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Duplechan, Larry (b. 1956)  
 
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Lambda Award-winning author Larry Duplechan is best known for Blackbird (1986), a classic coming of age novel about a black teenager growing up in the bland outer suburbs of Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. Although Blackbird is neither Duplechan's first nor his last novel, it is the one in which he perfected a tone of voice and a perspective that had never previously been so well articulated.

Blackbird established Duplechan as a gifted writer with something to say, yet for reasons largely beyond his control, his career failed to yield the recognition and rewards his work warranted. The result was that he became disillusioned with his prospects as a writer, and for many years he abandoned the craft altogether. In 2008, however, he returned to print with Got 'Til It's Gone, his first novel since 1993.

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Duplechan is an autobiographical writer. His novels do not recount events that actually happened to him, but they closely reflect his life and personality, especially through the voice of his most famous character, the protagonist of four of his novels, Johnnie Ray Rousseau. Indeed, he has referred to Rousseau as his "alter ego. Just about all Johnnie Ray's likes, dislikes, attitudes, beliefs, political leanings, sexual quirks, and bad jokes, coincide strikingly with my own," Duplechan told Christopher Davis in 1987.

However, it needs to be borne in mind that the parallels between Duplechan and Johnnie Ray Rousseau are not exact. Moreover, what Johnnie Ray believes (like what Duplechan believes) is subject to change. Attitudes expressed in any particular book correspond to beliefs held at a particular time. For example, much has been made of the youthful Johnnie Ray's exclusive attraction to white men, but as the saga of Johnnie Ray evolves over the decades, his sexual tastes broaden to include black men as well.

Duplechan was born on December 30, 1956 in Los Angeles, California to middle-class parents of Creole heritage who had emigrated to California from the small town of Mermentau in southwestern Louisiana. His father, Lawrence Duplechan, Sr., was an electronics engineer; his mother, Margie Nell Andrus Duplechan, worked as a postal clerk and office manager. He is the oldest of four brothers.

Duplechan grew up mostly in Southern California, but spent two years in Sacramento. He sang in the choir of the fundamentalist Baptist church that his family attended. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at University of California, Los Angeles, where he majored in English and where he met the man who would become his life partner, Greg Harvey, a fellow singer in UCLA's men's choir.

As an undergraduate, Duplechan worked as a librarian's assistant at UCLA and remained there for a couple of years after he graduated in 1978. He has described his education as preparing him to be a "well read secretary," and for most of his life he has been employed in that capacity. Between 1980 and 1990, he worked as a word processor and secretary. He has since worked as a real estate legal secretary and as a litigation secretary at a large law firm in Los Angeles.

Duplechan is a talented singer and as a child he dreamed of a life in music. As he told Margaret Alic in 2005, "I've been singing all my life, in church, in school. I had dreams of being a singing star, sort of the mythical lovechild of Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand."

After graduating from college he pursued a singing career. He appeared in clubs as a pop/jazz soloist and as a member of a jazz vocal group, "String of Pearls," but the stress of establishing himself as a professional singer while working a full-time job and being involved in his relationship with Harvey led Duplechan to give up his musical vocation and to turn to writing as an outlet for his creativity.

"I was in a relationship with a man who, while he really admired my talent, really, really wanted me to be home having dinner with him . . . and here I was, working a 40-hour job and singing in clubs at night. . . . [Harvey] basically said, 'You can continue to do this singing thing, or you can be with me, but you can't do both.'"

Given this ultimatum, Duplechan "chose the guy and stopped singing." He turned to writing instead, "But writing," he told Alic, "was always a far-away second to singing."

Fittingly for an autobiographical writer, Duplechan's first novel, Eight Days a Week (1985), centers on a singer's struggle between his love of singing and his love of a man. The interracial love story debuts both Duplechan's characteristic narrative technique and his alter ego Johnny Ray Rousseau, whose name alludes to gay pop singer Johnnie Ray while also acknowledging Duplechan's Creole heritage.

In the novel, Rousseau is a young black singer involved with Keith, a blond, blue-eyed bodybuilder/banker who is cerebral and bisexual. The novel, like all but one of Duplechan's subsequent novels, is narrated as an extended monologue, told in a conversational style peppered with references to popular culture, especially music and campy movies. This deceptively simple style has the effect of creating intimacy between writer and reader and it may help explain why readers who have never met Duplechan feel as though they know him.

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