Borden Deal was born in Pontotoc, Miss., to a family of tenant farmers. He grew up in the area between New Albany and Oxford, Miss. He read voraciously as a boy and wanted to become a writer. When Deal was sixteen, his father died in an accident. Deal left home and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, which sent him to Oregon to fight forest fires. After that, he traveled around the country, doing whatever work he could find. Deal joined the US Navy in 1942 and served until 1945. Although he initially trained to be an aviator, he was eventually assigned to be a radar instructor at the Fire Control School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. During this time, Deal wrote a novel, but it was never published and the manuscript was later lost. After World War II, he entered the University of Alabama. He enrolled in the fiction-writing class of Hudson Strode who encouraged his work. In 1948, Deal won the first prize in a contest sponsored by Tomorrow magazine with his short story, “Exodus." This story was published under his birth name, Loyse Deal, but he soon began using the name Borden Deal.
After graduating with a BA in 1949, Deal briefly studied at Mexico City College in 1950. He returned to Alabama and worked a variety of jobs in the next few years. In 1952, Deal married Babs Hodges (who later wrote as Babs H. Deal). In 1954, Deal was working as a copywriter for a Mobile radio station, when Scribners gave him an advance on a novel. He resigned from his job and moved his family to Scottsboro, Ala. The novel, Walk Through the Valley, was published in 1956. The Deals returned to Tuscaloosa in the late 1950s. Writer Wayne Greenhaw, then a student at the University of Alabama, watched their children while the adult Deals wrote. In the following years, Deal wrote novels, short stories, poems, and book reviews. He sold the movie rights to his best-selling novel Dunbar’s Cove and it was used (along with William Bradford Huie’s Mud on the Stars) to make the movie Wild River. Several short stories and another novel, Bluegrass, were also made into movies or television productions. His novel The Insolent Breed was made into the Broadway musical A Joyful Noise. Deal was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957 and held a residency at the MacDowell Colony. In 1964, the Deal family moved to Sarasota, Fla. Borden and Babs Deal were divorced in 1975, and he later remarried. In 1985, Deal died of a heart attack in Sarasota, Fla.
Borden Deal’s fiction is set in the New South, much of it in rural farming communities.
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Last updated on May 30, 2008.