Patricia Nell Warren Adam4Adam

News: Patricia Nell Warren, Author of “The Front Runner,” Passes Away at 82

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American novelist, poet, and journalist Patricia Nell Warren—best known for her novel titled The Front Runner—passed away on February 9, 2019. She was 82. Friends of the author confirmed the sad news to various news outlets, saying that Warren had been battling with lung cancer for the past three years. 

The Front Runner was published in 1974. Critics called it “timeless,” “moving,” and, according to Washington Blade, “the first gay-themed novel to ever print the word ‘gay’ on the cover and the first gay novel to make it to the New York Times bestseller list.” These are just a few of the praises on The Front Runner which sold over 11M copies worldwide and translated into 13 languages including Japanese, German, French, and Italian. 

Her book resonated with many and continues to do so today. And perhaps, not even Warren herself had anticipated how her book would have had such an impact, a profound effect on the lives of the many generations of gay men and women. We’ve read various accounts of fans, how The Front Runner had not only changed but also saved lives, and how it also changed the mind of one homophobic husband who “never realized how people like him can hurt people.” The Front Runner after all, is about “the lives of two men who only wanted to love each other and do sports” and yet, Billy and Harlan couldn’t do so in peace. 

The book was even the name inspiration of a worldwide organization called International Front Runners (Frontrunners), which was formerly “The Lavender-U Joggers.“It’san LGBTQ running and walking club said to have over 100 chapters, about half of which are in the US and the other half in various countries and cities worldwide such as London, Toronto, Sydney, Paris, to name a few. 

Apart from being an author, Ms. Warren was also an editor for Reader’s Digest, a volunteer teacher for at-risk LGBT high school students, and an activist. Ms. Warren was also a passionate runner said to be one of the first few women to run in the 1968 Boston Marathon who “got women’s marathoning recognized in the U.S.” Her passion for marathon was what eventually led her to meet the people who would inspire her to write The Front Runner. 

Today, we remember Ms. Warren for her invaluable contributions to the LGBT community and for her body of works that have served as the beacon of light for many, and will continue to be, well into the future. Because once upon a time, “gay” was an unmentionable word and those who dare utter or reveal their sexuality risks losing their job, their family, friends, and for some—their lives even. But unfortunately for others, this remains their truth to this day. 

Adam4Adam readers who wish to read Ms. Warren’s books may purchase them on Amazon. The Front Runner has two sequels on Amazon titled Harlan’s Race (1994) and Billy’s Boy (1997). Moreover, two weeks before her death, Ms. Warren had finished the fourth and final novel in The Front Runner series though no publication date has been announced yet. 

(We want to give a shout-out to our A4A blog reader Mike14 for emailing us about the passing of Ms. Patricia Nell Warren. Also, A4A readers, please feel free to email us your blog post suggestions at [email protected] if you’d like us to discuss a special subject.)

There are 11 comments

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  1. DeLuca Wannabe

    Very sad news indeed. I remember reading “The Front Runner” as a teenager, and how moving the story was for me at that tender young age. Also worth reading is her novel “The Fancy Dancer”.

  2. Timothy Zembek

    I also read The Front Runner & Fancy Dancer as a teen. Both were incredible views into a world that I didn’t know existed. I’m sure she never knew how many lives she had touched. Now we have to push Hollywood to finally make the movie.

  3. Nathan

    Here, was and is, a Human Being who contributed, disproportionately, to the betterment of Humanity!

    I, too, read the book and felt is had a message worth the print. She “hit-the-nail-on-the-head” and wrote it as she knew it to be. She wrote the truth as I knew it to be after I was graduated from The USMA and having spent numerous years in military service.

    Finally, someone, significant, is given her just dues as reported by the ‘Media’ and the Media performs its actual purpose!

    I am sorry to see go, but her time came and she went…accordingly…which is what ‘classy’ Human Beings do…time and time again!

    As it is written about “Abraham Lincoln”: “She Now Belongs To The Ages.”


  4. Paul2

    Thank you Ms. Warren for The Front Runner. It was one of the first gay themed books I read as a young man and it helped me form my belief of what male same sex relationships could be like. Rest in Peace.

  5. Ken

    A moving piece of literature! I remember rallying myself to borrow the book from the library, yet still fearful if that would be my own coming out to the clerk at the loan desk. I looked left, looked right and studied the clerk’s face… It was a rite of passage for bookish young gay men in small towns in the 1980s.

  6. Nathan

    Also, prior to “The Front Runner” there were: “The Lord Won’t Mind” by Gordon Merrick, and “City Of Night” by John Rechy… .

    Both were superb and set the stage for “The Lord Won’t Mind.” I read both as did some of my fellow soldiers.

    They were harbingers of what was to come: the eventuality of serving within The US Military…regardless of sexual orientation.

    It always takes at least one thing to start the ball rolling!


  7. Ed Hughes

    A beacon of light is exactly who she was for a tortured married gay man who was trying to grips with who he was, and understand the unmentionable feelings. Worse, it was the scourge of AIDS, the early 80’s, and the homophobic pressure of society. Patricia Warren helped me to understand the person I was born to be. Today we are reaping the truth of the women and men who spoke out for us yesterday. llew

  8. Ivan

    (Spoiler alert) When I first came out at age 28, I was told I “have to” read the Front Runner. Gay man achieves success and gets shot in the head. Yeah, that’s what I needed to read. I hated that book.

  9. Ray Hall

    “The Front Runner” is the first book I have read completely thru, by reading 1 chapter per night before going to sleep and having a situation between my legs. I loved it.
    Ray Hall, Point Blank, TX

  10. Frank

    Me too.

    I read The Front Runner in 1975 as a college freshman. Growing up split between the American Breadbasket and the West Coast I knew there were ‘more like us’ and that in the biggest cities it was possible open the closet door a little. Still, one could lose a job, home or family just on rumor and while Ms Warren didn’t flinch from the downside, her writing espoused volumes of humanity – the kind every person and couple should receive.

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