Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Alabama Authors Babs & Borden Deal

Babs and Borden Deal were one of those rare couples among writers--two very successful novelists from the 1950's through the 1970's. And since then they have both slipped into obscurity. Let's investigate their Alabama connections.

Babs Hodges was born in Scottsboro on June 23, 1929. After high school graduation she worked in Washington, D.C. as clerk/typist and as typist at Anderson Brass Company in Birmingham. She received a B.A. from the University of Alabama in 1952. Both she and Borden studied under legendary author and professor of creative writing Hudson Strode, although not at the same time. Strode taught at UA for more than 25 years and his students went on to publish over 50 novels and hundreds of short stories. 

She and Borden married in 1952 while both were in Tuscaloosa; Babs was his second wife. They divorced in 1975. The couple had three children, son Brett and daughters Ashley and Shane.

During much of their marriage they lived in Sarasota, Florida, where they circulated in the company of other writers including well-known crime and suspense novelist John D. MacDonald. Rumors of an affair between MacDonald and Babs resulted in MacDonald writing a letter to Borden denying it. [See Hugh Merrill's biography of MacDonald, The Red Hot Typewriter, 2000]

Borden was born in Pontotoc, Mississippi, on October 12, 1922. After graduation from high school he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, where he worked on firefighting crews in the Pacific Northwest. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 until 1945, and then entered the University of Alabama and studied under Strode. He graduated with a B.A. in 1949. He moved to Mexico City College for graduate work; there he met his first wife. They had one child, but soon divorced.

The Deals remained in Tuscaloosa for a couple of years after the marriage and spent their time writing. Future author Wayne Greenhaw often watched the children so the pair could work. By 1954 the Deals were living in Scottsboro. While there Borden received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957 and a residency at the MacDowell Colony for artists in New Hampshire in 1964. That same year the family moved to Sarasota. By that time Borden had published eight novels and Babs her first two. 

Deal published over 20 novels and around 100 stories during his life. Some were published under pseudonyms. After 1970 he also wrote a series of erotic novels published anonymously, a practice many authors have used to supply quick funds. Two of his novels appeared posthumously, They Are All Strangers (1985) and The Platinum Man (1989). Babs published twelve novels.

Borden died of a heart attack in Sarasota on January 22, 1985. Babs, who lived at the time in Gulf Shores, died in a Montgomery hospital on February 20, 2004.

I never met Borden or any of the children, but I did meet Babs in the late 1970's. She was living in Auburn while her daughters were in school there. She and Dianne were friends when I met my future wife, who hadd met Babs through daughter Ashley. I remember Babs as a funny, earthy lady. 

Borden has entries in Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Alabama; Babs has neither. In his 2001 book Vanishing Florida, David T. Warner includes a memoir of Borden whom he knew in Sarasota. Babs does have an entry in the Alabama Literary Map and like Borden appears in various reference books covering Southern and/or American authors. Borden's papers are in the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. That collection includes sculptures of Babs and Borden by Sara Mayfield, a fellow Alabama writer. 

Alabama has had at least two other couples who were both widely published authors, C. Terry Cline and Judith Richards and the Covingtons, Dennis and Vicki

Further comments follow many of the images below. 

This novel, Babs' fifth, first appeared in 1968. The following year she received the Alabama Author Award from the state library association for the book. Dianne has told me Babs once informed her that the book was loosely based on real Tuscaloosa events.

On December 3, 1979, NBC broadcast a TV movie adaptation of that novel under a new title. The film featured an all-female cast that included Paula Prentiss, Tina Louise, Loretta Swit, Stella Stevens, Shelley Fabares and Sondra Locke. 

A TV-movie tie-in reprint of the novel appeared in 1979.

Her first novel appeared in 1959.

Babs' second novel, originally published in 1961, was reprinted by the University of Alabama Press in 1990. That is the most recent reprint of any of her works. In its review of the reprint, Library Journal declared, "This is a southern writer who can be appreciated by all." (15 September 1990, p. 105)

This thriller was published in 1973.

She is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Scottsboro.

Source: Find-A-Grave

Her 1969 country music novel is dedicated to friend, fellow writer and onetime baby sitter Wayne Greenhaw, who has left a remembrance of the Deals in his essay in The Remembered Gate: Memoirs by Alabama Writers. The book was "really about Hank Williams" she told Clarke Stallworth in the article discussed below. 

In this 1962 novel, Deal's characters all work at night. 

This novel appeared in 1975.

Other novels include The Grail (1964), Fancy's Knell (1966), Summer Games (1972), The Reason for Roses (1974) and Goodnight Ladies (1978). The Grail was a football novel in which the star quarterback falls in love with the coach's wife. The book is based on the legends of King Arthur; for background on football she consulted Bear Bryant and Gene Stallings. 

This article by Clarke Stallworth appeared in the Birmingham News 26 March 1982. In it she laments the "bestseller" mentality of publishers and notes that after 25 years her publisher Doubleday doesn't "want me any more." She mentions the completed manuscript for a thirteenth novel. Perhaps it is among her papers, also at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.  

Her published short fiction includes:

On June 27, 1961, an adaptation of her story "Make My Death Bed" appeared on the Alfred Hitchcock series. The thirty-minute program was broadcast in the show's sixth season. As of this writing a video of the episode is available here

This 1976 novel was adapted as a two-part movie for television and broadcast in 1988. 

Borden's second novel was published in 1957 and explores the coming of the Tennessee Valley Authority to north Alabama. This book and one by fellow Alabama author William Bradford Huie served as the basis for the 1960 film Wild River  starring Lee Remick and Montgomery Clift. 

This anthology published in 1976 contains Deal's story "A Try for the Big Prize" that first appeared in Hitchcock's magazine in May 1961.

This 1959 novel about southern hill country music served as the basis of the Broadway musical A Joyful Noise in 1966.

This novel appeared in 1965.

This novel was published in 1974. 

The Advocate (1968) is the middle novel of a "political trilogy" that also included The Loser (1964) and The Winner (1973). 

As he had done with the early novel Dunbar's Cove and the TVA, this 1970 book explored the effects of massive change on the South. In addition to that theme in his novels, Deal also wrote about basic human characteristics such as ambition, lust, greed, infidelity and a young man's coming of age.

This photograph on the back cover of Interstate was taken by fellow author John D. MacDonald. 

The first part of this Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color episode was  broadcast on March 8, 1964, and the second part a week later. The film was based on a story by Borden, probably "Watermelon Moon" first published in Argosy (UK) in February 1963.

Borden's published short stories include:

DEAL, BORDEN; [born Loysé Youth Deal] (1922-1985); (about) (chron.)

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