I'm always fascinated by the occasions when famous genre writers - the legends of the legendary, if you’ll excuse the horrible workplay - write literary or non-genre fiction. In many cases, they're still exploring those same tropes and themes and issues that appear in their fantasy or science fiction. Is it possible for them to write about destiny and free will without prophesies? Or create escapism without dragons? To craft heroes without Dark Lords?
Back before David Eddings set the world on fire (magical blue fire) with the Belgariad in 1983, he fiddled about in literary fiction. His first novel, High Hunt, was published in 1973. Contemporary and introspective, it is a far cry from the bombastic cosmic conflicts that would later make him famous. High Hunt is a bit like Robert Jordan's The Fallon Blood, in that publishers have tried - repeatedly - to republish and remarket it for the epic fantasy market. But that's where the similarities stop for, unlike The Fallon Blood, High Hunt is actually good.
High Hunt follows twentysomething Dan Alders as he returns from military service and tries to settle in back home. Like Eddings, Dan was posted to Germany (Eddings was in Germany during the Korean War, while Dan’s story takes place during Vietnam). And also like Eddings, Dan is a Washington native - in High Hunt, he returns to Tacoma. Not because he's particularly excited about seeing his old stomping grounds - rather, he's got nowhere else he needs to be.
And this is where the story begins: Dan, freed from service and, in fact, freed from everything. No girlfriend, no parents (his father is dead, his mother an alcoholic that he hasn’t seen for years), no friends - nothing. He’s got money in his pocket, a bag of civilian clothing and a vague plan to attend the University of Washington to get a graduate degree when it starts up next year.
Like much of High Hunt, what happens next is comes down to a whim - a supposed impulse. Dan, casting about for someone to spend a bit of time with (he's just out of the service, after all), rings up his semi-estranged older brother, Jack. They get together and, much to Dan's surprise, they hit it off. And, again, for the apparently lack of anything better to do, Dan gets absorbed into the circle of Jack's life. He moves in to the same trailer court, he meets Jack’s friends (and wife) (and mistress); Dan commits to being in Tacoma until his degree programme begins.