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Best-selling author Eric Jerome Dickey dead at 59

Eric Jerome Dickey’s career includes software development and stand-up comedy, along with writing 29 novels.

**FILE**This undated file photo originally provided by the Penguin Group, shows Eric Jerome Dickey author of “Waking With Enemies.” (AP Photo/ Penguin Group, Curtis Wilson)
Author Eric Jerome Dickey has died at the age of 59. The last of the best-selling writer’s books will be published April 20.
AP

New York Times best-selling author Eric Jerome Dickey, who is known for writing novels detailing the Black experience in America has died. He was 59.

On Tuesday, Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Random House and Dickey’s longtime publisher, confirmed his death Sunday in a statement. “Eric Jerome Dickey loved being a writer and all that it encompassed,” the statement read, in part. “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.”

Dickey, a Memphis, Tennessee, native, whose career includes software development and stand-up comedy, penned 29 books and six-issue miniseries graphic novels such as “Friends and Lovers, “Storm (Marvel Comics’ X-Men),” “Before We Were Wicked” and “Milk in My Coffee.”

Dickey, a Memphis State University alumnus, often stressed the importance of being passionate about his craft.

USA TODAY — where 15 of his books made their best-seller list — last year lauded Dickey as a part of its “100 Black novelists and fiction writers you should read.”

“Understand the style of others; understand why some novels worked and others tanked, and then find your own voice, your own style,” Dickey once said in a Penguin Random House Q&A blog. “Give it your energy. Learn the rules, then find a way to break ‘em.”

More than seven million copies of Dickey’s books have been published worldwide. Essence magazine named his 1996 debut “Sister, Sister,” one of the “50 Most Impactful Black Books of the Last 50 Years.”

He also worked on the screenplay for the 1998 movie “Cappuccino,” and contributed to such anthologies as “Mothers and Sons” and “Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica.”

“In comedy you learn to write with flow — segue, setup, and punch line — but in a way that people won’t see or notice. And in theater you learn about character,” he told BookPage in 2000. “You’ve got to bring something to it, and what you bring is the understanding of the character you get from doing your homework, from understanding the little stuff like speech patterns and the way the character walks, and from understanding the big stuff — your character’s motivation.”

“The Son of Mr. Suleman,” Dickey’s final novel, will be published on April 20.

Dickey leaves behind four daughters. Due to COVID-19, there will be no services at this time, according to Penguin Random House.

Contributing: Associated Press