E. Lynn Harris, . . Doubleday, $22.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-385-50264-1

With his bestselling novels (And This Too Shall Pass; Abide with Me; etc.) Harris has carved out a niche as a writer of jaunty books with melodramatic plots, usually centering on gay or bisexual black men with riches and rippling biceps. In stark contrast, Harris's memoir is free of the fancy trappings his characters enjoy, starting with the author's suicide attempt in 1990, before he decided to become a writer. From this beginning, Harris goes back to his birth in 1955 and proceeds chronologically, detailing abuse by his stepfather, the awakenings of sexual desire for other men and the discovery of his biological father. Some passages ache for more detail, as when Harris offhandedly mentions working in a brothel at age 13. More often, though, the pace is fitting, giving the book a sense of forward motion as strong as the thoughts of young Harris, dreaming of escape from his native Arkansas. Although he suffers traumas and frustrations as a child, Harris's love life is most heartbreaking. His struggle to find love as an African-American Southern man led to a series of disappointing relationships that taxed Harris's tenderhearted, affectionate nature. He tells this part of his story with such simplicity and straightforwardness, it seems distilled, stripped down to its barest elements until only the clearest emotions remain. Readers of Harris's novels should be surprised at how far from charmed his life was, compared to the troubled but ultimately blissful lives of his fictional characters. Yet they should appreciate the deep honesty with which he describes each stumble and fall. (On sale July 8)

Forecast:All of Harris's books have enjoyed runs on national bestseller lists, and this memoir will undoubtedly do the same. Doubleday has issued a CD with a sample chapter read by the author, and a tour and ubiquitous media coverage should yield hearty sales.