James Oliver Rigney Jr. (October 17, 1948 – September 16, 2007), better known by his pen name Robert Jordan, was an American author of epic fantasy. He is best known for the Wheel of Time series (finished by Brandon Sanderson upon Jordan’s death) which comprises 14 books and a prequel novel. He is one of several writers to have written original Conan the Barbarian novels; his are highly acclaimed to this day. Rigney also wrote historical fiction under his pseudonym Reagan O’Neal, a western as Jackson O’Reilly, and dance criticism as Chang Lung. Additionally, he ghostwrote an “international thriller” that is still believed to have been written by someone else.
- The Wheel of Time series
- Conan the Barbarian series
- The Fallon Saga
Jordan was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He served two tours in Vietnam (from 1968 to 1970) with the United States Army as a helicopter gunner. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with “V” and oak leaf cluster, and two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm. After returning from Vietnam he attended The Citadel, where he received an undergraduate degree in physics; after graduating he was employed by the United States Navy as a nuclear engineer. He began writing in 1977.
Jordan was a history buff and enjoyed hunting, fishing, sailing, poker, chess, pool, and pipe-collecting. He described himself as a “High Church” Episcopalian and received communion more than once a week. He lived with his wife, Harriet McDougal, who works as a book editor (currently with Tor Books; she was also Jordan’s editor) in a house built in 1797.
Illness and death
On March 23, 2006, Jordan disclosed that he had been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis and that with treatment, his median life expectancy was four years. In a separate blog post, he encouraged his fans not to worry about him and stated that he intended to lead a long and creative life.
He began chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic in early April 2006. He was enrolled in a study of Revlimid, which had recently been approved for multiple myeloma but not yet tested on primary amyloidosis.
Jordan died on September 16, 2007, and his funeral service was held on September 19, 2007. He was cremated and his ashes buried in the churchyard of St. James Church in Goose Creek, outside Charleston, South Carolina.
Jordan’s papers can be found in the special collections of the College of Charleston.