Welcome to the
Frederick Nolan website
(a sort of autobiography in the making)
And neither am I, Doc!
In fact I’m happy to report that I'm continuing to enjoy a small renaissance,
with nearly all of my earlier books reprinted in new or large print editions,
plus two completely new ones (not to mention an estimated 16,262 loans through UK public libraries)
which, even if I say so myself, is not bad for someone who's been in the writing game for five decades.
A while back I signed a contract with Piccadilly Publishing
(there's a back story involved that I'll tell some other time)
for the publication of digital versions of all my early Westerns --
five of the "Sudden" series, wearing the mantle of Oliver Strange
but writing as Frederick H. Christian --
and the somewhat tougher nine-title series featuring
Frank Angel, special investigator of the Department of Justice
(a little inside joke, if you've read any of my books on Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County Follies).
First, here are four of the "Sudden" stories --
the first of which, mirabile dictu (it means 'wonderful to relate'),
went straight to Number One on publication
in Amazon's 'Top 100 Westerns' Bestseller List!!!
... and here are some of the 'Angel' series, ready when you are:
just go to www.amazon.com and type in 'Frederick H. Christian'
There are more ...
and you can see them all online
at Piccadilly Publishing
In the rather more upmarket field of Western non-fiction,
I edited and annotated Deep Trails in the Old West.
the memoirs of “Frank Clifford,”
who rode alongside Clay Allison in the Colfax County War,
and in 1880 was also involved in
Pat Garrett's hunt for and capture of Billy the Kid.
Written in 1940 but never published,
it's a fascinating eyewitness account of
those final years of the western frontier,
and (not just in my opinion)
is as good, in its own free-and-easy way,
as anything Charlie Siringo ever wrote.
Here are a few reviews:
"First written in 1940,
Deep Trails in the Old West is
the recollections of Frank Clifford,
an adventurous man in frontier America.
He roamed America's most lawless lands
in the 1870s and 1880s especially,
often changing his name
(perhaps to keep one step ahead of the law)
and even encountering
such dangerous figures as
Clay Allison and Billy the Kid.
Clifford's story also vividly illustrates
the day-to-day demands on
the lives of ranchers and ordinary people
in America's wilder days.
Frederick Nolan has provided
a wealth of helpful annotations to Clifford's own worlds,
enhancing Deep Trails in the Old West as
an invaluable primary testimony of
what everyday frontier life was like
over a hundred years ago.
~ James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review.
"Fresh eyewitness accounts
from Billy the Kid's day are hard to come by,
but Deep Trails in the Old West is one of them.
[Frank] Clifford's transcribed memoirs,
edited and scrupulously annotated by Frederick Nolan,
are the most entertaining Western yarns I've read
since Mark Twain's Roughing It.
I highly recommend Deep Trails in the Old West
to any reader who enjoys stories well told
and wants to learn what the Wild West was really like
from someone who lived there."
~ Jo Ann Butler, Historical Novels Review.
"Clifford’s life story, written in 1940 and not published until now,
is a genuine eyewitness account of a romanticized era.
Born John Menham Wightman in Wales,
Clifford immigrated to New Mexico
and re-invented himself as a cowboy.
He rode with outlaw Clay Allison, c
rossed paths with Billy the Kid,
and survived encounters with Apaches.
The manuscript, edited by
Old West authority Frederick Nolan,
would have already been optioned by Hollywood
in a more western-friendly time."
~ David Hofstede, Cowboys & Indians.
With reviews like those,
it's hardly surprising that
Deep Trails in the Old West
won First Prize ~ Biographies
2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards!
I'll bet you can't wait
to get back
to the autobiography ...
( or did I just hear someone groan?)
Tiptoeing warily around the old saying
"If you want to give the Gods a laugh,
I had to decide whether my next project
would be something I'd sworn I'd never do --
And sure enough, the Gods laughed.
Not at first, of course --
the Gods are much craftier than that.
They smile as you make your decision,
they smile even more when
it begins to look like a pretty good one,
but they really, really smile
as you knuckle down to
the nitty-gritty of collaboration...
So here is the sad, sad story of
why I moved away from fiction ...
and how the gods punished me.
It began, as it always did back then,
with a phone call from Artie Pine,
who had taken on a new client.
Her name was Christine McGuire,
a Californian assistant district attorney
who had co-written Perfect Victim,
a bestselling book
involving the 1977 kidnap,
sexual abuse and eventual escape
from her astonishing ordeal
of a young woman named Colleen Stan,
who became known as
"The Girl in the Box."
The book had been a bestseller, but
McGuire had fallen out with her co-author
and was having difficulty finding another.
Not a good sign, but -- to my eyes --
she had a sure-fire follow-up thriller.
What especially intrigued me
was the fact that the criminal was known as
"the Pleasant Point rapist."
So via Artie Pine, McGuire and I agreed to meet.
The proposition was that
McGuire would provide all the legal know-how
and I'd write the book.
Don't believe it for a second.
Although when we met
it was a long way from love at first sight,
we agreed to work together,
that the book would be published in her name,
(so she could publicize it in person),
with me settling for a fulsome
(but in fact invisible)
"acknowledgment" in the prelims.
Smart move on my part, huh?
From its inception (in December '89) the project--
which began as non-fiction but became fiction --
did not become a finished novel until September, 1991.
In the process, real-life McGuire became
her alter ego, Kathryn Mackay.
As in real life, our "fictional" ADA had
a school-age daughter,
to which I added a sometimes-good,
with her investigator, Dave Granz,
as she pursues a serial rapist
not much different from the real life one.
I have to tell you, I was not at all sad
to go with the fictional rather than the factual plot
and within a week we were off to the races.
All this was BEM, remember
and so with McGuire in California
and me in England,
a lot of Fed-Exing, faxing
and phoning was involved.
First, I would write, fax, wait.
She would cross out, add, elide, emend, and fax back.
We would argue.
I would rewrite.
She would cross out, add, elide, emend.
We would argue.
And that is why, children,
Until Proven Guilty
took almost two years to write.
But when it finally appeared,
it got pretty good reviews,
selling to the UK, Holland,
Germany, Poland and Japan,
with a book club sale
on both sides of the Atlantic.
It was even optioned by CBS
for what they call a limited series
(i.e., a succession of two-hour movies).
"This unrelenting third-person account
of a vicious serial killer
all but commands readers
to burn the midnight oil."
-- Publishers Weekly
So we all agreed to do another.
The follow-up had an even longer gestation.
According to my worksheets, in 1992,
I did four completely different outlines
before Pocket Books even liked the storyline
and work could commence.
the long-distance collaboration was difficult,
and as a result,
it was another two years until
Until Justice is Done
To give you some idea of
how frustrating the process became
while the ball was in McGuire's court (as it were)
I happily turned to other projects, first completing
The Life and Times
of the Horrell Brothers
and then -- thanks to the stupidity of an old woman --
(a sad tale told elsewhere in this website) --
Lorenz Hart, A Poet on Broadway
Finally, the finished manuscript was delivered,
and when Pocket Books gave it the nod,
I again flew out to California
--by now it was March, '95--
to work on a third thriller to be called
Until Death Do Us Part.
this one only took until
the end of January (1996) to finish.
And despite all the sturm und drang,
the series did pretty well--
each selling upwards of 250,000 copies.
Not too shabby, I'd say!
Then it was here-we-go-again time
and I flew back to California
to hack out an outline for "Until #4."
I wanted to call it Until The Fat Lady Sings,
which horrified editor Julie Rubenstein.
(I never learned why!)
We settled for Until the Bough Breaks
and the outline was done before the end of May.
While Pocket were meditating,
I buried myself in writing
The West of Billy the Kid
(which, truly, was
a distinct pleasure by comparison!).
By mid-October I'd completed about a third of
Until the Bough Breaks
-- and I thought it was pretty good.
But McGuire didn't like it at all
(I found out later it was actually
her husband who didn't like it).
So we started over.
By then, of course, we were
way off on our delivery date,
and nothing bugged my collaborator more
—after all, she was a lawyer—
than failing to fulfil the terms of a contract.
No matter how often I told her we were OK
she got more and unhappy, then angry
I had dared to work on anything other than 'her'
On top of which, she said, her husband
( an accountant with lots of opinions
and a secret yen to be a writer)--
still didn't like anything I'd done.
At this point I sensed they felt
they could do a whole lot better
without a bloody-minded Englishman.
Which didn't leave us with anyplace to go.
So in true Christmas spirit,
I bit the bullet, and told her
I was terminating our collaboration.
You CAN'T!!! she said (screamed, actually)
I told her I just had.
(to quote John Milton again)
all hell broke loose.
It took some time for us to unhitch—
try to imagine how many agreements I had to sign
relinquishing all rights
(there'd been a trickle of TV-movie interest)
and anything else a hostile lawyer
and a money-greedy accountant could think up.
But finally it got done --
and I was glad to be off the hook.
In retrospect, however, I'm grateful for
one particularly interesting experience:
early on in the collaboration,
one midnight in the Santa Cruz County Morgue,
I actually participated in an autopsy
with the real-life medical examiner
who "became" the one in the books,
and to whom I gave the name
of my dear friend Morgan Nelson.
(McGuire never realized that
as a form of insurance,
I'd given many of the characters
the names of personal friends).
Every now and then
I remind myself that
not only defines a collaborator
as a co-worker,
but also as a traitor...
Ah, the joys of the literary life!
in spite of all the booby traps,
high spots, pratfalls
and downright betrayals,
don't ever let anyone tell you
the writing game is full of grief--
... because it just plain ain't!
Even if you fail, you're still unique.
And if, like me, you get lucky,
wonderful things happen --
you meet people you've admired all your life,
you talk to world-famous movie and
stage superstars about their dazzling careers,
you go to places and see things
you'd otherwise never have seen.
Which is why I never stop
thanking my lucky stars
I got to do all of them.
And it's still happening!
In 2015, for instance,
THE WILD WEST
(a modest history I'm rather fond of)
was converted from
a one-volume popular history
four picture-packed books ...
and here they are:
Go litel book(s)!
So ... what's next?
Well ... for 2016
I've finally got up enough nerve
to return to fiction
(as Frederick H. Christian)
with something decidedly different,
a story of love, death, hope
... and hatred.
It's about James Ironheel,
a Chiricahua Apache Indian
accused of a double murder, and
David Easton, a New Mexico small-town lawman,
thrown together and hunted like animals,
at the same time trying to come to terms with
their own racial differences.
There’s a helluva back story to all this –
the sad death of David Easton’s wife,
the treachery of his mentor Sheriff Joe Apodaca,
the burning hatred of Apache renegade Mose Kuruk,
the steely courage of the murder victim's widow Ellen,
the drunken vengefulness of the Sheriff’s wife Alice Apodaca,
and the murderous part played in it all by
the man behind the perverted racket that spawned all this,
Along the way, you'll also encounter
friendship and loathing, hope and disappointment,
loyalty and betrayal, good luck and bad, even tragedy –
all of it coming to a murderous climax
on the burning slopes of Mescalero Sands.
Now on Sale from
Piccadilly Publishing ...
Just to whet your appetite,
here's an advance report
on APACHE COUNTRY
from Lee Child,
one of the most brilliantly successful
thriller writers in the world:
"Apache Country gives Elmore Leonard a run for his money
as the modern-day master
of the Western."
Wow! Go litel bok!
For more news, keep an eye on this site.
Thank you for visiting,
and never, ever forget ...
"We are such stuff
as dreams are made on."