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Obituary: David Eddings, 1931-2009



SFFWorld is sad to report on the death of Fantasy writer David Eddings, who passed away at his home in Carson City, Nevada on the 2nd  June 2009, aged 77.


Eddings is best known for his many epic fantasy series, including The Belgariad, The Mallorean, and the Dreamers.


Eddings was predeceased by his wife and co-author Leigh Eddings (who died in 2007) Though initially authored by only David, it was later revealed that Leigh helped write all his books, and she was credited as co-author on many from the mid-1990ís onward.


Born in Spokane in Washington state in 1931, David was raised in the Puget Sound area north of Seattle. After graduating from high school in 1949, he worked for a year before majoring in speech, drama and English at junior college. Eddings displayed an early talent for drama and literature, winning a national oratorical contest, and performing the male lead in most of his drama productions. He graduated with a Batchelor of Arts degree from Reed College in 1954, studying Middle English. A master of arts degree followed, from the University of Washington in 1961. He wrote a novel for a thesis at Reed College before being drafted into the US Army. After several years as a college lecturer, a failure to receive a pay raise drove Eddings to leave his job, move to Denver and seek work in a grocery store.


After a time working on missile development for the Boeing Company, Eddings wrote his debut novel, a contemporary adventure called High Hunt, in 1973. According to The Bookseller, he switched to fantasy after noticing a copy of The Lord of the Rings was in its 73rd printing. Eddings realized that the world of fantasy might hold some promise for his talents, and immediately began to annotate a doodle of a map drawn years earlier, which later became known as the world of Aloria.


The first book in his Belgariad series, Pawn of Prophecy, was published in 1982. Five more followed, from 1982-1984, to make up the series, a high Fantasy tale of a young orphaned farmhand named Garion. Accompanied by his aunt Polgara and grandfather Belgarath, they become involved in a number of quests in order to recover the Orb of Aldur and try to fulfill an ancient prophecy that will decide the fate of their universe. Along the way Garion also discovers his true identity and destiny.


This series seems to be one of those that set the template for many similar style fantasy quest novels in the 1980ís and Ď90ís. They are written in an easy-going and engaging style, which is very accessible to readers.


A second series, The Malloreon, followed on from this series, set in the same world but three years later. Five books were published, 1985-1991.


His next series, The Elenium, was a trilogy, first published in 1989 and completed in 1991. A quest-fantasy tale, it was located in a new Fantasy world and featured the Pandion Knight Sparhawk and his friends as well as supernatural forces gods and consorts.


The Tamuli trilogy was a sequel to the Elenium books, first published in 1992 and completed in 1994.


In 1995 Eddings returned to the world of the Belgariad for two prequels, written from the perspectives of two of the Belgariadís favourite (and long living) characters. Beginning with Belgarath the Sorcerer (1995), the second was Polgara the Sorceress (1997). As with most other Eddings books, they are written in a style which combines drama with wry humour and light relief.


Around the same time Eddings wrote a more serious supplemental book, explaining the origin and history of the Belgariad world entitled The Riven Codex in 1998. All of these three books were co-credited with Leigh Eddings, as was every book from 1995.


The Redemption of Althalus was published in 2000, a single stand-alone Fantasy novel about a professional thief, Althalus, who attempts to amend his ways by helping the Goddess Dweia in saving the world from the depredations of her evil brother Daeva and his henchman Ghend. According to Wikipedia, it is notable because, unlike in the vast majority of fantasy novels, the world evolves over the ages, going from a bronze-age barter economy to a more traditional high fantasy setting over the course of the work.


In 2002 the Eddingsí wrote a contemporary horror-thriller, Reginaís Song, about a womanís life in Seattle, Washington and how it is changed after the murder of her twin sister, the Regina of the title.


 In 2003 the final series was published. Called The Dreamers Series, there were four books published between 2003 and 2006. It is another tale of Gods and their actions, telling of a war between the Elder Gods and their allies and an entity known as the Vlagh. The tale is told through different chapters giving background information on a particular character, and summarizes the story from that character's point of view.


Towards the end of Davidís life, things did not always go well. On January 26, 2007 it was reported that Eddings accidentally burned about a quarter of his office, next door to his house, along with his Excalibur sports car, and the original manuscripts for most of his novels. He was flushing the fuel tank of the car with water when he lit a piece of paper and threw it into the puddle to test if it was still flammable.


On February 28, 2007, Leigh (born Judith Leigh Schall), died following a series of strokes. She was 69. This death of Leigh affected David deeply, and it is perhaps no coincidence that there have been no new books published by Eddings from 2006 until his death.


Davidís legacy is his novels which have encouraged a great number of people to read Fantasy. Engaging characters and page-turning plot have kept many a reader enthralled for over 25 years.


At The Bookseller website, Jane Johnson, publishing director at Eddings' UK publisher HarperCollins, paid tribute to the author. HarperCollins was his publisher from 1990 until 2006, when his last title, The Elder Gods, was released.

She said: "The Voyager team and I were immensely sad to hear the news. The arrival of a new Eddings novel used to be a grand event for the whole division. In the 90s, each one was guaranteed a Number One position on the (London) Sunday Times hardback bestseller list, selling 100,000 copies apiece.

"But his huge worldwide success and fame did not change Dave at all. In his dealings with me, and with Joy Chamberlain, his long-time editor, he was unfailingly self-effacing on the subject of his success, once saying: 'Iím never going to be in danger of getting a Nobel Prize for literature, Iím a storyteller, not a prophet. Iím just interested in a good story'.

"He was a towering force of modern commercial fiction, a master of the epic, and a delight to work with. We'll miss him tremendously."


Mark Yon, June 2009. With thanks to Wikipedia and The Bookseller for reference.




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