James Clavell did not start out to be an author. He was born in Australia in 1924 (his father was in the British Navy), and travelled the world as a "military brat."
He joined the Royal Artillery in World War II, and was captured and spent three and a half years at Changi Prison Camp, near Singapore. He continued in the military after the war, but was injured badly in a motorcycle accident. He left the military and went back to school for a couple of years, considering majoring in law or engineering.
His future wife, April Stride, was an actress, so Clavell got interested in films and film production. They immigrated to America, and moved to Hollywood in 1953. Clavell started writing screen plays. Some of his better known titles include The Fly, The Great Escape, and To Sir with Love.
In 1960, Clavell started writing a novel about his memories of Changi prison camp. King Rat was the resulting novel. It became a best seller, and was made into a movie in 1965.
Clavell's next book was Tai-Pan, set in Hong Kong in 1841.
Clavell wrote four more books that loosely interlocked with his Oriental History:
Shogun, set in Japan in 1600.
Noble House, set in Hong Kong in 1963. (You see decendents of the characters from Shogun and Tai-Pan here.)
Whirlwind, sent in Iran in 1979. (You see the same families here)
Gai-jin, set in Yokahama in 1862. (This is the historical immediate sequel to Tai-pan)
Clavell died in 1994, in Switzerland, from cancer.