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  • Written by E. Lynn Harris
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Any Way the Wind Blows

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A Novel

Written by E. Lynn HarrisAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by E. Lynn Harris


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: August 13, 2002
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-1-4000-3300-3
Published by : Anchor Knopf

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Read by Dominic Hoffman, Bahni Turpin and Mirron Willis
On Sale: March 15, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-91397-5
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Read by Sanaa Lathan and Peter Francis James
On Sale: July 10, 2001
ISBN: 978-0-553-75529-9
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When her wedding to John “Basil” Henderson didn’t come off as planned, Yancey Harrington Braxton flew off to L.A. and remade herself as mega-diva Yancey B. And Basil started concentrating on his career as a high-powered sports agent. But then Yancey’s first single, “Any Way the Wind Blows,” hit the charts, and now it threatens to blow Basil’s cover--if anyone learns who it’s really about. And it looks like the gorgeous (and ambitious) hunk Bart Dunbar might just have it all figured out.


Yancey's Big Reign

When I walk into a room, other women either leave or gather into small groups. That's the kind of woman I am. So imagine my surprise when that stopped happening when I moved to the West Coast. I was used to the seas parting for me. But I guess LaLa Land hadn't been warned about me.
About a month ago, my record company gave a listening party at one of Hollywood's newest eateries, Reign, for my soon-to-be-released CD, I'm Not in Love. The party was swimming with members of Hollywood's black elite and their flunkies and was a West Coast version of a Ghetto Fabulous plush bash. It was a great event, but if I had to rank them, it was the second-best party where I was the guest of honor. The best party I ever attended was the day before I was supposed to get married. We had a spectacular party at Laura Belle, in New York City, and as delicious as that party was, my wedding day was an equal disaster. My groom-to-be dropped a full-tilt nuclear assault bomb on me: He decided the morning of our wedding that he would rather spend the rest of his life flip-flopping between the beds of both men and women instead of sleeping with just me.
But when I really think about it, Basil and I had more problems than a college entrance exam. He had a difficult childhood. I had a miserable one. He lied about his past. I embellished mine. He wanted children, while the only thing I desired with the letter C was a Career. And not just any career, mind you, a C-A-R-E-E-R that would rival that of any diva, living or dead.
My name is Yancey Harrington Braxton, now known to the recording world as "Yancey B," pop singer fabulosa. (Move over, Whitney. Step aside, Mariah. J-Lo, get outta my way.) I relocated to Los Angeles a day after being left at the altar, and it has turned out to be the best move I've ever madeóthat is, if you don't count not speaking to my former fiancé and my mother.
I arrived in LaLa Land with no agent or manager, no permanent residence and very little money. Thank God the real estate market in New York was so hot; I was able to get a much-needed equity loan against my East Side town house. The L.A. weather was so inviting when I arrived that it was hard to close myself off from the world, as I had intended. I went to Malibu, did lots of window shopping and started reading the trades looking for work. The only contact I had with New York was a call every other day from my good friend Windsor, who was staying in my house until the right offer to sell came along.
One night I found myself having dinner alone at the hotel's Polo Lounge restaurant. After finishing a chicken caesar salad, I went into the bar, had a drink and soon found myself singing and confiding in the piano player. Turns out Bobby Daye was not only a talented piano player, but a wonderful songwriter as well. After he finished his set, he took me to several other clubs while I told him my life story. When he dropped me off, he looked at me and said, "I'm going to write some songs for that voice." I thought it was the liquor talking, so I was shocked when he showed up a week later at my suite with five songs written just for me. Three weeks later, we were in a West Hollywood studio recording a demo. One month later, not only did I have a record deal with Motown Records, but an agent and manager as well. Who said dreams can't come true in Hollywood anymore?
Right now I'm living right in the middle of Beverly Hills, in a lovely two-bedroom guesthouse behind the mansion of my manager, Malik Jackson. Malik (a.k.a. Roosevelt) stopped counting birthdays some fifteen years ago but looks to be in his early fifties. I get to live rent-free; I just have to perform a few duties for Malik every once in a while. Trust me when I say I'm not talking about cooking and cleaning.
I've been so busy recording my CD that I've had very little time to concentrate on my movie career, but that will come soon enough. I do know that Hollywood is a lot like New York. A few divas (Angela, Nia, Lela, Ms. Jada and Vanessa L.) get all the work while the rest just pray the unemployment checks come on time.
I'm an actress and a damn good one. And if my word isn't enough, just ask anyone who was at my wedding. Even though Basil had drop-kicked me unmercilessly that morning, I'm a diva and the show must go on. So after all the guests arrived, I stood at the head of the table, poised like I was one of the last two beauties standing in the Miss America pageant, confident that my name would be called after they announced the first runner-up. I told the assembled guests and press that I had had a change of heart and had decided not to marry John Basil Henderson. Damn . . . if Julia Roberts could leave Kiefer Sutherland on their wedding day, then why couldn't I leave Basil? At least I showed up. I shared with a few of my guests the exciting news that I had been offered the lead role in a movie being filmed in Toronto based on the life of Lena Horne. I reported that I had beat out Vanessa L. Williams, Halle Berry and Sanaa Lathan. I asked them to keep my news on the QT since the producers hadn't told the other ladies I got the part. In front of the press, I acknowledged, softly, that Basil was heartbroken and had left the hotel in tears. I even bit my lips as my own tears appeared on cue. I encouraged them to keep Basil in their thoughts and wish me much success. And then I greeted my guests, each one of them, accepting their hugs and kisses for over an hour.
So after a year I think I'm ready to return to the scene of my greatest acting triumph ever. In conjunction with my debut CD, the record company has decided to film my first video in New York City as well and has set up media interviews with BET, VH-1 and MTV. We're releasing a house version of the first single a couple weeks before the single is dropped. The A&R manager thought it might make sense to do a couple of performances at some gay clubs in New York and Washington, D.C. He told me if the "kids," as he called them, loved the song, then it would be Billboard number one here I come.
I am a little nervous about returning to New York. But I knew I couldn't stay away forever. I can't wait to visit with Windsor, eat some of her cooking, and stroll through Shubert Alley. I plan to stop at the stage door of the theater where I first heard the sounds of thunderous standing ovations.
There are a few places I want to shop and some scores I need to settle. Damn . . . now I'm sounding like my mother, the been-done, broke-down diva Ava Parker Middlebrooks. There was a time when I would have said that with great pride. But every time I breathe the air and look at the sun, I shed layers of Ava. I know that one day very soon, I will finally be the marvelous, amazing, and incomparable Yancey I was placed on earth to be. And trust me, everyone will know my nameócoast to coast. The real reign of Yancey B is just beginning. To update a line from one of my favorite movies, All About Eve, Strap on your seat belts. And don't say you weren't warned. . . .

From the Hardcover edition.
E. Lynn Harris

About E. Lynn Harris

E. Lynn Harris - Any Way the Wind Blows

Photo © Matthew Jordan Smith

E. Lynn Harris was a ten-time New York Times bestselling author. His work included the memoir What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and the novels, A Love of My Own, Just as I Am, Any Way the Wind Blows (all three of which were named Novel of the Year by the Blackboard African American Bestsellers), I Say a Little Prayer, If This World Were Mine (which won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence), the classic Invisible Life, Just Too Good to Be True, and Basketball Jones. He passed away at the age of 54 in 2009.


“Packed with more drama than a hurricane at a Fourth of July picnic.” --USA Today

"A witty glimpse into the world of pop divas and sports stars....Light, funny and fast-paced." --The Houston Chronicle

“Drop-dead gorgeous characters caught in a web of deception and sexual intrigue. . . . Quite tasty.” —The Washington Post

“More lying, cheating, bed-hopping and name-calling than a year’s worth of Ricki Lake.” --People
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Suggestions

About the Book


Packed with more drama than a hurricane at a Fourth of July picnic.” —USA TODAY

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Any Way the Wind Blows, a hip, high-flying novel about revenge and redemption. Written by bestselling African American author, E. Lynn Harris, it’s a wicked romp through showbiz and the world of big-time sports agencies. As Harris’s fans might expect, it also peeks into the bedrooms of men and women whose sexual adventures are as supercharged and complicated as their career moves.

About the Guide

Basil Henderson, the good-looking, bisexual sports agent who left his wife-to-be at the altar in Harris’s previous book, Not a Day Goes By, is back and “ripe for another ride on the rough-and-ready freeway of love” [p. 15]. He’s on the lookout for sexy ladies and handsome hunks who understand his rules of the road—passionate pleasures with no strings attached. But when Basil seduces Bart Dunbar, a buff young model who appears in a promotion for Basil’s company, things start to go off course. Bart has some down-and-dirty moves of his own—and the good luck to find a ready partner in Ava, the mother of Basil’s jilted bride, Yancey Harrington Braxton.

After the fiasco of her would-be wedding day in New York, Yancey has staged a comeback any diva would envy. Severing ties with her ex-financé and her manipulative mother and leaving her blossoming career on Broadway behind, she moved to LaLa Land, transformed herself into Yancey B, pop singer fabulosa, and cut a CD for Motown Records. She’s about to make a video showcasing a dynamite song written especially for her. A beautiful ballad with highly controversial lyrics about a young woman whose groom leaves her at the altar for another man, “Any Way the Blows” is destined to stir up a storm—not only on the Billboard charts but in the lives of Yancey and Basil as well.

Any Way the Wind Blows is narrated in turns by Yancey, Basil, and Bart, and their stories ring with the bravado of outsized egos trying desperately to hide the pains of the past. With just the right mix of sex, suspense, humor, and compassion, E. Lynn Harris adds another winner to his long list of smash hits.

About the Author

E. Lynn Harris is a former computer sales executive with IBM and a graduate of the University of Arkansas. He is the author of eight novels, including, most recently, A Love of My Own. His previous books have all been bestsellers, and If This World Were Mine and Abide with Me won the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence. He divides his time between Chicago and New York.

Discussion Guides

1. The novel opens with each of the three main characters giving a quick sketch of themselves. Is there a particular sentence or section in each description that conveys the essence of each person’s character?

2. Bart says, “At twenty-one, I believed in love lasting forever. At twenty-eight, I know nothing lasts forever . . . except maybe revenge” [p. 11]. Is this a common point of view? What examples can you give from your own experiences, your observations of the world, or literature that support it? Do you think Yancey’s reasons for wanting revenge [p. 73] are more understandable and more justifiable than Bart’s?

3. Basil and Rosa talk about having a child together, even though neither of them wants to get married [p. 14]. In your opinion, is either of them ready to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, given the nature of their relationship and the way they handle the revelation of Rosa’s pregnancy?

4. In talking about his friend Wylie, Bart says, “I remember a time when intelligence was considered hot in a man. . . . Today it’s beauty, sex . . . or wealth” [p. 35]. Is this “dumbing down” unique to the gay black community or is it prevalent in American society in general? Do you agree with Bart that heterosexuals have more opportunities for real love than gay men do [p. 37]?

5. Windsor plans to keep her baby whether Wardell decides to marry her or not [p. 71]. Do you think this is the right decision? Is it better, as she says, “to be a product of a broken home than to live in one” [p. 71]? If you have read about the recent, controversial studies of children of divorce and other kids raised in single parent homes, discuss how you feel about the findings and how they relate to Windsor’s decision.

6. Do you think Basil represents the majority of bisexual men? To what extent do the unspoken rules of society contribute to his insistence on hiding his sexual orientation? Do you think that he is serious about his quest to find a mother for his children, or is this simply part of his cover-up? How does the way he talks about women support your viewpoint?

7. Basil cockily declares, “With all the talk of brothers who swung both ways, women still hadn’t learned all the games” [p. 136] and “Men, even gay men, knew how to separate love and sex, even if women couldn’t” [p. 156]. Are women as naive as Basil believes? Is there a difference between men who date more than one woman and men who “swing both ways”?

8. What is your reaction to Yancey and Basil’s reunion [pp. 171–175]? Does it fit your expectations or were you surprised by either Basil’s or Yancey’s behavior? Which character appears in a more sympathetic light? Why do you think Harris chooses Yancey to describe the meeting?

9. Two secrets—Basil’s sexuality and the existence of Yancey’s child—and the threat that they will be revealed lie at the heart of the novel. Which do you think is the more damaging secret? Is the media (embodied in the character of the gossip columnist LaVonya) overeager to feed the public’s fascination with scandal without considering its effect on the individuals concerned?

10. What incidents or relationships show that both Basil and Yancey have a softer, more human side behind their tough exteriors? Do you think that Yancey’s new romance and the birth of Basil’s child will bring about permanent changes in their personalities?

11. What roles do Wylie, Windsor, and Raymond play in the novel? To what extent do they act as moral consciences for the main characters? Are they realistically portrayed, or are they a bit too perfect? How does Harris’s depiction of them compare to his depiction of Bart and Ava, the villains in the novel?

12. If you are familiar with current television programs that feature gay men [p. 37], discuss how well they depict the reality of gay life in America. Do the creators of shows such as Queer As Folk and Will & Grace and other forms of popular culture have a responsibility to instruct as well as entertain? How do you think E. Lynn Harris would answer the question?

13. How do Harris’s other books compare to Any Way the Wind Blows? Does this novel represent a change in Harris’s style or in the nature of the themes he explores? What do you think the basic message of the book is?

14. The same characters appear in many of Harris’s novels, sometimes in leading roles, sometimes in cameos. Which of the characters in Any Way the Wind Blows would you like see in his next novel and why?

Suggested Readings

Michael Baisden, The Maintenance Man; Bebe Moore Campbell, Brothers and Sisters; Eric Jerome Dickey, Between Lovers; Lolita Files, Blind Ambitions; E. Lynn Harris et al., Got to Be Real: Four Original Love Stories; Yolanda Joe, He Say She Say; Marcus Major, Good Peoples; Terry McMillan, A Day Late and a Dollar Short; Sister Souljah, The Coldest Winter Ever; Omar Tyree, For the Love of Money.

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