Leslie Ann Peterson Esdaile Banks died on August 2 from adrenocortical carcinoma, a rare cancer. She left behind a wonderful daughter, Helena Marie Esdaile, who in many ways can be said to have started her on her writing career. In the winter of 1990 her daughter was injured in an accident, and Leslie–who had a degree from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School–left the corporate sector to be with and attend to her daughter. At this time, she tried her hand at writing, which resulted in her first novel, Sundance.
Before that, she had helped develop business plans for small businesses in the community where she lived. She also worked at The Women’s Opportunities Resource Center, developing micro-entrepreneurial career curriculums for low income women in Philadelphia.
Those who knew Leslie well will tell you that she never did anything halfway. Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, who went to the same junior high school as Leslie, recalls her as someone utterly fearless. They both grew up in the rough Kensington area of Philadelphia in the late 1960s, but Leslie crossed racial lines without hesitation to befriend Maberry. It turned out they shared a passion for fiction, and for a time they swapped books. In a recent interview, Maberry recalled that the books he traded her were “mostly Ed McBain” novels.
Leslie wrote under a profusion of pseudonyms: L.A. Banks, Leslie Esdaile, Leslie E. Banks, Leslie Banks, and Leslie Esdaile Banks.
At the time of her death she had written and published more than forty novels and twelve novellas across genres for St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, Simon & Schuster, Harlequin, Dark Horse Press, Harper, Kensington Publishing, Genesis Press, BET/Arabesque, and others. She had become both a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author; and had won the 2009 Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention Career Achievement Award for Paranormal Fiction, the 2008 Essence Magazine Storyteller of the Year Award, and the 2008 Best 50 Pennsylvania Women in Business Award. She was featured as well in an HBO Special on Vampire Literature and Legends as a prelude to the premiere of the series TRUE BLOOD.
Her many books include the twelve-volume Vampire Huntress Legend series; the Crimson Moon werewolf novels; a YA novel, Shadow Walker; a book series for the cable television series SOUL FOOD; and a novelization of the movie SCARFACE.
After she wrote a letter to the White House in response to an open call for letters from working women, Leslie was contacted and asked to introduce President Obama when he appeared at Arcadia University in March of 2010. When I saw her a few weeks later, she was still burning with the excitement of it.
Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia, who spoke at the benefit for Leslie, expressed great sadness at her loss. At his request she had sat on the Library Commission for Literacy. Like her friend, author Solomon Jones, she was a strong advocate for literacy.
At her memorial service at the Church of the Holy Apostles and The Mediator in Philadelphia, her sister Lisa remembered her as someone you did not cross, because she would seek redress and justice no matter how long it took or how hard it was to achieve.
All of us in the Philadelphia Liars Club who knew her were forever invigorated by her presence. She would come into a room like a miniature sun, bringing all of the energy of life along with her, which makes it doubly hard for all of us to accept that we can possibly have lost her.