Davis, Nolan 1942–
Nolan Davis 1942–
Journalist, author, screenwriter
Nolan Davis is a storyteller, primarily through the written word and through film. He is noted primarily for his first novel, Six Black Horses (1971), which tells the story of how a community and its citizens deal with death. In his own words, quoted by Black American Writers Past and Present in 1975, Davis said “My work seeks to convey an understanding of the effects of men’s personal myths upon their societies and the effects of those societies’ myths upon selected individuals.”
Nolan Davis was born on July 23, 1942, in Kansas City, Missouri, to William L. and Frances Ann Davis. As a youth, he had himself committed to a reform school called Ozanam Boys Home of Kansas City in order to escape family pressures; it was at Ozanam that he began writing his first stories at fifteen years old. Davis worked as an undertaker’s apprentice as a teenager, and this work provided the subject matter for his novel Six Black Horses. When he was eighteen years old, Davis joined the U.S. Navy and went through its journalism school, working as director of media research and editor of the Navy newspaper, the Amphibian. After his tour of duty was over, he married artist Carol Lorraine Christian on July 27, 1963; the couple had a son and a daughter, Arian Valentinian and Pelia de Valoria Davis.
Davis has spent most of his career in California as a journalist, screenwriter, and producer. He worked in San Diego, California, as staff writer and assistant editor of the Evening Tribune from 1963 to 1966, and attended San Diego Evening College after work. He had a brief stint as director of public relations for the Economic Opportunities Commission of San Diego County from 1966 to 1967, and won a Stanford University Communications Fellowship that allowed him to receive his master’s degree in 1968. During these years he also wrote as staff correspondent for Newsweek.
Davis traveled widely in the United States and Mexico for Newsweek, and in 1971 he published the novel Six Black Horses. A review of Six Black Horses in the Saturday Review relates, “Not since The Loved One has there been such a funny, funny book about the business of death.” According to Davis, writing in Library Journal in 1971, “The idea for Six Black Horses, my novel about a young man’s struggle to conquer the fear of death, came to me instantly. But it has taken me four years to complete the book… [It] is the first salvo in what I foresee as a barrage of Nolan Davis novels unified around speculative explorations of the myths of modern man.” However, he only published one other book, a biography called O’Grady: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s No. 1 Private Eye (1974), with John O’Grady, which received much less fanfare than did Six Black Horses.
Six Black Horses tells the story of Lawrence Xavier Jordan, the young apprentice of mortician Southwall Lovingood in Kansas City, Missouri. Jordan learns the mortuary business from Lovingood and builds his own very successful practice, the House of Jordan, only to burn it all to ashes at the end of the book. His ambitions end up taking over his life, and he realizes at the end that death has infiltrated every part of his success. The
Born Nolan Davis on July 23, 1942, in Kansas City, MO; married Carol Lorraine Christian, July 27, 1963, children: Arian Valentinian, Pelia de Valora. Education: U.S. Navy Journalist School, AB, journalism, 1960; attended San Diego Evening College, 1964-65; Stanford University, MA, 1968. Politics: Democrat. Military Service: U.S. Navy, journalist, 1960-63.
Career: U.S. Navy, director of media research for Fleet Home Town News Center, 1961-62, editor of the Amphibian, 1962-63; Evening Tribune, San Diego, CA, staff writer and assistant editor, 1963-66; Economic Opportunities Commission of San Diego County, San Diego, CA, director of public relations, 1966-67; Newsweek, New York, NY, staff correspondent, 1967-70; KNXT-TV, Hollywood, CA, producer and senior writer, 1970-71; KABC-TV, Hollywood, CA, chief news writer, 1971; SHARC Productions, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, partner and vice-president, 1971-76; writer and producer 1971.
Memberships: Authors League of America; Writers Guild of America; Sigma Delta Chi.
Awards: Stanford University Communications Fellowship, 1967-68.
Addresses: Home — 3532 Sixth Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90018
book’s morbidity is replaced with an absurd quality as the hero struggles to gain fame and fortune from death. He is surrounded by necrophiles and those who are seemingly immune to the psychological impact of the dead. According to Arthur Cooper in Newsweek, “If Evelyn Waugh and Ralph Ellison had collaborated on a novel, the result might well have been something like Six Black Horses”
Davis began screenwriting and producing television shows in 1970, first for KNXT-TV, Hollywood, and then for KABC-TV, Hollywood. He then co-founded production company SHARC International, in Los Angeles, where he acted as vice-president from 1971 to 1976. Davis also wrote television scripts, including two episodes of Sanford and Son, Storyline, The Jazz Show with Billy Eckstein, the documentary Further than the Pulpit, and an episode of Ironside. He was writer and producer of The Stellar Story and Men (and Women) Managing Money, and author of the screenplays Six Black Horses and The Fighting 99th.
Six Black Horses, Putnam, 1971.
(With John O’Grady) O’Grady: The Life and Times of Hollywood’s No. 1 Private Eye, Tarcher/Hawthorne, 1974.
Sanford and Son, NBC, 1970, 1975.
The Stellar Story, Stellar Industries Corp., 1970.
Storyline, ABC, 1971.
Men (and Women) Managing Money, Shareholders Management Co., 1971.
The Jazz Show with Billy Eckstein, NBC, 1972.
Further Than the Pulpit, NBC, 1972.
Ironside, Universal, 1974.
Six Black Horses, 1975.
The Fighting 99th, 1975.
Davis was a frequent contributor to periodicals in the early 1970s, including the National Catholic Reporter, Oui, Race Relations Report, TV Radio Mirror, and West.
Metzger, Linda, ed., Black Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors, Gale Research Inc., 1989, pp. 142-143.
Page, James A., Selected Black American Authors: An Illustrated Bio-Bibliography, G.K. Hall & Co., 1977, p. 62.
Page, James A., and Jae Min Roh, Selected Black American, African, and Caribbean Authors, Libraries Unlimited, 1985, pp. 70-71.
Rush, Theressa Gunnels, Carol Fairbanks Myers, and Esther Spring Arata, Black American Writers Past and Present, Scarecrow Press, 1975, pp. 205-206.
Booklist, December 15, 1971, p. 352.
Kirkus, August 15, 1971, p. 890.
Library Journal, October 1, 1971, pp. 3164-3165; May 15, 1972, p. 1933; January 1, 1975, p. 59.
Newsweek, December 6, 1971, p. 114B.
New York Times, November 27, 1971, p. 29.
Publisher’s Weekly, August 16, 1971, p. 55.
Saturday Review, January 15, 1972, p. 47.
“Nolan Davis,” Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (April 12, 2004).
—Mary Le Rouge
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