It is with great sadness that SFX has to report the death of David Eddings, the international best-selling author most famous for the Belgariad series of books. He passed away on 2 June at the age of 77.
His last book, The Elder Gods, was published in 2006 by HarperCollins, which had been his publisher since 1990.
Jane Johnson, Publishing Director at HarperCollins, says: ‘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 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: ‘I’m never going to be in danger of getting a Nobel Prize for literature, I’m a storyteller, not a prophet. I’m 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.’
Born in Spokane, Washington State, David Eddings won a scholarship to Reed College, Oregon, where he majored in English. College was followed by a challenging two-year spell in the army, in Germany, as a non-commissioned officer in charge of sixty-three men, after which attended the University of Washington, where he became fluent in Middle English.
There followed years of top secret work for Boeing emplacing Minuteman missiles around the United States. At the height of the Cold War, Dave became what is quaintly called a “missile bum”. He and his wife Leigh eventually settled in New Orleans, where Dave worked on the Saturn project.
From there, for the sake of Leigh’s health, they moved to Denver, where Dave wrote his first novel, High Hunt, a contemporary adventure story published in 1973. Then one day he was browsing idly in a bookshop and noticed that the volume of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in his hand was in its seventy-third printing. Back home, he started doodling a map, and began building a world, the world of The Belgariad and The Malloreon.
The Elenium series followed, the tale of a middle-aged knight, Sparhawk, dwelling on the influence of religion and the interplay between an organized, militarized church and an array of supernatural beings.
Finally settled Carson City, Nevada, Dave conjured up two further immensely absorbing worlds, his massive standalone fantasy The Redemption of Althalus, and his The Dreamers series. Eddings said, “To be honest about it, I write because I have to write,” and possibly that’s why his books feel so alive and relevant. With typical generosity, Dave insisted that the name of his wife Leigh appeared beside his own on the covers of these later books in acknowledgement of the role she had played throughout his creative life. Leigh Eddings died in 2007.