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