Jenice Armstrong: Author Leslie Banks is ailing

Leslie Banks: Prayers and a fundraiser.
Leslie Banks: Prayers and a fundraiser. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff photographer)
Posted: June 14, 2011

WHEN New York Times best-

selling author Leslie Esdaile Banks writes, people have a way of taking notice. And I'm not just talking about the legions of fans of the popular vampire-huntress book series that she pens under the pen name L.A. Banks.

Take what happened last year.

Fed up about her soaring health-insurance costs, she shot off a fiery email to President Obama.

Banks didn't expect that much would happen, but before long the White House was calling to see if the University City resident would be willing to introduce Obama before a speech at Arcadia University, in Glenside. Obama gave her a hug and thanked her for introducing him. She thanked him and promised her continued support.

Now, I'm sad to write that Banks, who has written 42 books under various pseudonyms, could use some support from her many readers and friends.

The 51-year-old author is gravely ill with late-stage adrenal cancer. Diagnosed seven weeks ago, she's at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. She's not up to having visitors, so please don't go over there. Nor does she need any more flowers. And she's not up to responding to emails and texts. But if you're inclined to do so, I'm sure she would appreciate prayers.

She certainly could use some about now.

These are difficult times for Banks and those who love her.

Her childhood best friend, Tina Ryan Wise, came from California to be with her.

Friends are in the early stages of organizing a benefit fundraiser to help defray Banks' rapidly increasing health-care bills and other costs associated with her illness.

When she wrote that email to Obama, Banks' health-care insurance premiums had doubled for her and her college-age daughter.

A divorced single mother, she found herself with an insurance bill that nearly equaled her monthly mortgage payment.

"Now, like too many other people, I'm faced with a dilemma: One, do I simply cover my child and go without health care myself, making sure that my child has everything she needs to stay healthy, or do I place myself in jeopardy, which could mean that the breadwinner in my family . . . could face a catastrophic health issue that could wipe out everything and put my kid in peril anyway," Banks said as she introduced Obama.

I met Banks, who grew up in the 4800 block of Osage Avenue, years ago when she joined my writing group.

I had been struggling to figure out the plot of my first novel; she was a veteran with a number of romance novels under the pseudonym Leslie Esdaile.

She'd also completed a novel based on the TV show, "Soul Food." (She would later write another one.)

She had plenty of her own writing to do, but she still took time to coach me as I fumbled along, figuring out the motivations of some of my characters. She has been similarly generous with lots of other aspiring novelists.

"Leslie had time for anybody, from anywhere, from any walk of life," Wise told me over the weekend.

"She has always been willing to share whatever she had to share with someone.

"She really has been a light in a lot of people's lives."

Which is why, as word spread about Banks' illness, posts have popped up on Facebook pages and friends have been calling each other looking for any bit of information they can get.

I'll write more about her fundraiser once the details are finalized.

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Donations for Leslie Banks are being accepted through a fund established in her name at the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union, 9th and Arch streets. Contributions also can be made via PayPal by logging onto Get-well cards can be sent to Leslie Esdaile c/o Tina Ryan Wise, Box 37189, Philadelphia, PA 19148-9998.

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