James Riordan has traveled the world collecting folktales and has published over thirty volumes of tales from different countries. The Twelve Labours of Hercules won the UK Reading Association Award 1998. He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Surry and Visiting Professor at the University of Worcester, as well as holding honorary degrees from Birmingham, London, Moscow and Grenoble. He regularly reviews children's books for The Times.
He has also written ten novels for young people. His first, Sweet Clarinet, won the NASEN award in 1999 and was nominated for the Whitbread Prize in 1998. Match of Death won the South Lanarkshire Book Award in 2004, and The Gift was nominated for the NASEN award in 2006. He published a novel on slavery, Rebel Cargo, with Frances Lincoln in 2007.