Born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1948, James received an early education in literature. His parents would often leave him in the company of his brother, 12 years his senior. The elder brother entertained young James by reading to him, but refused to read children’s books. Elder brother regaled him with the tales of Jules Verne, Mark Twain and the Master, H.G. Wells.
Most biographers will tell you that Rigney is a life long resident of Charleston, and while that is largely accurate, it isn't strictly true. When James came of age he served two tours of duty in Vietnam from 1968 till 1970. James was a well-decorated soldier and during his enlistment he received the The Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and was twice awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Valliantry. When he returned from Vietnam James enrolled in the military college, The Citadel, and graduated with a B.S. in Physics. Putting his education to use James returned to the military and served the Navy as a nuclear engineer.
Such was James life, that had circumstances been different he may well have never begun writing. If it weren't for a relatively serious leg injury he may never have put pen to paper and would have remained a nice guy with an interesting past and passionate hobbies. Fortunately for his fans, James began to run out of reading material during his hospital internment. Believing he could write as well as the authors he was reading at the time, he setout to pen a novel. The result was the 1980 historical novel The Fallon Blood. Set during the American Revolution, a time period that held much interest for James, the book was a moderate success that led to a job writing Conan novels.
In 1990 Rigney published the first book in a series that has undoubtedly shaped his career as a writer and led to his success as a novelist. Written under the pseudonym Robert Jordan, The Eye of the World was a smash hit and started off his massive Wheel of Time series with a bang. The series has dozens of main characters, complex plot lines and machiavellian twists. Currently in its ninth volume each book is a virtual giant with the hardcover editions weighing in between 600 and 800 pages. Despite the belief of some fans and critics, Rigney claims to have an end for the story, but would require at least two more novels to tie up all the lose ends.
A man who gallantly protects his privacy, little was known of him for years. His book jacket biographies simply stated that he graduated from The Citadel and loved history. As far as my research can ascertain he has never published under his real name, preferring instead to use pseudonyms like, Robert Jordan, Reagan O'Neal, Jackson O'Reilly and Chang Lung.
Rigney lives in historic Charleston with his wife of thirteen years in a house whose construction dates back to 1797. A true southern gentleman of yesteryear, he counts among his hobbies, History, hunting and collecting pipes.
As Robert Jordan
As Reagan O'Neal
As Jackson O'Reilly
As Chang Lung
- Fantasy Review (August, 1984, p 12; September, 1984, p 30)
- Science Fiction Review (February, 1983; p 31; May, 1983 p 55)
James Oliver Rigney, Jr., died September 16, 2007.