William F. Nolan (1928-2021)

William F. Nolan at Multnomah Falls.

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, andcomics, 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.

William F. Nolan and Ray Bradbury

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.

William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson

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

William F. Nolan and Jason V. Brock

33 thoughts on “William F. Nolan (1928-2021)

  1. I was lucky enough to have spent time with Bill over the years. My favorite story was fifteen or twenty years ago the Egyptian Theater was doing a screening of Logan’s Run, Bill was there with George. Bill had a booming voice; he and George were having a conversation during the screen. A man seated in front of them turned around and “shushed” Bill. When Bill was introduced, he stood up. The poor guy who shushed Bill shrunk down in his seat to where you could barely see him.

  2. Mr. Nolan was a dear friend, kind and talented man. I have many happy memories of our times, visits and letters together. I love you, Brother. God’s Speed. Garyn (Garyn G. Roberts)

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  4. An excellent appreciation, more so because it so clearly came from the heart.

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  8. I only knew Mr Nolan by his stories and the Logan’s Run novels and movies. He created a future Mythos that scared the bejesus out of me when I imagined it might come true. He will be missed. Thanks Jason.

  9. The Boy Flying Down the Road on His Bike

    I’d like to use that as a title for a nostalgic urban fantasy story someday, if I could.

    That’s a wonderful writeup of Bill’s life and achievements, Jason. I’m so sorry we’ve all had to receive this news today. My condolences and heart go out to you and Sunni. I’ll cherish all the memories where I was fortunate enough to have gotten to meet Bill, party with him, have dinner, and hang out on several occasions with you all.

    He’s a towering figure on our landscape. His compassion, sharp wit and wry humor will continue to warm us with his memory for the rest of our lives. And he was a damn fine writer. I’m left with the feeling he may have been overlooked more often than not, but the testament of his body of work will remain to shed its potent illumination for many generations of readers to come.

    After listening to him read some of his stories out loud, at various conventions, and having read some in numerous anthologies myself, my appreciation for him as one of the grand masters of science fiction has only grown over the past decade.

    I’ll always think of him as The Last Man Standing.

    RIP Bill Nolan

    With love and admiration always,
    Shaun A. Lawton

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  11. I was lucky to have made contact with Bill in his later years through my academic work. He was a lovely man, funny, kind and his advice was always welcome. Rest in peace, Bill.

  12. I never got to know Bill very well, unfortunately, and I was so looking forward to seeing him again soon and getting a chance to talk with him more. :'(
    Thank you Bill for all of your work as well as the love you had for your work.
    I guess even the brightest blue crystals must fade.
    And thank you Jason and Sunni, for being there to be his family.

  13. Jason and Sunni, my deepest condolences to both of you.

    I was fortunate to have met Bill at several functions at Mystery and Imagination Bookshop. Dennis Etchison was teaching a Writing Workshop there and Bill came in several times as a guest speaker. Imagine my delight meeting an author who wrote the stories I had read years earlier!

    Thank you so much for posting this lovely tribute. I do know, because Bill said so, “Jason and Sunni are my family.” He went on to say how much he appreciated both of you, how you made his life better. RIP Bill. In my mind’s eye you, George, Dennis, Ray and many others are having a rollicking good time!

  14. A wonderful writer and fine man, he will be missed. Happy he had such a long run and lived more than a double-double lifetime. Thanks Bill.

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  17. I always enjoyed my chats with Mr. Nolan. He was kind and encouraging always. I just could never bring myself to call him Bill. One of my best moments as an author was sharing a ToC with him in an anthology called Terror Train. Rest gently, Mr. Nolan. The Group is back together now.

  18. Jason and Sunni: Bless you both for caring for him, sharing your lives with him, and providing him the familial bond that he could not secure elsewhere. Without you, I’m sure we would not have had the pleasure of his company as often at the Paperback Book Shows in Glendale and the traditional hotel room and poolside after party hubbubs or at the multiple book-signing events at Bookfellows (many a lively time we had there with Bill, George, Ray and Dennis!); Bill’s presence was always one of the great gifts of those get-togethers and listening to him and Dennis jaw away about writing and wrestling and any other subject that caught their fancy was mesmerizing. These were golden times and I’m guessing we’re all painfully aware that Mr. Bill closed the door on a magical era when he left. Love to you who anchored, supported and loved him through the last years of his life and condolences to you both as you process this sorrow…

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  20. William F. Nolan brought back the Legend of my Great Great Uncle Barney Oldfield, Master Driver of the World & America’s Legendary Speed King in the only biography Barney Oldfield, The Life and Times of America’s Legendary Speed King. Bill told me that his Father Michael Cahill Nolan had actually raced against my Great Great Uncle Barney. Thanks to William F. Nolan (Bill) for Keeping American Automotive Racing History Alive! You Will Be Greatly Missed!

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