Though he’s only an occasional visitor now, fiction writer Eric Jerome Dickey still calls Memphis home.
By phone from Atlanta this month, Dickey, who moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s and has been staying in Barbados since last year, says, “Where you’re from is where you were born. I can live in California the rest of my life, but I’m forever a Memphian.”
He’ll be back in the city Tuesday and Wednesday to promote his new novel, “Decadence” (Dutton, $26.95), which begins as Nia Simone Bijou, the character whose erotic adventures Dickey previously chronicled in “Pleasure,” is having a dream that cannot be described in a family newspaper.
“I’m not writing for it to be printed in a newspaper,” Dickey says when this fact is pointed out. And when asked whether the omnipresence of the “50 Shades of Grey” S&M fantasy series on bestseller lists has been a boon to other writers in that genre, he says he’s not in that genre.
“I’ve never felt like I write romance. I write about characters. A lot of it is relationship-heavy, but they are not Cinderella stories. I don’t lean toward any clichéd happy endings; I keep it realistic. In my books, there’s no third act, no hand from God.
“A lot of writers don’t know how to end it, so they break out a wedding ring. My characters are from a different place. They’re African-Americans, and a lot of my work reflects that part of American culture.”
In “Decadence,” Dickey writes from the point of view of a woman who’s a film writer as well as a sexual adventurer. “For every character, male or female, the challenge is creating someone who is not me. I like getting into lifestyles that are not mine,” he said.
Dickey, 51, grew up on Kansas Street in Southwest Memphis and graduated from Carver High School in 1979, then got a degree in computer technology from the University of Memphis before moving to L.A. His daughter and other family members still live in Memphis, and when he returns, he says he likes to drive by familiar places from his past, such as Greater Whitestone Missionary Baptist Church and Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church.
“When you run into people from way back when, for a moment you become who you were way back when,” he said. “That person you were in junior high and high school. You are all of your ages — 50, 35, 15, 5. My middle-school English teacher has come to a couple of my events.” He wasn’t sure if she’d read his work: “It may be a bit racy for her.”
His 20 books include four from his Gideon series, about an international hit man. His novels “Liar’s Game,” “Thieves’ Paradise,” “The Other Woman” and “Genevieve” were nominated for NAACP Image Awards. Dickey also wrote a miniseries of comic books for Marvel Enterprises featuring Storm of X-Men and the Black Panther.
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