Fantasy writer David Eddings dies in Carson City home
June 4, 2009
Acclaimed fantasy writer David Carroll Eddings died Tuesday of natural causes at his Carson City home, his family announced Wednesday.
Eddings, 77, wrote more than two dozen novels, his most popular being the multi-volume “Belgariad” and “Malloreon” series. His last book was “The Younger Gods” published in 2006, said younger brother Dennis Eddings, 70, who came to Carson City Tuesday night to handle his brother’s affairs.
Born July 7, 1931, in Spokane, Wash., David Eddings decided in high school he wanted to be a writer, said Dennis. But first he served two years in the U.S. Army, discharging from service in 1956 on the very day that Dennis enlisted.
“He said I was his replacement,” the younger Eddings recalled with a laugh.
Eddings went on to work for grocery store chains, and in 1973 published his first novel, “High Hunt,” a non-fantasy story that explores themes of manhood and coming of age for four men on a hunting trip shortly after the Vietnam War.
In 1978, Eddings picked up a copy of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” and decided fantasy writing was his calling.
“He said, ‘This is where it’s at,'” Dennis recalled.
Eddings immediately began laying out the worlds in his eight-book series “The Belgariad,” soon followed by the five-book series “The Malloreon.”
Eddings’ wife Leigh contributed to the books, but it wasn’t until his fifth book, “Enchanter’s End Game,” in The Belgariad series that she was credited.
“Leigh had an incredible imagination. She collaborated with Dave on all of the books after ‘High Hunt,'” said Dennis. “At one point she finally said, ‘I’m helping you do this and I deserve to be on that page too,’ and he said, ‘Of course you do.'”
Leigh suffered a series of strokes starting around 1999, said Dennis.
“The consequence of the stroke was that Leigh was pretty much reduced to the mentality of a 3-year-old,” said Dennis.
But Eddings continued to care for his wife with the help of his mother-in-law in the Carson City home he’d owned since 1988.
“I never understood why David, with the money he had, didn’t hire someone to take care of Leigh,” said Dennis.
Eddings kept his family at arm’s length during Leigh’s illness.
“He did not want us to see Leigh in that state, and we had to respect that,” said Dennis.
She died in February 2007, a month after Eddings accidentally set his northeast Carson City office on fire.
On Jan. 25, 2007, the world-renowned writer was just a stunned homeowner standing on the street in his pajamas and slippers.
Eddings admitted he’d made a foolish mistake when, while using water to flush out the gas tank on his sports car, he noticed liquid running out of the garage.
Wanting to test whether it was water or gasoline, Eddings tossed a lit piece of paper onto it. The garage went up in flames.
In a room below the garage were the original hand-written manuscripts of Eddings’ novels. Dennis said they escaped the flames.
“One word comes to mind,” David Eddings said at the time of the fire. “Dumb.”
In the past year, Eddings was not the man he once was, said Dennis.
The Carson City Sheriff’s Department responded to Eddings’ Bonanza Drive home four times in August. The dispatch logs indicate Eddings was disoriented.
“He had been ill with dementia for a long time but he was on a very fast downhill slide since last September,” said Dennis. “He had 24-hour care. His death did not come as a surprise.”
In his final months Eddings was working on a manuscript unlike anything he’d ever written. It remains incomplete, said Dennis.
“It was very, very different. I wouldn’t call it exactly a satire of fantasy but it sure plays with the genre,” said Dennis.
He said all of Eddings’ manuscripts, including the unfinished work, will go to his alma mater, Reed College in Portland, Ore.
Asked what his brother would want people to remember about him, Dennis didn’t hesitate.
“Dave was a very, very private person,” he said. “But that he was a good writer who loved to tell good stories.”
Eddings is survived by his brother, sister, Kay Cox of Wenatchee, Wash., and half-brother, Richard Blake of Kingsland, Ga.
Honoring David’s request, there will be no public services, said Dennis.
“David was a brilliant and unique human being who will be very much missed by those of us who knew him. But for us and his many readers, his voice is still at hand, ready to ring vibrantly once more by the simple and vital act of opening one of his books,” said Eddings’ sister-in-law, Jane Eddings, in an e-mail. “For that legacy, we are all thankful.”
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