Welcome to the
Frederick Nolan website
(a sort of autobiography in the making)
Sort of famous
"In the future, everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes."
~ Andy Warhol, 1968.
"True enough forty-odd years ago, Andy,
but today, demand is so high
they've had to reduce it to fifteen seconds."
~ Frederick Nolan, 2011.
Hemingway lived here: 74, rue du Cardinale Lemoine, Paris
(a photograph I took in 1964).
“For sale, baby shoes, never worn.”
Mine, in the context of what followed, would have to be "Wrote books. Did well. Had fun."
Because 1978 was a big, bi9 year for us.
We moved into the lovely old house we'd always wished we could afford
(and in which we're still living nearly forty years later), we travelled all over the world,
and it seemed like I couldn't write fast enough.
In May 0f the same month we moved into our new home,
The Sound of Their Music was published, and The Oshawa Project came out in paperback.
Five months later, my 'Gilded Age' novel Carver's Kingdom was published by Macmillan.
The following month, The Ritter Doublecross and two (retitled) 'Angel' westerns appeared in paperback.
As if all that were not enough,
we had the excitement of the advance publicity for the movie Brass Target,
scheduled to open simultaneously in 450 theatres at Christmastime.
And then the really big surprise:
MGM -- the same studio that made all those marvellous musicals I watched in my salad days --
invited me to fly to Hollywood to help promote the movie.
He tough-talked to someone and they agreed (surrendered?)
about forty eight hours before the deadline and I jumped on a jumbo and headed for
I’ll say this for MGM, they did it first class all the way,
with a limo waiting to whisk me to my suite at the Beverly-Shmeverly,
where I found a fruit bowl (the size of a Carmen Miranda headpiece)
and a bottle of vintage champagne chilling on the table.
Beside them I found a card inviting me to call an internal number on arrival,
which I dutifully did. Because I was with “the studio” it seemed I was Special.
“So, if there’s anything you want, and I do mean anything,” the silky voice on the other end whispered,
“just call this number.”
I’ve wondered ever since what that “anything” might have been.
Next day they sent a driver to bring me out to
And there, right on top of the studio building (albeit almost lost in the Los Angeles smog)
was a huge sign advertising my movie.
So here's a photo of me --me!!!! -- in Hollywood!!!
standing in front of the famous Irving Thalberg Building
with a big fat grin on my face.
I'd just had a private screening of the movie
(just me, no one else!!!)
in the Cecil B. deMille-like splendour of a huge, leather-lined screening room.
I have to confess I didn't think Brass Target was particularly good,
(it wasn't anything like the book, see?)
but reflecting upon the odds against any book ever being made into a movie,
I kept my mouth shut.
Good, bad, or indifferent, it was still my movie!
That Saturday evening in Tinseltown
I swapped Polish jokes on the phone to Peggy Lee
(as you do)
nothing to do with the movie, the PR man just knew her.
MGM publicity supremo Jack Berwick laid it all out for me.
In a few days I was going to be meeting the media in
San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, New York and Boston
with Horace “Woody” Woodring, the (then) nineteen year old soldier
who was driving the car when General George Patton
had his fatal accident that long-ago day in 1945.
Here are Woody and his wife, Jerri; the story of how they located him
(in 1978 he was a 52 year old car dealer in
would make a movie of its own …
And then it was back to London
for the British “premiere” of Brass Target on March 22, 1979
(nothing to do with MGM, who I suspect had also smelled turkey
and decided to just let it open without fanfare)
at the Plaza, Haymarket. You think I gave a damn?
My premiere was a block of seats in the balcony
and a family-and-friends champagne party at the Café Royal.
My mother just ate it all up with a spoon,
but I suspect maybe even my pals smelled turkey, too.
Turkey or not, the show went on, and they flew Woody over and
we did another hectic seven-day round
of our "yes it was/no it wasn't" act in another fury of press, radio and TV interviews.
But even with competition as poor as the movies in the picture above,
Brass Target quietly curled up and died.
Well, not quite.
In fact, the Warner Archive
has reissued Brass Target
for download to DVD.
You'll find all the details (including a not-too-friendly review)
It was all hugely disappointing, but I understood now
why Artie Pine had told me to take the money and run.
So we did what we always do, and got on with life.
By mid-April I was 140,000 words into a vast, complex novel
—my Gone with the Wind—
contracted for by Macmillan in New York and Hutchinson/Arrow in the UK .
Set in the years leading up to and during the Russian revolution,
and at first tentatively titled Like Water, Like Fire
(one of the main characters was Vladimir,
heir-to-be of the fantastically wealthy Smirnoff family,
vodka-makers to the Tsar of all the Russias,
who ended his life driving a taxi in Cannes, France.
To which place Smirnoff flew me there to meet his widow, Tatiana;
after meeting her and hearing her story, I changed the title to
White Nights, Red Dawn.
Among the many other things going on
alongside all this that summer were ....
a talk at the Writers’ Summer School
(one of my favourite "secret places"),
I wrote the scripts for, and appeared in
the first two of a series of Tyne-TV programs
called “A Better Read”
on “Westerns” with J. T. Edson and John Harvey
(yes, the [later] fine crime writer),
and “Spies” with Brian Freemantle and Ted Allbeury.
Then at the end of 1980, I hit the jackpot
with a contract from Bantam Books in New York
and Arrow Books in London,
for a five-book series entitled A Call to Arms.
It was to be the story of an American family
living through the War of Independence, the Civil War,
the Spanish-American War and World Wars One and Two.
As things turned out, Bantam reneged on their contract
and I never got to do the two world wars.
I've always regretted it
Even so, as you can see, I was having a marvellous time —
plenty of work, plenty of fun, plenty of life's ambition boxes ticked.
But it’s in the nature of the writing business
that there will be some disappointments,
and sure enough there were, one of the biggest of which was
a project that came my way in February, ’84
when I was picked to ghost-write a book
"by" Elvis Presley’s stepbrothers, Rick and Dave Stanley.
I came up with the title How Fast Does This Thing Go?
(one of the stories the boys told me was that
every time Elvis bought a car--
and he did that pretty often, sometimes for complete strangers--
that would be his first question
(his second was "Show me.").
I spent a week interviewing Rick and Dave in a motel in
and when we were done I went back to New York
and put together a dynamite proposal
for what Artie Pine and I were confident was going to be
a sure-fire, big-time bestseller.
Then, the bombshell: just as Artie began showing it to publishers,
the brothers confessed they'd previously
signed a contract with another agent.
We had no option but to watch helplessly
as that bottom-feeder took over the property
and put a "no-less-than-$2 million" price on it.
This madness ran straight into a reaction
every agent in the business trying to sell high-advance projects
was running into following what was considered (then)
to be the “insane” multi-million dollar advance
Bantam Books had paid upfront
for Judith Krantz’s novel Princess Daisy ---
and the whole thing dropped dead.
Rick and Dave went back to
I never heard from them again.
Richard "Rick" and Dave Stanley, at Waco, TX. February, 1984
And then there was Nazi Gold.
I was contacted by a young fellow named Ian Sayer, who owned a trucking company
and seemed to be very wealthy (he had a Ferrari, I recall).
With a friend, Harry Seaman, Ian had been industriously (and with some success)
investigating the Reichsbank robbery
(in the course of which he amassed a Transatlantic phone bill
the size of the national debt).
I was impressed by what he'd had found out --
he had documents, photographs, names and numbers --
and we all concurred there was a marvelous book in there,
and that although all our names would be on the cover,
I would be the one who actually wrote it.
On the heels of our success with The Mittenwald Syndicate,
Nazi Gold was a natural,
and Sphere signed for a substantial advance.
It was an enormously complex story and I did what I thought was
a pretty good job of making it comprehensive and yet pacy.
Rearin' to go, Sphere announced the book for November, 1980 publication.
Above you see the striking cover they were going to use:
everyone felt it had to be a winner!
But then, unaccountably (to me, anyway), everything went pear-shaped.
Phone calls were not returned, people could not be reached,
there was talk of lawyers and libel;
publication was postponed and then postponed again,
and I couldn’t find out what the hell was going on.
I n ever really did get the full truth,
but to cut a very long, sad story short,
Sphere bit the bullet and paid me off,
Ian Sayer bought back the rights, and the book was cancelled.
Later, having also cut Seaman adrift,
Sayer signed up with the London Sunday Times "Insight" team
and another writer, Douglas Botting, and a book of the same title (my great title)
was handsomely published in 1984 by Granada, but made hardly any noise at all.
Ah, well, at least I got a mention in the acknowledgements.
Frankly, Scarlett, I didn't give much of a damn --
I was writing what I wanted to write, travelling wherever I wanted to go,
and realising ambitions (some of them quite mad) that I'd waited all my life to fulfil.
And I made a few bad moves, too. For instance ...
In a landmark article ("The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly")
backed by the Society of Authors in The Author,
then reprinted in The Bookseller and Publishing News,
I (madly) masterminded the first-ever survey of
the promptitude (or otherwise) of publishers’ royalty payments.
I remember my late and sadly missed good friend, literary agent Abner Stein,
shaking his head and telling me what a schmuck I was for doing it --
and he was right!
So I tried something new, and with my friends Bill Barrow and Dennis Moore
I co-produced LPs of Rodgers & Hart's first musical Dearest Enemy,
and their "lost" score from a 30's movie Hollywood Party.
We also teetered on the edge of doing (but never actually did) a third album
of "unsung" R&H to be performed by Denis Lawson and Sian Phillips,
then starring in a London revival of Pal Joey.
On a somewhat more enchanted evening, we also enjoyed
a fabulous launch party for White Nights, Red Dawn thrown by Hutchinson
(well, the Smirnoff vodka people, actually)
at the Travellers’ Club in Pall Mall (with lots of champagne and real caviar
and several genuine Russian princesses in attendance).
And just to keep busy, as it were, I also
(and fronted) three more Tyne-Tees "Better Read" scripts;
a dozen or so of the French-language Goscinny-Morris
“Lucky Luke” books for Hodder-Brockhampton Press;
a dire German TV hospital soap for Sphere called The Black Forest Clinic;
six or eight short books for children;
four years on the Society of Authors’ Management Committee;
the first-ever “Crime Writers Road Show”
featuring Harry Keating, Anthony Price, Simon Brett,
Anne Morice and Lady Antonia Fraser, which toured all over Buckinghamshire;
was writer in residence
at the Wooburn Festival;
helped set up
the All-Bucks Literary Festival;
held a weekend seminar
“So You Want To Be A Writer?” at my home;
wrote a weekly column
in The Bookseller that ran for almost three years ...
... and, oh, yes, and I wrote another dozen books.
And here they are …
"It is a lusty, colorful yarn
about the first American railroads in the middle of the 19th century,
the carving of a fortune by a man made to succeed despite all opposition,
and a woman destined to become a great actress.
I think it will be bought by thousands."
- Eric Hiscock, The Bookseller.
"Fortunes are seldom made by men who care overmuch about keeping both hands and consciences spotless,
and the go-getting Carver brothers, Theo and Ezra, encountered plenty of skulduggery when they joined the gold rush of ’49.
Love was regarded as a weakness by such men, and one which could lay them open to blackmail,
but the lonely woman whose fate crossed theirs was by nature more of a victim than an executioner.
Wild adventures befall the Carvers, but in spite of murder, rape and lynching
the tone of this novel remains immensely respectable – a meaty read."
“A rich, sprawling story of an America going places during the middle of the last century,
it proves Frederick Nolan has lost none of the literary skill which served him so well in novels like The Mittenwald Syndicate.
The book takes in most of the memorable features of life in the States during that period and represents excellent value.”
and Frederick Nolan paints a pretty grim picture of the methods employed then to secure personal advancement.
In his story no holds are barred and little mercy is shown for those who stand in the way.
It is a gripping story and deserves the sequel now in preparation.” -
The action ranges from Wall Street to the splendour of Southern plantations,
but the author excels in his descriptions of the West:
the goldfields where men died in the mud,
and Dodge City, a cluster of tents and crumbling adobe shacks with a ‘smell of no sanitation, of rotting meat, of filth.’”
It is the story of one woman, Sarah Hutchinson, who became one of the greatest actresses of her day,
and of the men whose lives were changed by knowing her.
The settings of this long and powerful novel range from the
from the glittering Broadway stage to the
a time when fortunes were made and lost overnight.
Money, power, love – all the makings of a best seller are here.”
this time in America a century ago with the principals being two brothers with quite different characters
but with one beautiful actress able to hold both their reins.”
- Geoffrey Sadler, 20th Century Romance & Historical Writers.
Also published in Dutch, and in British and American paperback editions.
WHITE NIGHTS, RED DAWN
(New York: Macmillan, 1980; London: Hutchinson, 1981)
who shared this tragic era."
- Kansas City Star
- Irish Times.
"Perhaps the most unusual of Nolan's creations; it is also one of the most satisfying."
- Geoffrey Sadler.
A PROMISE OF GLORY
(London: Arrow,1983- New York: Bantam, 1984)
(London: Arrow, 1983- New York: Bantam, 1985)
(London: Piatkus, 1983; New York: St Martins Press, 1984)
a genuine spellbinder by a wonderful writer."
- Robert B. Parker.
A really splendid read."
- John Gardner.
is the genuine research that infuses its every twist and turn."
- Publishers Weekly.
Also published in Dutch, and in British and American paperback editions.
as fine a storyteller as anyone writing espionage fiction today."
- Nelson de Mille.
and it's done with authenticity."
the international deviltry of a Len Deighton spy novel
with the white-hot action and drug culture savagery of a "Miami Vice" TV episode ...
an exciting and stylish slam-bang tale, teeming with triple crosses."
- Publishers Weekly.
Also published in Japanese, and in British and American paperback editions.
SWEET SISTER DEATH
(London: Century, 1989
[as Donald Severn]
that is clearly not going to suffer from lack of global ambition or research,
featuring the commander of PACT (Punitive Action Counter Terrorism)
and his cosmic convergence with beautiful, mad terrorist Leila." -
Christopher Wordsworth, The
Also published in a British paperback edition.
(London: Century, 1990)
intelligence agent Charles Garrett and IRA hit-man Sean Hennessy,
this completes the duel ... A ruthless, breath-taking thriller."
(London: Century, 1991)
who bribed and killed to gain possession of a new British anti-submarine mine ...
Especially good dialogue."
- Martha Gellhorn,
(Note that praise - from the former Mrs Hemingway !!)
(and it only took sixteen months) …
REMEMBER THIS DREAM
(but by no means all)
of a series of childrens’ books
about the American West~