Tuesday, January 11, 2022


Steve Neil Johnson
Steve Neil Johnson, a pioneering gay author of nine novels for adults, young adults, and children, died in Los Angeles on December 13, 2021, just one day shy of his 65th birthday. Most of his fiction was in the mystery/suspense genre and featured gay male protagonists. He was twice a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery, for Final Atonement (1992) and The Yellow Canary (2012). For his contributions to gay literature, he was also honored by the ONE Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries.

Born in Seattle on December 14, 1956, Johnson grew up there but left in the early 1980s to move to New York City with, as he liked to put it, “just a backpack (with a pair of cowboy boots tied to the back).” While producing his writing in his off-time, he worked the typical writers’ assortment of odd jobs, assisting early AIDS researchers including Mathilde Krim, and working for the first openly lesbian District Attorney of Brooklyn, Elizabeth Holtzman, in the mid-1980s. It was at the latter job that he began formulating the ideas and characters that would form his first novel, Final Atonement, featuring gay homicide cop Doug Orlando, who would also appear in his second novel, False Confessions (1993).

In recent years, he completed a four-novel mystery series (The Yellow Canary, The Black Cat, The Blue Parrot, and The Red Raven) interweaving the changing lives of two gay male protagonists – one a prosecutor, one a vice cop – as they navigate the investigations of tricky murders and other crimes over the course of four decades of Los Angeles gay history, from the 1950s through the 1980s. Collectively, these books form The L.A. After Midnight Quartet.

He was also the author of a novel for young adults featuring a gay teen protagonist (Raising Kane), a standalone thriller (This Endless Night), and a children’s book (Everybody Hates Edgar Allan Poe!) under the pseudonym Rathbone Ravenford. Together with co-writer Gary Stephens, he also wrote several telenovelas, which included Palero.

Johnson moved from New York City to Los Angeles in 1987, together with his boyfriend Don Hoover, who died of AIDS in early 1989. In October of that same year, Johnson met Lloyd Brown; the two got married in October 2014 (soon after gay marriage become legal in the United States), and Brown survives him. Johnson is also survived by a sister, Stephanie, and a brother, Gary, both of the Seattle area.

The cause of death was reported as complications from non–small cell lung cancer.

See also Johnson's web site: https://www.steveneiljohnson.com/

(Photo is in Public Domain.)