Novelist Borden Deal was born Loyse Youth Deal on 12 October 1922 in Pontotoc, Mississippi, the youngest of three children of farmers Borden Lee Deal and Jimmie Anne Smith Deal. He spent his childhood in the farming communities of Pontotoc, New Albany, and Ingomar, where he began to cultivate his lifelong hobbies of fishing, golf, and guitar playing. When the Great Depression hit, Deal’s father lost his land because of the drop in cotton prices. With assistance from federal programs, the family relocated to a communal farming project in Enterprise, and Deal graduated from Macedonia Consolidated High School near Myrtle. After his father was killed in a 1938 truck accident, young Deal decided to leave home.
Deal joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and fought fires in the Pacific Northwest, moving between camps by hitchhiking and riding freight trains. During this period he also worked on a showboat, at a lumber mill, and in wheat harvesting as a migrant laborer. Deal then moved to Washington, D.C., and became as an auditor for the US Department of Labor from 1941 to 1942. He also worked as a correspondent for Association Films in New York City. Deal served as an aviator cadet in the US Navy from 1942 to 1945 and subsequently attended college at the University of Alabama, where he studied under creative writing teacher Hudson Strode and became a student of Jungian psychology, two experiences that profoundly affected his writing. He graduated in 1949, majoring in English and minoring in creative writing. He pursued graduate studies at Mexico City College during 1950 and then worked as a skip tracer, telephone operator, copywriter, and freelance writer between 1950 and 1955.
He began publishing his writings in 1948 and went on to enjoy a long career as an author, publishing twenty-one books and more than one hundred short stories. He occasionally wrote under the pseudonyms Lee Borden and Leigh Borden and published erotica under the pseudonyms Him, Her, and Us. His final novels were published posthumously in 1985 and 1989. He was best known for works set in the American South, including Dunbar’s Cove (1957), a novel about the Tennessee Valley Authority; and The Insolent Breed (1959), a story about hillbilly music and humanity’s fight against encroaching civilization. The childhood farming settings of his youth featured strongly in Deal’s work, particularly in the Olden Times series novels The Least One (1967) and The Other Room (1974) as well as in the somewhat autobiographical There Were Also Strangers (1985). Novels such as Walk through the Valley (1956) and Interstate (1970) also showcased Deal’s continued commitment to the ideas of the quest for land, personal ambition, and identity. He explored Jungian psychology and human fallibility in Dragon’s Wine (1960) and Adventure (1978). Deal garnered various honors and awards during his four-decade career, including a 1957 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Borden Deal died of a heart attack on 22 January 1985 in Sarasota, Florida. He once told an interviewer that he wanted his books to be a “panorama of the New South,” noting that his characters “live and work in real time in real places: raising horses, building highways and TVA dams, running for public office, farming the Southern earth. The drama of their individual lives embodies the important story of the years since about 1890, when the South began gradually to emerge from the shadow of a losing war in the wrong cause, to regain at last, with the election of the first Southern president in over a hundred years, its original position as a prime mover in the destiny of the nation.”
- Gale Group, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 6, American Novelists since World War II, 2nd ser. (1980)
- Robert H. McKenzie, ed., The Rising South, vol. 2 (1976)