Welcome to the
Frederick Nolan website
(a sort of autobiography in the making)
A leading authority on the outlaws and gunfighters of the Old West, he has scripted and appeared in many television programs both in England and in the United States, and authored numerous articles in historical and other academic publications. His award-winning books on Southwestern frontier history include The Life and Death of John Henry Tunstall (1965), The Lincoln County War: A Documentary History (a New York Times ‘Book of the Year’ in 1992), Bad Blood: The Life and Times of the Horrell Brothers (1994), The West of Billy the Kid (1998), an annotated edition of Pat Garrett’s Authentic Life of Billy the Kid (2000), and a popular introduction to the history of the frontier, The Wild West: History, Myth and the Making of America, published in 2003.
Two more books were published in 2007: Tascosa, Its Life and Gaudy Times, a definitive historical study of the Texas Panhandle cattle town, and The Billy the Kid Reader, a new anthology. Most recently he edited and annotated the first publication of Deep Trails in the Old West, A Frontier Memoir by Frank Clifford..
He has appeared in many TV programmes about the Old West, as well as working as a script consultant for, and appearing in a BBC/Discovery "Timewatch" examination of the life and times of Billy the Kid, a German TV production Der Tod von Billy the Kid, and more recently in a PBS/American Experience special early in 2012 and another, Birth of a Legend, for which he wrote the script, recently released on DVD (see the Mirabile Dictu page).
Frederick Nolan has received
the Border Regional Library Association of Texas’ Award for Literary Excellence,
the France V. Scholes Prize for outstanding research by the Historical Society of New Mexico and
the first J. Evetts Haley Fellowship from the Haley Memorial Library in
In addition he has been awarded the Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association's Glenn Shirley Award,
the National Outlaw-Lawman Association's William D. Reynolds Award, both in Recognition of Outstanding Research and Writing in Western History.
True West magazine has not only named him the “Best Living Non-Fiction Writer” but judged The Lincoln County War one of the fifty most important books on the American West.
As if that were not enough, The Westerners Foundation has named his The West of Billy the Kid one of the 100 most important 2oth-century historical works on the American West.
Let's start at the very beginning ..."
The first job I ever had in publishing was as a "reader for Corgi (Bantam) Books. That in turn came about because in 1954 I founded the English "Corral" of The Westerners, an American organisation interested and active in the true history of the American West.
For something like six years I edited, printed, published, and mailed out a monthly magazine called The Brand Book to, first, ten founder members, then gradually to a larger audience.
In the process of trying to attract new members I contacted Corgi's editorial director, the late and much-missed Michael Legat, who with enormous generosity donated advertising spaces for the English Westerners in the end pages of many of the western novels and non-fiction Corgi then published. That was back in the days when westerns were one of the top-selling genres of fiction, and most nights on TV there were American western series like Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, Wyatt Earp, Cheyenne and many more. The result was a massive surge in membership for (what is now) the English Westerners Society and a warm friendship that ended last year with Michael's death.
I can still recall quite clearly the day Michael contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in becoming a reader for Corgi Books. I remember particularly that Michael was apologetic that Corgi could only pay fifteen shillings (75p) per title read -- only!!! I could hardly believe my ears -- you could get paid for reading books? It was like being tapped on the shoulder by God.
At that time I was working as a salesman for Remington Rand, the typewriter manufacturers (note that even in that there was a distant 'western' connection!) and was able to read everything Corgi sent me on my daily commute from Liverpool to Manchester. I did that for several years, I think, until one day Michael contacted me and asked me whether I would be interested in a job as an assistant editor at Corgi Books. Whaaaaat? I mean, will a donkey eat strawberries?
I joined Corgi in January, 1960, and I loved it from Day One. Although my "specialty" was still westerns, I was allowed later to spread my editorial wings into all the other paperback genres then being published: crime, nurse romances, science fiction, war books and general fiction, not to mention writing all the back of the jacket "blurbs".
My big coup, in those early years, was to propose the publication in paperback of a series of westerns about a gunfighter called "Sudden" which had been written in the late 1930s and early 1940s by an Englishman named Oliver Strange.
The (re-)publication of the "Sudden" books had two remarkable effects--first, their incredible success in paperback, and second, their opening the doors for a new brand of English western writers to make a name for themselves. They would become known, not unaffectionately, as "Piccadilly cowboys" (because none of them had ever been further West than London's Piccadilly Circus). Oliver Strange was one of the first, but there would be many, many more --Terry Harknett, the creator of "Edge," Laurence James, Angus Wells, John Harvey (yes, the award-bedecked crime writer), Mike Linaker and even J. T. Edson, although he was a whole different genre all by himself.
The day inevitably came, of course, when all ten of the Oliver Strange books had been published. They had all sold so well--a quarter of a million copies each--that I proposed we ask the Strange heirs (Oliver Strange had died in 1952) to allow us to continue the series, written in the Strange style. They agreed, but finding someone to write the books was another matter--the Piccadilly cowboys hadn't saddled up yet--and as the deadline loomed, my boss (Michael Legat again) suggested that I take a shot at it. So I took a week of my annual holiday, added it to the ten-day Christmas break and hammered out an unashamed replica of an Oliver Strange western. However, to avoid accusations of nepotism, it was decided I would have to use a pseudonym. The one we came up with was "Frederick H. Christian" -- the 'H' fror Heidi, my wife, and the Christian for my three-year-old son--and in 1966 ...
with the deathless opening sentence "Back off, mister, or I'll blow you to hellangone!" Sudden rode again. And again, and again, and again...
and all of a Sudden I was a bestselling author, for these modest little three-weeks-to-write westerns went on to sell well over a million copies in paperback, remained in print for more than twenty years, and have now been reissued in digital form--in fact, when the first of them appeared it went
straight to the Number One slot
in Amazon's "100 Best Westerns" list
[see the Mirabile Dictu page].
Those were the days, my friends. But although I didn't know it then, there were even better ones to come, both for Frederick H. Christian-- and for me ...