We note with sadness the passing of Gordon Ryan, a beloved LDS author. He was 69. Three months ago he was diagnosed as suffering from a blood disease called Cardiac Amyloidosis. In a recent blog post he discussed his diagnosis, and said it was caused by exposure to Agent Orange during his time serving in the United States Air Force in Bangkok during the Vietnam War.
I have pieced together a biography based on various author bios available on the internet. I encourage all who knew him to write their tributes in the comments section, and add any corrections or details to his biography.
Gordan Ryan was born October 5, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of Thomas Ryan and Eleanor Hansen. He was the second generation of Irish and Norwegian grandparents. He spent his early years in Staten Island, New York; his middle childhood years in Tampa, Florida; and his teenage junior high and high school years in San Antonio, Texas. He held a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Political Science and completed graduate work in Public Administration. As a young man of nineteen, Gordon served with the 1st Recon Battalion, United States Marine Corps in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Several years later, he served with the United States Air Force during the Vietnam conflict where he was assigned to a medical facility in Bangkok. He also served as a member of the American Embassy staff in Dublin, Ireland, during the violent seventies. He served as Chief Executive Officer or City Manager in multiple American and international communities. Besides the locations listed above, he has lived in England, Thailand, and Taiwan, as well as a half dozen states on both the east and west coasts of America, including the far reaches of Alaska. In recent years he and his wife, Colleen, have split their time between the northwestern United States and Christchurch, New Zealand, where Colleen is from. The Christchurch earthquake of 2011 resulted in the government condemning the land upon which their house was built, and required the family to build a new house. Ryan is survived by his wife of almost 25 years, Colleen Sterling, his daughter Kate Armitage, and his sons Gordon Michael Ryan and Daniel Howard Ryan. He also had an infant son, Thomas Ryan, who proceeded him in death.
Ryan’s bibliography is a bit difficult to follow, as he has rewritten and self-published most of his earlier novels. His first published novel, Dangerous Legacy, is a military thriller released by Deseret Book in 1994, when Ryan was in his early 50s. Ryan recently rewrote and republished it as Triple Diamond. Next came the Spirit of Union trilogy: Destiny, Conflict, and Heritage, published by Deseret Book from 1996 to 1999. It is a LDS historical fiction series, starting with a young Irish Catholic man and a Norwegian Mormon woman who meet on a ship bound for the United States in 1895. The series follows the adventures of the pair and their families all over the world, going up to 1940. In recent years Ryan rewrote and republished the series, renaming it The Callahans and expanding it to five volumes. He appears to have included new material to the new first three volumes, pushing the end of the third volume, renamed Reunion, forward to the 1920s. The two new volumes, Prelude and Reprisal, continue the story to the years after World War II.
In 1996 Deseret Book published Threads of Honor, based on a true story of a Boy Scout troop who donated an American flag which flew on the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle. Mapletree republished the book in 2003. Ryan’s next novel was A Question of Consequence, published by Mapletree in 2003. It is the story of a contemporary young Assistant City Manager of a Utah town who discovers and is inspired by a diary of a revolutionary war ancestor, is engulfed in a political scandal, and finds romance. Booklist said it was “outstanding in its genre”, and said it was “deeply felt, unpredictable, and smart about municipal politics.” Ryan republished it as Love, Honor, & Consequence.
After having bad experiences with two small Mormon publishers, in 2009 Ryan decided to self-publish his new books, as well as republish his older books. Among the new books were the Pug Conner series of political thrillers, starting with State of Rebellion, published in 2010. It tells the story of a secessionist movement in California. Conner, a US Marine officer from the first book, continues as the main character in the sequels, Uncivil Liberties and To Faithfully Execute. A scheduled fourth novel in the series, Blood & Treasure, has not yet been released. Another recent book by Ryan is The Leashes of Dogwood Hollow, a satire about corruption in local government.
Ryan has also written novels with his daughter, Kate Armitage. The first was Upon the Isles of the Sea, a 1998 Book of Mormon novel about two Lamanite stripling warriors who meet up with Hagoth and sail to Polynesia. The father and daughter used the pen name “Kate Gordon” when publishing Ninth Crossing: Discovery, in April 2012. It is a time-travel fantasy romance about a female secret service agent who is kidnapped by elves and taken to 1630 Ireland. “Humor and light-hearted romance, yes, but a serious story about corruption, power, deception and the length to which men – and women – will go to achieve their ends.” The second volume, Conspiracy, was published in September.
We here at the Association for Mormon Letters wish to express our deepest regret to the Ryan family, and pray for their comfort.