Game,” “The Other Woman,” “Thieves’ Paradise” and “Genevieve.”

In 2006, he was crowned male author of the year at the African American Literary Awards Show and nominated in 2008 for Storyteller of the Year at Essence’s inaugural Literary Awards.

More of Dickey’s bestselling novels include “Chasing Destiny,” “Between Lovers,” “Drive Me Crazy,” “Naughty or Nice,” “Sleeping With Strangers,” “Waking With Enemies,” “Pleasure,” “Dying for Revenge,” “Resurrecting Midnight,” “Tempted by Trouble,” “An Accidental Affair” and “Decadence.” In addition to novels and short stories, he also authored a miniseries for Marvel comics starring X-Men’s Storm and Black Panther.

Dickey is survived by four daughters. No memorial services are planned at this time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. See more reactions to his death below.