Patricia Nell Warren, the trailblazing lesbian author whose “The Front Runner” (not to be confused with the recent Hugh Jackman film) became the first gay-themed novel to hit The New York Times Best Seller List, died Saturday at 82, LGBTQ Nation reports.
A longtime Reader’s Digest employee, Warren published her first novel, “The Last Centennial,” in 1971. It was 1974’s “The Front Runner” that became her claim to fame, selling 10 million copies. Telling the story of a gay track coach mentoring a gay runner he hoped to ready for the Olympics, the novel was a sensation, and was often talked about — but never made — as a potental feature film. Paul Newman was at one point attached to the project, but the rights reverted to Warren in 2002.
In a 2017 Los Angeles Blade interview, Warren said of her most famous work’s enduring legacy, “The story deals with young people. I think that the most important thing for young people today is what they encounter in the schools, which I think has certainly gotten a lot worse than in the 1970s. There’s a lot of standing up that’s going on right now in our schools, by our kids, and fighting for change. The schools have become major battlegrounds, not just for gay issues but other issues as well, and I think that’s part of the arc for today that our country has to figure out.”
Warren, who ran unsuccessfully for a spot on the West Hollywood City Council in 2006, published a total of eight novels, a memoir, and four books of poetry.