Photo: William F. Nolan and Ray Bradbury
The American author wrote hundreds of stories in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and crime fiction genres as well as as a screenwriter.
By Jason V. Brock: Author, screenwriter, artist, and occasional actor William Francis Nolan passed away without pain on July 15, 2021, during a brief stay in the hospital following complications from an infection. He was 93 years old. He had no living relatives and was married one time.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Nolan was an only child. His father, Michael Cahill Nolan, was an adventurer and sportsman. His mother, Bernadette Mariana Kelly Nolan, was a stenographer. The family resided on Forest Avenue in a predominantly Irish section of the city.
Nolan spent his youth riding his bike up and down nearby Troost Avenue, close to the Isis Theater, meeting with friends to spend hot days in the cool of the movie palace, where they watched Westerns, ate candy, and reveled in the adventures of Tom Mix and other film heroes of the day. An avid reader, he devoured Max Brand, comic books (especially Batman), the pulps, and any other books he could get his hands on. He held very fond memories of his childhood.
Later, the family moved to Chula Vista, California just after World War II (Nolan was unable to serve due to flat feet and poor vision). Though the times were hard, his cherished parents had unflinching Irish roots, and the family endured, eventually winding up in Los Angeles. It was during this time Nolan caught the Science Fiction fandom bug.
Talented at drawing, Nolan spent many hours working as an artist (including a stint at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City), still enthralled with pulps such as Black Mask, Weird Tales, and comics, especially Jack Kirby’s output. Movies eventually became his greatest enthusiasm, and for years he attended several a week. Being in L.A. only added to his interest in all forms of genre, from Noir to horror to Science Fiction.
Once established in L.A., he stumbled across a fresh new writer named Ray Bradbury, becoming an instant convert. Seeking Bradbury out, by 1952 he had learned enough about him to compile his first serious book, Ray Bradbury Review.
It contained a mix of art, stories, and nonfiction, including pieces by writer Chad Oliver and Bradbury. After a few years of doing art, active semi-pro fanzine work, and other fan-related organizing, Nolan made his first big professional sale, “The Darendinger Build-Up” to Playboy, and decided he wanted to be a writer full-time. Around this time, Bradbury introduced Nolan to the man who would become his best friend for ten years, until his untimely death, Mr. Charles Beaumont. Beaumont, Nolan, Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, Chad Oliver, Charles E. Fritch, Kris Neville, John Tomerlin, Mari Wolf, and several others eventually comprised “The Group”, meeting to discuss stories and hang out together.
Nolan’s career flourished as a writer and later a screenwriter, primarily for Dan Curtis. Logan’s Run, which he co-wrote with the late George Clayton Johnson, propelled both men into the public consciousness in a major way, especially after the release of the classic MGM film adaptation in 1976. Although Nolan has written roughly 2000 pieces, to include biographies, short stories, poetry, and novels, Logan’s Run retains its hold on the public consciousness as a political fable and dystopian warning. As Nolan has stated: “That I am known at all is still astonishing to me, as I can so vividly recall the boy flying down the road on his bike in Kansas City all those years ago. My later years have brought me much happiness, I will note, especially my current family, Jason and Sunni Brock. We’ve been a unit for nearly 15 years, and it has been one of the best times of my life.”
—Jason V Brock, Vancouver, WA
Prolific sci-fi author, Logan’s Run co-writer William F. Nolan dies at 93
19 July 2021 | Matthew Jackson | ScyFi Wire |
William F. Nolan, the prolific and acclaimed sci-fi author best known as the co-writer of the dystopian classic Logan’s Run, died last week due to complications from an infection at the age of 93. Nolan’s representative Jason V. Brock told The Hollywood Reporter Monday that the author died July 15 after a brief hospital stay.
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Nolan was born in 1928 and filled his childhood with stories, particularly the genre tales that packed pulp magazines of the period. His voracious appetite for pulps, comic books, and movies meant that, by the time his family relocated to California in the wake of the second World War, Nolan was eager to become more actively involved in the world of fandom.
He went in search of Ray Bradbury, a favorite author of his, and eventually made contact. His first book, 1952’s Ray Bradbury Review, was essentially an expanded version of a fandom ‘zine, a blend of nonfiction essays, stories, and art, some of which Nolan did himself.
Through Bradbury, Nolan became more and more deeply immersed in the genre writing community of the 1950s, eventually joining the collective of writers known as “The Group,” which also included eventual Logan’s Run co-writer George Clayton Johnson (who died in 2015), Nolan’s dear friend Charles Beaumont, and genre luminaries like Richard Matheson.
After his first major fiction sale, “The Darendinger Build-Up,” Nolan became a full-time writer, and eventually produced hundreds of short stories, dozens of novels, and more nonfiction pieces on everyone from Bradbury to legendary Western author Max Brand.
The story that immortalized him, though, was Logan’s Run. A dystopian story about a society in which humans are killed at age 21 (changed to 30 in the film adaptation) to prevent scarcity, it follows the title character, Logan, as he went from a hunter of the people who tried to escape the system to the hunted, as he fought to escape it himself.
First published in 1967, Logan’s Run fit right in with the often dark sci-fi of the pre-Star Wars 1970s, and was adapted into a featured film in 1976, starring Michael York as Logan and Jenny Agutter as Jessica. Nolan was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation for the film, though he had little to do with the finished product.
“At first, George suggested we do it as a script, but I said we should do a novel and also do it as a script so we could get double money — as a book and as a screenplay,” Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year in celebration of the film’s 45th anniversary. “He agreed. We managed to finish the book, after it sold, completed two different adaptations in screenplay format, both of which were purchased for the film but unused.
Around that time, George and I decided to part ways regarding Logan. He could do his take and I would do mine. We stayed friends, of course. George did do a thing called Jessica’s Run, but it was never printed, and I did several pieces: Logan’s Search, Logan’s World, Logan’s Return, and a few short stories as well as some nonfiction.”
In addition to his Logan‘s sequels, Nolan’s fiction output included hundreds of short stories and several more novels, including his Sam Space series. He also worked steadily as a screenwriter in the 1970s and 1980s, producing works like the legendary TV movie nightmare fuel Trilogy of Terror, the horror film Burnt Offerings, and the Jack the Ripper time travel mystery Terror at London Bridge. He was honored with a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association in 2010.
Though he had no living relatives, he considered Jason and Sunni Brock to be his family. Our thoughts are with them, as well as his fans.
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