Robert Jordan Author Biography Essay

Of all the fantasy series spawned by the 1960s "rediscovery" of Lord of the Rings, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, at 11 novels and nearly 7,500 pages, was the longest and most successful. It was also one of the best, offering complex novels set in a fascinating fantasy world. Begun in 1990 with The Eye of the World, the series has sold some 30m copies, and been translated into 24 languages. In 2005, Jordan announced he was working on a final novel, which would bring the saga to an end, even if it had to run to 1,500 pages.

But Robert Jordan was a pen name for James Oliver Rigney Jr, who has died aged 58, before he could finish that last book. In 2006 he was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare blood disease, which causes the walls of the heart to thicken. Although he benefited from some experimental treatments, and showed surprising improvement early this year, there is no cure for the disease.

Rigney was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He served as an army helicopter gunner for two tours in the Vietnam war, winning the distinguished flying cross and bronze star. After Vietnam, he enrolled at the Citadel, South Carolina's military college, earning a degree in physics. While working as a nuclear engineer for the US navy, he suffered a fall at a Charleston shipyard which led to a near-fatal blood clot. Forced to walk with a cane, he decided "life was too short" and decided to become a writer.

His novel The Fallon Blood (1980) was the first of a trilogy which combined history with the popular family sagas that dominated television, a formula pioneered by John Jakes. Rigney wrote all his novels under pseudonyms; the Fallon books were attributed to Reagan O'Neal. In 1982 he published a western, Cheyenne Raiders, as Jackson O'Reilly.

The sword and sorcery of pulp writer Robert E Howard was another rediscovery during the original Lord of the Rings boom, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies turned Howard's Conan the Barbarian into a franchise. Jakes had produced an early Conan pastiche, called Brak, and a number of successful fantasy writers had tried their hands at continuing the Conan saga in new novels. Rigney joined them with Conan The Invincible (1982) and produced six more novels in three years, including Conan the Destroyer, the novelisation of the film. He also produced a Conan chronology. He wrote them as Robert Jordan, taking the name not from the character in Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, but, like all his pseudonyms, from names that matched various combinations of his own initials.

The Eye of the World bore many comparisons with the Lord of the Rings. The latter's Hobbits, children in size if not fact, are chosen to defend Middle Earth. Jordan's Rand al'Thor is still a boy when he and his friends are tasked to save the Third Age from the Dark One, imprisoned at the moment of creation, but starting to stir. Most fantasy writers draw on the stock elements of both myth and previous fantasy. But as his series progressed, Jordan took it into new territory, challenging his heroes with adult kinds of chaos, endlessly inventive within his fantasy world. He said he enjoyed fantasy because it was the one genre where "you could talk about right and wrong, good and evil, with a straight face".

In addition to the 11 novels in the series, Jordan wrote a prequel, New Spring (2004), expanded from a novella. With Teresa Patterson he produced The World of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time (1998), a "reference" guide to the series, although it eventually became so complicated that he had to hire an assistant merely to keep facts straight.

He is survived by a son and his wife, Harriet, who is expected to oversee the completion of A Memory of Light, based on his extensive notes, which include its ending. However it ends, he summed up his multimillion-word fantasy in just three words: "Life changes. Deal."

· Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney Jr), writer, born October 17 1948; died September 16 2007

Robert Jordan is the late author of the highly successful “The Wheel of Time Fantasy” fantasyseries which soon became a bestseller. The name “Robert Jordan” was just another one of the few pseudonyms that James Oliver Rigney, Jr. wrote under in addition to pseudonyms such as Jackson O’Reilly and Reagan O’Neal.

Robert Jordan was born in Charleston, South Carolina on 17th October 1948.  Jordan became fond of reading when he was only just a young boy. Under the negligible guidance of his elder brother he practically taught himself how to read at the tender age of 4. By the time he was 5 he had already read books by great authors such as Jules Verne and Mark Twain. It is not surprising that as a child Jordan knew he wanted to become a writer.

From 1968 to 1970 Robert Jordan served two tours as a helicopter gunner in Vietnam with the U.S Army. He had the prestige of receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster. He also attainted the Bronze Star with “V” and bronze oak leaf cluster. The Vietnamese also decorated him with The Gallantry Cross which is rewarded to soldiers and units “accomplishing deeds of valor or displayed heroic conduct while fighting an enemy force”

Upon his return from Vietnam he went on to gain a degree in physics from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. Following his graduation he started to work as a nuclear engineer for the United States Navy. He began writing in 1977 and in time wrote “The Wheel of Time Fantasy” – arguably the best and most prominent Fantasy series written, which rapidly topped the best-seller charts.  The title of “The Wheel of Time Fantasy “was inspired by Hindu Mythology. It went on to sell more than 14 million copies in North America and up to 44 million copies globally. The series inspired the making of a role-playing game, soundtrack album and computer game.

Additionally, he has written many other books under different pseudonyms. As “Chang Lung” he has written theater and dance criticism. As “Reagan O’Neal” he has written “The Fallon Blood” in 1980; “The Fallon Bride” in 1981; and “The Fallon Legacy” in 1982 respectively. As “Jackson O’Reilly” he wrote Cheyenne Raiders in 1982. Under the pseudonym “Robert Jordan” he wrote the new “Conan the Barbarian” series.

Jordan was a history enthusiast, displaying a particular interest in the history of Charleston and the Military.  He enjoyed hunting, sailing and fishing from outdoor activities. Indoors, he liked playing pool, poker and chess.  He claimed to be an Episcopalian. He also disclosed that he was a Freemason but said that like his ancestors he did not publicize it due to the negative connotation of Freemasonry. He resided with his wife Harriet McDougal who is a book editor, also working for Jordan.

Jordon released a statement on March 23 2006, announcing that he was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidos; a rare blood disease.  He said that the doctors had estimated that he would live for only 4 years; however he also said he planned to prove them wrong. He even encouraged his fans to not fret over his health as he planned on an innovative long life via his blog.  In the beginning of April 2006, Jordan started chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He took part in a study that used the drug which had recently been accepted for multiple myeloma – Revlimid. Revlimid had not yet been used to treat Jordan’s condition.

Jordan passed away on September 16, 2007. He was cremated with his ashes being buried at an Episcopal church. Jordan wrote many notes while he was ill so that an additional novelist could finish his series the way he desired. After his death, his wife chose a fantasy author and avid fan of the “Wheel of Time” series, Brandon Sanderson to end the final book. However, it was realized that material was too much to get published in one book, and so should be published as three volumes.

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