The South Carolina Academy of Authors Newest Inductee
James Oliver Rigney, Jr.
James Oliver Rigney, Jr., best known to the book world as Robert Jordan, was born in 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina, where he lived with his wife, Harriet, in a house built in 1797. He taught himself to read when he was four with the incidental aid of a twelve-year-older brother, and was tackling Mark Twain and Jules Verne by five. He was a graduate of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, with a degree in physics. He served two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army; among his decorations are the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star with “V,” and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. A history buff, he also wrote dance and theater criticism. He enjoyed the outdoor sports of hunting, fishing, and sailing, and the indoor sports of poker, chess, pool, and pipe collecting. His writing career began in 1977 and he wrote up until his death on September 16, 2007.
Although Rigney wrote a trilogy of historical novels set in Charleston under the nom de plume Reagan O’Neal in the early 1980s, he is best known for his work in the fantasy genre. The first volume in his Wheel of Time epic, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990 under the name Robert Jordan. Book 11 of the series, Knife of Dreams, came out in 2005. He was working on the twelfth volume at the time of his death. The Wheel of Time books, many of which made the number one hardcover position on the New York Times best seller list, have often been compared to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. According to Edward Rothstein of the New York Times, Jordan came “to dominate the world that Tolkien began to reveal. . . . The battle scenes have the breathless urgency of firsthand experience, and the . . . evil laced into the forces of good, the dangers latent in any promised salvation, the sense of the unavoidable onslaught of unpredictable events during the last three decades.” Rigney’s works have been translated into more than twenty languages, and his books have sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, according to his publisher.