Maggie Estep, novelist and spoken word artist, has died at age 50, the
Estep was part of a generation of spoken word artists who had a surprisingly wide cultural impact. She appeared on HBO's "Def Poetry Jam" (an online clip includes explicit language) and
In her early work, Estep was a downtown New York girl, tough talking, sassy and drawlingly sardonic while being sexually explicit and joking, inverting expectations.
"It was a fluke," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. "I was writing and someone dragged me to an open-mike situation. I read and did really well. I seemed to have an immediate affinity to do it. That's sort of how my performance style developed. I was so scared. I was very introverted, very shy. I got so nervous, I'd just rush through things and just pace. It evolved into my signature."
Estep published her first book, "Diary of an Emotional Idiot," in 1997. The novel was like an underground "Bridget Jones' Diary," with dominatrixes and drug dealers instead of publishers and television executives. Her crime novel trilogy -- "Hex" (2003), "Gargantuan" (2004) and "Flamethrower" (2010) -- saw a Coney Island museum staffer become an unwilling detective drawn into the world of horse racing.
In the biography on her website, Estep wrote that she was the daughter of horse trainers and had grown up moving around the U.S. and France. She attended the
Her work was anthologized in "The Best American Erotica," "
In January she wrote on her website about the death of a friend. "My first reaction was total disbelief. He couldn't possibly be dead. He wasn't old. He was full of life."