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reed magazine logoAutumn 2009

Memoriam

After graduate school, David again worked in grocery stores (he later blamed his bad back on lifting heavy milk cases) before landing a job as a purchasing agent for Boeing in Seattle. There he met and married the love of his life, Judith Leigh Schall (whom he later described as a world-class cook and a crack shot). They moved frequently around the country as “missile bums” until they ended up in New Orleans, whose climate was dangerous for the asthmatic Leigh. David quit Boeing to teach English and creative writing for at two small colleges in the Midwest. He left academia after he became angered that administrators but not faculty had received pay raises—which opened the door to see if he could make it as a writer.

David spent a year living on his savings and wrote High Hunt, a contemporary drama about a group of deer hunters in the Northwest, published by Putnam in 1973. “It was astonishing to me,” he said. He and Leigh moved to Spokane, where he wrote The Losers, a gritty novel about a Reedie whose luck runs down. Putnam didn’t want it—nor did anyone else. Returning to the grocery business, he wrote several other contemporary novels that no publisher would touch. One day, as a distraction from writing a book that he found unbearably dull, he started doodling a map of an imaginary place. Although it intrigued him, he put it away and went back to stocking shelves.

Some time later, David chanced upon a copy of The Lord of the Rings in a bookstore, and was surprised to see it was in its 78th printing. He rushed home and exclaimed, “Leigh, this is where it’s at.” He realized that genre fiction could be a solid way of making money, and he also knew that his background and talents made him particularly well suited for the task of writing it. He went back to his half-completed map and spent almost two years, after work and on weekends, methodically creating the universe of the Belgariad and Malloreon, complete with distinct cultures, politics, holy texts, timelines, mythologies, and a unique system of magic. He then went on to write the books from this background, adding the humor, generosity of spirit, and well-realized characters that marked his work.

During this time, David and Leigh developed their working partnership. Because of his bad back, he would get up at 2 a.m. and write until 8 a.m. Then he would read his night’s work aloud to Leigh, who would catch inconsistencies, tighten the plot, add the details and color that came naturally to her, and rewrite what the women said (David maintained that he was baffled by women). David always wanted Leigh to be named as co-author, but his publisher argued that would be a detriment in the market. It took a few years, but Leigh finally received that recognition and was listed as co-author in all subsequent books.

The Belgariad series was bought and published in 1982 by the noted editor Lester Del Rey; every single one was a bestseller. David was finally able to quit his day job and devote his life to his writing, producing an enormous and beloved body of works for his growing legions of fans.

David and Leigh lived out their lives in Carson City, Nevada, a peaceful and beautiful town that they loved. Their last few years were difficult: Leigh suffered a debilitating stroke in 1999; David lovingly cared for her until her death in 2007, although diminished himself by growing dementia. Endings in life, as well as in books, are often poignant, but David leaves behind an extraordinary, life-changing literary legacy.

Nadine Fiedler (another proud English major) wrote a profile of David Eddings for Reed in 1997, when she was its assistant editor. She now works as publications and PR director for Catlin Gabel School and does freelance writing.

Books of David Eddings

How Lonely are the Dead 1954
(senior thesis)
Man Running 1960 (MA thesis, UW)
High Hunt 1973
Belgariad series
Pawn of Prophecy 1982
Queen of Sorcery 1982
Magician’s Gambit 1983
Castle of Wizardry 1984
Enchanters’ End Game 1984
Malloreon series
Guardians of the West 1987
King of the Murgos 1988
Demon Lord of Karanda 1988
Sorceress of Darshiva 19899
Seeress of Kell 1991
Related books
Belgarath the Sorcerer 1995
Polgara the Sorceress 1997
The Rivan Codex 1998
The Elenium
The Diamond Throne 1989
The Ruby Knight 1990
The Sapphire Rose 1991
The Tamuli
Domes of Fire 1992
The Shining Ones 1993
The Hidden City 1994
The Losers 1992
The Redemption of Althalus 2000
Regina’s Song 2000
The Dreamers
The Elder Gods 2003
The Treasured One 2004
Crystal Gorge 2005h
The Younger Gods 2006
reed magazine logoAutumn 2009