By Bruce Smith
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Robert Jordan, 58, a writer whose "Wheel of Time" series of fantasy novels sold millions of copies, died of a rare blood disease Sept. 16 at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
Mr. Jordan, whose real name was James Oliver Rigney Jr., was a native of Charleston and lived there most of his life. He died of complications from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, his personal assistant, Maria Simons, said. The blood disease caused the walls of his heart to thicken.
He wrote a trilogy of historical novels set in Charleston under the pen name Reagan O'Neal in the early 1980s. Then he turned his attention to fantasy, and the first volume in his "Wheel of Time" epic, "The Eye of the World," was published in 1990 under the name Robert Jordan.
Mr. Jordan's books tell of Rand al'Thor, who is destined to become the champion who will battle ultimate evil in a mythical land.
Book 11, "Knife of Dreams," came out in 2005; there was also a prequel, "New Spring: The Novel," in 2004. Other titles in the series include "The Great Hunt," "Lord of Chaos" and "The Path of Daggers." Mr. Jordan was working on a 12th volume at the time of his death, Simons said.
He said in an interview that his Southern background came through in his work, even though it is set in a fantasy world.
"What I write is certainly not set in South Carolina, but I have had a number of reviewers comment on the fact that I write with a distinctly Southern voice," he said.
"It goes beyond more than simply where the story is set. I believe it is something we take in in the air and the water. It's a matter of word choices -- of the rhythms of sentences and the rhythm of speech, in particular."
A graduate of the Citadel, South Carolina's state military college, Mr. Jordan worked as a nuclear engineer at the old Charleston Naval Shipyard before taking up writing full time in 1977.
He served two tours of duty with the Army in Vietnam. His decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star.
Survivors include his wife, Harriet McDougal Rigney.