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While romance novelist Eric Jerome Dickey was being introduced, the largely African-American female audience who packed the Stranahan Theater to see him showed their love by applauding when they heard their favorite book title read.
That atmosphere set the tone for the 42-year-old's second visit to Toledo for the Authors! Authors! series, presented by The Blade in conjunction with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Dickey said he had visited Toledo during his childhood.
A lively group of 425 people were present, one of the largest audiences for the authors' series, to hear Dickey speak.
Since the release of his 1996 work, Sister, Sister, Dickey has published nine novels and is scheduled to release his tenth work, Drive Me Crazy in July.
Dickey opened the evening program sharing his background.
He was born in Memphis, and graduated from the University of Memphis in 1983 with a degree in computer systems technology.
He moved to Los Angeles to work for a software developer, but said he found his true passion and center when he took a journalism class.
"I was at home and I quickly learned that I'm only limited by my imagination," he said.
Dickey said he turned to writing screenplays, but found that attempting to sell a black-oriented story in Hollywood was virtually impossible.
"They literally told me, 'no Eric, we don't do black movies,'" he told the audience. Lucky for his fan base, he turned to writing fiction about black characters who were middle class and college educated.
While he was rejected for several years by editors who wanted to change his approach and even give him a female pen name, Dickey stuck to his stories and now is a regular fixture on the New York Times and Blackboard bestseller lists. Female audience members laughed aloud, clapped, and nodded their heads as he read.
Passages such as "we sleep so close that I cannot believe the lies I've been told" drew woooos and ahhhhs, and a simple, yet suggestive passage from his new novel where a female character asks a male character: "can you fix things that are broken?" brought the Toledo audience to a roaring laugh in unison.