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Nicholson, William 1948-

Nicholson, William 1948-

Personal

Born 1948, in England; married Virginia Bell (a writer); children: three. Education: Christ's College, Cambridge, B.A., 1973.

Addresses

Home—Sussex, England. Agent—Sally Wilcox/Carin Sage, Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-1825.

Career

Writer, playwright, and screenwriter. Former director and producer of documentary films for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Executive producer of Everyman, 1979-82, and Global Report, 1983-84; director, Firelight, Carnival/Wind Dancer, 1997.

Awards, Honors

Best Television Play, British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), 1985, for Shadowlands; Best Television Film designation, New York Film Festival, 1987, Best Television Drama award, BAFTA, 1987, and ACE Award for best picture, 1988, all for Life Story; Banff Festival Best Drama designation, 1988, ACE Award for Best International Drama, 1990, and Royal Television Society's Writer's Award, 1987-88, all for Sweet as You Are; Best Play of 1990, London Evening Standard, for Shadowlands; Emmy Award nomination for best screenplay, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1992, for A Private Matter; Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations for best screenplay, both 1996, both for Crime of the Century; Nestlé Smarties Prize Gold Award, 2000, and Blue Peter Book of the Year Award, 2001, both for The Wind Singer; Academy Award nomination for best screenplay, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2000, for Gladiator; Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Award nomination for best play, 2004, for The Retreat from Moscow.

Writings

"WIND ON FIRE" JUVENILE NOVEL SERIES

The Wind Singer: An Adventure, illustrations by Peter Sis, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2000.

Slaves of the Mastery, illustrations by Peter Sis, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2001.

Firesong: An Adventure, illustrations by Peter Sis, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2002.

"NOBLE WARRIORS" JUVENILE NOVEL SERIES

Seeker, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Jango, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

ADULT NOVELS

The Seventh Level: A Sexual Progress, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1979.

The Society of Others, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 2005.

The Trial of True Love, Nan A Talese (New York, NY), 2005.

TELEPLAYS

Martin Luther, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 1983.

New World BBC, 1986.

Life Story BBC, 1987.

Sweet as You Are BBC, 1988.

The Vision BBC, 1988.

The March BBC, 1990.

A Private Matter, Home Box Office (HBO), 1992.

Crime of the Century HBO, 1996.

Author's work has been translated into German.

SCREENPLAYS

Double Helix (a.k.a. Life Story), Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1987.

Sarafina, Distant Horizon/Disney, 1992.

Shadowlands (based on the author's television play), Savoy, 1993.

(With Mark Handley) Nell, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1994.

First Knight, Columbia, 1995.

(And director) Firelight, Disney, 1998.

Grey Owl, Allied Pictures, 2000.

(With David Franzoni and John Logan) Gladiator, DreamWorks, 2000.

Long Walk to Freedom, 2004.

The Golden Age, 2007.

PLAYS

Shadowlands (produced in London, England, 1989), Plume (New York, NY), 1990.

Map of the Heart (produced in London, England, 1991), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1991.

Katherine Howard (produced in Chichester, England, 1998), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1999.

The Retreat from Moscow: A Play about a Family (produced in Chichester, England, 1999), Anchor Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Adaptations

The film Shadowlands was adapted as a television film broadcast in England, 1985, as a novel of the same name by Leonore Fleishcer, Signet (New York, NY), 1993, and also as a sound recording by LA Theatre Works (Los Angeles, CA), 2001. Gladiator was adapted into a book by Dewey Gra, Onyx (New York, NY), 2000. The "Wind on Fire" trilogy was adapted for audiobook by BBC Audiobooks America. Seeker was adapted as an audiobook, read by Michael Page, by Brilliance Audio, 2006.

Sidelights

William Nicholson has written screenplays for television and film, plays performed in both England and the United States, and novels, including the "Wind on Fire" trilogy for young-adult readers. Beginning his career in British television, Nicholson gained wide notice in 1985 for his television play Shadowlands, which is about the real-life love affair between British writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis and American Joy Davidman. His screenplays include Double Helix (a.k.a. Life Story), a dramatization of the discovery of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and Nell, which tells the story of a woman who is discovered, living in virtual isolation in the woods of North Carolina by a local psychologist. As a playwright, Nicholson received the prestigious Tony award for his 2004 stage production, The Retreat from Moscow: A Play about a Family.

In addition to his work for stage and screen, Nicholson is also an accomplished novelist. His young-adult "Wind on Fire" fantasy trilogy features the male-female twins Bowman and Kestrel, who must save the Manth people from slavery in a dystopian world. In the first book, The Wind Singer: An Adventure, the twins set out to recover a pipe organ known as the Wind Singer after they are targeted by the Chief Examiner, who thinks they are misfits. Writing in School Library Journal, John Peters felt that while many of the plot devices read as conveniences, "fans of such barbed journey tales … will enjoy the social commentary." Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido asserted that Nicholson's plot lacks "imagination" and "depth … in the heavy-handed portrayal of caste systems, warrior tribes, and smarmy villains," but she admitted that "the background is well delineated" and that The Wind Singer has "comic relief" and a "thrilling denouement."

As the trilogy continues in Slaves of the Mastery, Bowman and Kestrel are once again fighting evil after five years of peace. This time they and their family are made slaves and taken to the city of the Mastery, where the twins use both their cunning and magical abilities to fight back. Writing in Booklist, DeCandido called the book "an astonishing mishmash of lore, myth, and magicking" and noted that Nicholson includes some "splendid battle scenes." Eva Mitnick, writing in School Library Journal, called Slaves of the Mastery a "masterful sequel" in which "every character … is compelling

and full of life." The final installment in the trilogy, Firesong: An Adventure, finds the twins leading their people back home after the fall of the Mastery, facing both a grueling journey and dissent from within. School Library Journal contributor Beth L. Meister wrote that the trilogy's "concluding volume … features fast-paced action, poetic language, and carefully constructed characters."

Also geared for teen readers, Nicholson's "Noble Warriors" series begins with Seeker, described by School Library Journal reviewer June H. Keuhn as "a novel of friendship, loyalty, and accomplishment." A fantasy with a quest at its core, Seeker transports readers to the fictional Island of Anacrea, where an order of warrior monks known as the Nomana are dedicated to defending and serving the one god. Known as the All and Only, the god is revered despite a prophecy that predicts its death at the hands of an assassin. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his older brother and become a warrior for his god, sixteen-year-old Seeker sets out for Anacrea. Also hoping to prove their worthiness—and following similar and ultimately connecting paths—are a devout girl named Morning Star and a thief named Wildman. At first rejected by the Nomana, the three teens nonetheless fear for the monks' safety when they discover a plot to destroy the island and the All and Only. Together, they embark on a journey to the cosmopolitan city of Radiance, where the worship of a jealous pantheon of competing gods requires human sacrifices. There the three traveler learn of Soren Similin and his plot to both destroy the meek Nomana and end worship of the All and Only. Harnessing the power of terror, Similin's scheme is to send suicide bombers to the remote island and destroy Anacrea's beauty forever. In a review of Seeker for Booklist, Jennifer Mattson cited Nicholson's "tight plotting" as well as his ability to interweave the "numerous perspectives" that "lend the novel a cinematic breadth." Kliatt contributor Deirdre Root dubbed Seeker "an astoundingly beautiful book," and added that the novel's "simplicity belies a complex world" that seems vivid and real due to Nicholson's skill with character and setting.

In addition to his books for young adults, Nicholson has also addressed older readers with novels such as The Society of Others and The Trial of True Love, the latter described by Booklist reviewer Allison Block as a "thought-provoking tale about lives transformed in the blink of an eye." In The Society of Others he introduces a recent college graduate who, becoming disillusioned, flees his family in England and ends up in a totalitarian Eastern bloc country. Accused of terrorism, the young man is paraded on television, then bullied into answering questions while films of brutal torture are played on nearby monitors. The man's ultimate goal is to escape, a task that will require both his wits and the kindness of strangers. Reviewing the novel, Sarah Weinman wrote in the Chicago Tribune that in The Society of Others Nicholson "doesn't skimp on novelistic essentials in his pursuit of intellectual ones," and Piers Paul Read concluded in a Spectator review that with the book Nicholson "has to my mind established himself … as one of the best novelists around."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Wind Singer: An Adventure, p. 438; October 15, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Slaves of the Mastery, p. 389; January 1, 2005, Allison Block, review of The Society of Others, p. 821; January 1, 2006, Allison Block, review of The Trial of True Love, p. 58; June 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Seeker, p. 63.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2006, April Spisak, review of Seeker, p. 465.

Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1998, Michael Wilmington, review of Firelight, p. A; February 3, 2005, Sarah Weinman, review of The Society of Others, p. 2.

Guardian (London, England), May 31, 2000, Lyn Gardner, review of The Wind Singer, p. 9.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2004, review of The Society of Others, p. 981; January 15, 2006, review of The Trial of True Love, p. 58; May 1, 2006, review of Seeker, p. 464.

Kliatt, July, 2004, Hugh Flick, Jr., review of Firesong, p. 51; July, 2004, review of "Wind on Fire" trilogy, p. 32; May, 2006, Deirdre Root, review of Seeker, p. 12.

Library Journal, November 1, 2004, Lawrence Rungren, review of The Society of Others, p. 76.

New Republic, February 7, 1994, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Shadowlands (film), p. 26; October 12, 1998, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Firelight, p. 30.

New York Times Book Review, February 13, 2005, Tobin Harshaw, review of The Society of Others, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly, August 28, 2000, review of The Wind Singer, p. 84; November 19, 2001, review of The Wind Singer, p. 70; August 26, 2002, review of Firesong, p. 70; September 29, 2003, review of the "Wind in the Fire" trilogy, p. 67; January 17, 2005, review of The Society of Others, p. 36; January 9, 2006, review of The Trial of True Love, p. 32; June 19, 2006, review of Seeker, p. 63.

School Library Journal, December, 2000, John Peters, review of The Wind Singer, p. 146; December, 2001, Eva Mitnick, review of Slaves of the Mastery, p. 141; January, 2003, Beth L. Meister, review of Firesong, p. 141; August, 2006, June H. Keuhn, review of Seeker, p. 126.

Science Fiction Chronicle, February, 2001, Don D'Ammassa, review of The Wind Singer, p. 38.

Spectator, March 20, 2004, Piers Paul Read, review of The Society of Others, p. 50.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Leslie McCombs, review of Seeker, p. 63.

ONLINE

Achuka Web site,http://www.achuka.co.uk/ (February 24, 2005), "William Nicholson."

Spectrum Web site,http://www.incwell.com/ (February 25, 2005), interview with Nicholson.

William Nicholson Home Page,http:///www.williamnicholson.co.uk (June 10, 2007).

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Nicholson, William

NICHOLSON, WILLIAM

(b. London, England, 1753; d. London, 21 May 1815)

chemistry, technology.

As is characteristic of minor scientific figures of the British industrial revolution, only fragmentary information survives on William Nicholson’s variegated activities. Many of these endeavors were of considerable significance within the rapidly developing and changing scientific world of his day. Nicholson was successively a servant of the East India Company, a European commercial agent of Josiah Wedgwood, the potter, master of a London mathematical school, patent agent, and water engineer. He also found time to translate foreign scientific works, compile a chemical dictionary, perfect a number of inventions, devise new instruments, act as secretary of the General Chamber of Manufacturers of Great Britain, undertake significant original research and, for sixteen years, edit and promote the monthly scientific journal for which he is most often remembered. Despite—or possibly because of—advanced scientific knowledge and practical ingenuity, “he lived in trouble and died poor.”

The son of a London solicitor, Nicholson was educated in North Yorkshire, before entering the service of the East India Company in 1769. In 1776 he returned home from India. He then spent time in Amsterdam, as Dutch sales agent for Wedgwood. By 1780 he apparently had settled in London with the proceeds of his foreign ventures and had begun to find his métier as inventor, translator, and scientific projector. It was presumably about this time that he married Catherine, daughter of Peter Boullie of London and remote descendant of Edward III. Nothing is known of their family life, save that at least one son reached maturity.

On arriving in London, Nicholson seems to have intended an assault on its literary world. Initially he lodged with the dramatist Thomas Holcroft, with whom he collaborated on at least one novel. The burgeoning scientific life of the capital soon captured his fancy, although a taste for literary and historical works remained with him. Nicholson appears to have run a mathematical school for some years, until other pursuits crowded it out. Reestablished in 1799, the school again experienced its earlier fate. Pedagogic concerns were certainly paramount in Nicholson’s first scientific publication, An Introduction to Natural Philosophy (1781), which enjoyed some success as a Newtonian text.

In December 1783 Nicholson’s serious scientific interests were recognized in his election to the Chapter Coffee House Society, or Philosophical Society. This ephemeral research club flourished throughout the 1780’s and Nicholson soon became its secretary. Among its twenty-five participants the club numbered J. H. de Magellan, Richard Kirwan, and Tiberius Cavallo; Joseph Priestley and Thomas Percival figured among its provincial honorary members. Association with the group no doubt prompted Nicholson’s interest in the intellectual and commercial possibilities of the new French chemistry, then generating intense debate. His translation of A. F. de Fourcroy’s Élémens d’histoire naturelle et de chimie appeared in 1788; that of the French rebuttal of Richard Kirwan’s Essay on Phlogiston, in 1789; and that of J. A. C. Chaptal’s Élémens de chimie, in 1791. A natural consequence of this activity was the publication of Nicholson’s First Principles of Chemistry in 1790 and of a weighty, competent, but pedestrian Dictionary of Chemistry in 1795. At a slightly later date he translated Fourcroy’s Tableaux synoptiques de chimie and also his authoritative eleven-volume Système des connaissances chimiques, as well as Chaptal’s four-volume Chimie appliquée aux arts.

Just as this cluster of works is indicative of growing British concern with chemistry, so the success accorded Nicholson’s decision to found a monthly journal of scientific news and commentary reflects the quickening of British interest across a wider range of natural knowledge. The Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts began publication in April 1797. Its success invited emulation. Alexander Tilloch’s Philosophical Magazine appeared in June 1798 and offered a continuing threat to the less worldly Nicholson. When in 1813 the field was crowded still further by Thomas Thomson’s Annals of Philosophy, Nicholson, already ill, withdrew. His Journal was merged with Tilloch’s, which throughout had shown greater commercial if less scientific acumen, and which continues to flourish (having also ingested Thomson’s Annals).

The reception accorded Nicholson’s Journal reveals the growing number of cultivators of science to be found in the urbanizing and industrializing culture of late-Georgian Britain. Reliable news of scientific discoveries, technical processes, instruments, books, translations, and meetings met an evident demand. The medium itself also created a fresh audience and new possibilities for scientific controversy and intellectual fashion. In July 1800 Nicholson’s Journal enjoyed its greatest coup, when it gave the first report of its proprietor’s sensational electrolysis of water, in collaboration with Anthony Carlisle. The Journal immediately became the accepted vehicle and the powerful reinforcer of the resulting scientific fashion for electrolysis, a fashion which Humphry Davy effectively exploited in his own brilliant demonstration of the newly possible art of scientific careerism. Another illustration of the changes wrought by this fresh medium of scientific communication may be seen in the work of John Dalton. He used the monthly journals to engage critics of his theory of mixed gases and thereby was encouraged to persevere in the work which finally led to his chemical atomic theory.

Nicholson’s real genius was that of a projector. As a researcher he was competent but uninspired; as an entrepreneur, persistent but empty-handed. The range of his inventions was wide, running from hydrometers to machinery for manufacturing files. All were as commercially unrewarding as they were technically excellent. His plans for a new Middlesex waterworks, for supplying Southwark, and for piping water to Portsmouth were important and practical pieces of urban engineering from which he drew little reward. Indeed, Nicholson’s financial problems were such that he spent time in debtor’ prison, deliberately sold his name to the proprietors of the six-volume British Encyclopaedia in 1809, and died in poverty after a lingering illness. He neither became a fellow of the Royal Society nor did he enjoy other public recognition. If his activities illustrate the widening scientific opportunities of a new age, they also show that energy, imagination, and expert knowledge provided no infallible route to personal fortune or social reward.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. There is no bibliography of Nicholson’s works, many of which are now very rare. The following list is necessarily tentative, not definitive. Scientific books are An Introduction to Natural Philosophy, 2 vols. (London, 1781; 5th ed., 1805); First Principles of Chemistry (London, 1790; 3rd ed., 1796); and A Dictionary of Chemistry, 2 vols. (London, 1795), rev. as A Dictionary of Practical and Theoretical Chemistry (London, 1808). Other books are The History of Ayder Ali Khan, Nabob Buhader; or New Memoirs Concerning the East Indies, With Historical Notes, 2 vols. (London, 1783); The Navigator’s Assistant (London, 1784); and Abstract of Such Acts of Parliament as Are Now in Force for Preventing the Exportation of Wool (London, 1786).

Nicholson’s editions and translations of works by others are Ralph’ Critical Review of the Public Buildings, Statues and Ornaments in and About London and Westminster…With Additions (London, 1783); Fourcroy’s Elements of Natural History and Chemistry, 4 vols. (London, 1788) plus Supplement (London, 1789); the French reply to Kirwan’s Essay on Phlogiston, and the Constitution of Acids… With Additional Remarks… (London, 1789); Memoirs and Travels of the Count de Benyowsky, 2 vols. (London, 1791; 4th ed., 1803); Pajot des Charmes’s The Art of Bleaching Piece Goods, Cottons, and Threads…by…Oxygenated Muriatic Acid (London, 1799); G.B. Venturi’s Experimental Enquiries Concerning… Motion in Fluids (London, 1799); Fourcroy’s Synoptic Tables of Chemistry (London, 1801); Fourcroy’s General System of Chemical Knowledge, 11 vols. (London, 1804); and Chaptal’s Chemistry Applied to Arts and Manufactures, 4 vols. (London, 1807).

Scientific papers by Nicholson include “Description of a New Instrument for Measuring the Specific Gravity of Bodies,” in Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, 2 (1785), 386–396; “The Principles and Illustration of an Advantageous Method of Arranging the Differences of Logarithms, on Lines Graduated for the Purpose of Computation,” in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 77 (1787), 246–252; “Experiments and Observations on Electricity,” ibid., 79 (1789), 265–287; “Account of the New Electrical or Galvanic Apparatus of Sig. Alex. Volta, and Experiments Performed With the Same,” in Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts, 4 (1800), 179–187, written with A. Carlisle; and numerous other contributions (many anonymous) to his own journal. A list of 62 papers is in the Royal Society Catalogue of Scientific Papers, IV, 610–612.

II. Secondary Literature. The best obituary of Nicholson is that in New Monthly Magazine,3 (1815), 569; 4 (1816), 76–77, on which the Dictionary of National Biography leans heavily. There is some additional information in Gentlemen’s Magazine,85 (1815), 570. His mechanical inventions are treated briefly in Samuel Smiles, Men of Invention and Industry (London, 1884), 164, 177, 194, 202; his chemical work is mentioned in J. R. Partington, A History of Chemistry, IV (London, 1964), 19–20. S. Lilley, “Nicholson’s Journal (1797–1813),” in Annals of Science, 6, (1948), 78–101, discusses the content and significance of the Journal. Nicholson’s other publications are exhaustively examined in R. S. Woolner, “Life and Scientific Work of William Nicholson’ (M.Sc. diss., University College, London, 1959). Some further information, and reference to a manuscript biography by his son, are in R.W. Corlass, “A Philosophical Society of a Century Ago,” in Reliquary, 18 (1878), 209–211. The MS minute book of the Chapter Coffee House Society, to which Corlass refers, is now in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford (MS Gunter 4).

Arnold Thackray

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Nicholson, William 1948-

Nicholson, William 1948-

PERSONAL:

Born 1948, in England; married Virginia Bell (a writer); children: three. Education: Christ's College, Cambridge University, B.A., 1973.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Sussex, England. Agent—Rosemary Canter (fantasy books), United Agents, 130 Shaftesbury Ave., London W1D 5EU, England.

CAREER:

Writer, playwright, and screenwriter. Former director and producer of documentary films for the British Broadcasting Company. Executive producer of Everyman, 1979-82, and Global Report, 1983-84; director, Firelight, Carnival/Wind Dancer, 1997. Also spent a year as a Voluntary Service Overseas teacher in British Honduras, now Belize.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Best Television Play, British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), 1985, for Shadowlands; Best Television Film designation, New York Film Festival, 1987, Best Television Drama award, BAFTA, 1987, and ACE Award for best picture, 1988, all for Life Story; Banff Festival Best Drama designation, 1988, ACE Award for Best International Drama, 1990, and Royal Television Society's Writer's Award, 1987-88, all for Sweet as You Are; Best Play of 1990, London Evening Standard, for Shadowlands; Emmy Award nomination for best screenplay, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1992, for A Private Matter; Golden Globe, and Emmy Award nominations for best screenplay, 1996, for Crime of the Century; Special Prize of the Jury, San Sebastián International Film Festival, 1997, for Firelight; Smarties Prize Gold Award, 2000, and Blue Peter Book of the Year Award, 2001, both for The Wind Singer; Academy Award nomination for best screenplay, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2000, for Gladiator; Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Award nomination for best play, 2004, for The Retreat from Moscow.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Seventh Level: A Sexual Progress, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1979.

The Society of Others, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.

The Trial of True Love, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.

"WIND ON FIRE" TRILOGY

The Wind Singer: An Adventure, illustrations by Peter Sis, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2000.

Slaves of the Mastery, illustrations by Peter Sis, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2001.

Firesong: An Adventure, illustrations by Peter Sis, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2002.

"NOBLE WARRIORS" FANTASY TRILOGY

Seeker, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

Jango, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.

Noman, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2008.

TELEPLAYS

Martin Luther, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 1983.

New World, BBC, 1986.

Life Story, BBC, 1987.

Sweet as You Are, BBC, 1988.

The Vision, BBC, 1988.

The March, BBC, 1990.

A Private Matter, Home Box Office (HBO), 1992.

Crime of the Century, HBO, 1996.

SCREENPLAYS

Double Helix (a.k.a. Life Story), Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1987.

Sarafina, Distant Horizon/Disney, 1992.

Shadowlands (based on the author's television play), Savoy, 1993.

(With Mark Handley) Nell, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1994.

First Knight, Columbia, 1995.

(And director) Firelight, Disney, 1998.

Grey Owl, Allied Pictures, 2000.

(With David Franzoni and John Logan) Gladiator, DreamWorks, 2000.

Long Walk to Freedom, Revelations Entertainment and Distant Horizon Corporation, 2004.

(With Michael Hirst) Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Universal Pictures and Working Title Films, 2007.

PLAYS

Shadowlands (first produced in London, England, 1989), Plume (New York, NY), 1990.

Map of the Heart (first produced in London, England, 1991), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1991.

Katherine Howard (first produced in England at Chichester Festival, 1998), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1999.

The Retreat from Moscow: A Play about a Family (first produced in Chichester, England, 1999), Anchor Books (New York, NY), 2004.

ADAPTATIONS:

The film Shadowlands was adapted as a television film broadcast in England, 1985, as a novel of the same name by Leonore Fleishcer, Signet (New York, NY), 1993, and also as a sound recording by LA Theatre Works (Los Angeles, CA), 2001. The screenplay for Gladiator was adapted into a book by Dewey Gra, Onyx (New York, NY), 2000; the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age, was adapted in novel form by Tasha Alexander Harper Entertainment (New York, NY), 2007; the "Noble Warriors" trilogy has been optioned for film.

SIDELIGHTS:

William Nicholson has written screenplays for television and film, plays performed in both England and the United States, and novels, including the "Wind on Fire" trilogy for young-adult readers. Beginning his career in British television, Nicholson gained wide notice in 1985 for his television play Shadowlands, which is about the real-life love affair between British writer and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis and American Joy Davidman. Nicholson went on to adapt Shadowlands into a stage play and a feature film. Writing a review of the play in Time, William A. Henry III noted that the author "finds a wealth of delicate metaphor in the imagery of the title, a reference to Lewis' assertion that true life is inner life or afterlife and what happens on earth a mere shadow existence." Writing in Commonweal, Richard Alleva commented that "the stage version is made of sterner stuff than the … film," and went on to call it "a poignant, funny-sad movie," adding: "It is also about as untranscendent as any film about C.S. Lewis could possibly be." In contrast, a Time contributor called "the entire movie … strong, unsentimental, exemplary."

One of Nicholson's first screenplays, Double Helix (a. k.a. Life Story), is a dramatization of the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Writing in American Libraries, Gary Handman noted: "In the hands of screenwriter William Nicholson, this is a tale filled with suspense, jealousy, and intrigue." In the screenplay for Nell, Nicholson tells the story of a woman who has grown up and continues to live in virtual isolation in the woods of North Carolina. After her mother dies, Nell, who has developed much of her own dialect, is completely alone, but she soon encounters a local psychologist and a doctor who have heard about Nell and want to study her. The doctor and psychologist clash over Nell's privacy, and a court battle ensues. Brian D. Johnson, writing in Maclean's, commented that the film "sets up a series of very tangible problems about what will happen to Nell in the real world, then, with a ‘five years later’ segue, sweeps them away in a happy ending celebrating family values and good waterfront access."

Nicholson's screenplay Firelight, which also marked his directorial debut, received wide critical interest is the story about a penniless young girl in 1838 England who agrees to become impregnated by a wealthy Englishman whose wife cannot bear children. The young girl has no idea of the man's real name, but years later she reappears as a hired governess and her real identity goes undetected. Writing in the New Republic, Stanley Kauffmann commented that the plot "is somewhat strained," but Boston Globe contributor Jay Carr wrote that "the thing that ultimately makes ‘Firelight’ persuasive is Nicholson's ability to transport us to its Victorian world and the conventions of the 19th-century novel." In a review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle wrote that the film is reminiscent of "women's pictures" of 1940s Hollywood, and LaSalle credited Nicholson with showing "that there's still life in this old-fashioned entertainment."

As a playwright, Nicholson has received several awards for his efforts, including a prestigious Tony award for the best play on Broadway in 2004 for The Retreat from Moscow: A Play about a Family. This play focuses on a three-decade marriage that is falling apart and ends with the husband announcing he is leaving for another woman. Caught in the middle is the son, who serves as his parents' pawn as he transports messages between the two. Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck noted that the play treads familiar territory but added that it "is nonetheless a highly powerful experience thanks to the beautifully detailed writing." The reviewer also called it a "beautifully written, staged and performed drama," while New Yorker contributor John Lahr dubbed The Retreat from Moscow a "subtle and powerful evocation of the half-life of a dying marriage" that is enhanced by "marvelous emotional complexity."

Nicholson is also an accomplished novelist whose young-adult "Wind on Fire" fantasy trilogy features the male-female twins Bowman and Kestrel, who must save the Manth people from slavery in a dystopian world. In the first book, The Wind Singer: An Adventure, the twins set out to recover a pipe organ known as the Wind Singer after they are targeted by the Chief Examiner, who thinks they are misfits. Writing in the School Library Journal, John Peters commented that many of the plot devices read as conveniences, but he nonetheless added that "fans of such barbed journey tales … will enjoy the social commentary." Booklist contributor GraceAnne A. DeCandido asserted that the plot lacks "imagination" and "depth … in the heavy-handed portrayal of caste systems, warrior tribes, and smarmy villains," but she also noted that "the background is well delineated" and that the novel has "comic relief" and a "thrilling denouement."

In the second book in the trilogy, Slaves of the Mastery, Bowman and Kestrel are once again fighting evil after five years of peace. This time they and their family are made slaves and taken to the city of the Mastery, where the twins use both their cunning and magical abilities to fight back. Writing in Booklist, DeCandido called the book "an astonishing mishmash of lore, myth, and magicking" and noted that it has "splendid battle scenes." Eva Mitnick, writing in the School Library Journal, called the effort a "masterful sequel" and wrote, "Every character … is compelling and full of life." The final installment in the trilogy, Firesong: An Adventure, has the twins leading their people back home after the fall of the Mastery, facing both a grueling journey and dissent from within. Of this conclusion to the trilogy, Bookseller contributor Jennifer Taylor wrote, "The striking visual images linger in the mind and the vivid characters seem almost like old friends." In a review for the School Library Journal, Beth L. Meister wrote: "This concluding volume of the trilogy features fast-paced action, poetic language, and carefully constructed characters."

In The Society of Others, Nicholson targets an adult audience with his tale of a recent college graduate in England who is disillusioned and flees his family, ending up in a totalitarian Eastern bloc country. When the young man is accused of terrorism, he is paraded on television to answer questions while a film of brutal torture is played on monitors all around him. His ultimate goal is to escape, using both his wits and the kindness of strangers. Reviewing The Society of Others, Sarah Weinman wrote in the Chicago Tribune that Nicholson "doesn't skimp on novelistic essentials in his pursuit of intellectual ones. Rather, the claustrophobic, thriller-like structure" of the novel "acts as a necessary and palatable framework for the ideas the author explores, such as the self, altruism, and whether humans truly desire absolute freedom." In the New York Times Book Review, Tobin Harshaw observed that Nicholson repeats familiar lessons, such as the fact "that salvation comes from within." Nevertheless, the reviewer felt that The Society of Others "does succeed in establishing its own version of a post-modern dystopia," while Piers Paul Read, writing in the Spectator, noted that the author "has to my mind established himself with this first work of adult fiction as one of the best novelists around."

The author's next adult novel, The Trial of True Love, was called a "quirky and enjoyable read" by Spectator contributor Digby Durrant. The novel revolves around Bron, a thirty-year-old writer living in London, who is writing a book about true love. The symbolist artist Paul Marotte is an integral part of the book, which focuses on the relationships among love, art, and literature. Bron himself is a heartbreaker and avoids commitment at all costs. However, upon visiting a friend in the country, Bron meets and is smitten by the beautiful and enigmatic Flora, which leads him to provide a personal theme and dimension to the book he is writing. When he pursues Flora to Amsterdam, he meets a mysterious art collector and finds that his own life is taking on a strange similarity to the circumstances in Marotte's life.

"Clever plot twists seal the deal in this thought-provoking tale," wrote Allison Block in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the author "pulls off an ending that resounds with the echoes of romance that his narrator has been pondering."

Nicholson is also author of the "Noble Warriors" fantasy trilogy for older children. The first book in the trilogy, Seeker, introduces readers to Seeker and Morning Star, two sixteen-year-olds who have been rejected by a revered warrior-monk order named Nomana, whose members are the Noble Warriors. Seeker and Morning Star, along with a pirate and thief named Wildman, set out to prove themselves worthy of being accepted into the order. In the process, they become involved in stopping a plot by mysterious agents to bring down Nomana so they can rid the world of the Nomana god, called the All and Only.

"Some writers can give you solid characters, but the plot may be dull, while other writers have cardboard characters within a decent plot, but their writing is really good and somehow covers the weaknesses," wrote C. Dennis Moore in a review of Seeker for the SF Reader. "Nicholson on the other hand has it all." A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the fantasy novel as a "spectacular first installment" and went on to note the book's "expert world-building, great teen characters and complex plot."

The next book in the "Noble Warriors" series, Jango, finds Seeker, Morning Star, and Wildman disillusioned when they find that the warrior sect they wanted to join is not what it appears to be. As a result, the three, who have acquired the skills taught by Nomana, leave the group and head their separate ways on adventures that eventually intersect as the powerful warlord of the Orlan nation gathers his forces to destroy Anacrea, home of the three youthful adventurers. The book's title character, Jango, is an elder who helps out the adventurers at various times throughout the book. "This splendid read will both satisfy and tantalize lovers of the first book," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Emily Rodriguez, writing in the School Library Journal, commented: "Propelled by unique battle scenes and touching dialogue, Jango will draw satisfied readers deeper into the mystery surrounding the Nomana's god."

Noman is the final book in the "Noble Warrior" series and finds the Nomana disbanded. A young boy appears on the scene and quickly gathers a large following as he preaches peace and joy. Morning Star and Wildman become followers while Seeker remains on a quest to find and kill the last Savanters, creatures that Seeker has come to think threatens the Nomana god. Seeker's quest, however, leads him to be at odds with the mysterious young leader. "The exploration of religion and of ethical behavior will provoke thought and … discussion," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Libraries, March, 2004, Gary Handman, review of Double Helix (a.k.a. Life Story), p. 86.

Atlanta Inquirer, January 15, 2000, review of Shadowlands (play), p. 7.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 25, 1998, Eleanor Ringel, review of Firelight, p. 17.

Back Stage, November 23, 1990, David Sheward, review of Shadowlands (play), p. 36; December 31, 1993, Hettie Lynne Hurtes, review of Shadowlands (film), p. W4; February 10, 1995, Rob Stevens, review of Shadowlands (play), p. 34; December 5, 2003, Jeffrey Sweet, review of The Retreat from Moscow: A Play about a Family, p. 44.

Booklist, October 15, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of The Wind Singer: An Adventure, p. 438; October 15, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Slaves of the Mastery, p. 389; January 1, 2005, Allison Block, review of The Society of Others, p. 821; January 1, 2006, Allison Block, review of The Trial of True Love, p. 58; June 1, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Seeker, p. 63; May 15, 2007, Jennifer Mattson, review of Jango, p. 55.

Bookseller, December 7, 2001, "‘Blue Peter’ Children Choose Nicholson," p. 36; March 15, 2002, Jennifer Taylor, review of Firesong: An Adventure, p. S31.

Boston Globe, September 4, 1998, Jay Carr, review of Firelight, p. D3.

Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1998, Michael Wilmington, review of Firelight; February 3, 2005, Sarah Weinman, review of The Society of Others, p. 2.

Commonweal, January 28, 1994, Richard Alleva, review of Shadowlands (film), p. 22.

Guardian (London, England), May 31, 2000, Lyn Gardner, review of The Wind Singer, p. 9.

Hollywood Reporter, October 24, 2003, Frank Scheck, review of The Retreat from Moscow, p. 28.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2004, review of The Society of Others, p. 981; January 15, 2006, review of The Trial of True Love, p. 58; May 1, 2006, review of Seeker, p. 464; June 15, 2007, review of Jango; May 15, 2008, review of Noman.

Kliatt, July, 2004, Hugh Flick, Jr., review of Firesong, p. 51; July, 2004, Donna Scanlon, review of The Wind Singer, p. 32; May, 2006, Deirdre Root, review of Seeker, p. 12; July, 2007, Lesley Farmer, review of Seeker, p. 32.

Library Journal, November 1, 2004, Lawrence Rungren, review of The Society of Others, p. 76.

Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1998, Kevin Thomas, review of Firelight, p. 10; September 29, 2004, Mike Boehm, review of The Retreat from Moscow, p. E4.

Maclean's, January 17, 1994, Brian D. Johnson, review of Shadowlands (film), p. 61; January 2, 1995, Brian D. Johnson, review of Nell, p. 50.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October-November, 1994, Kathi Maioi, review of Shadowlands (film), p. 77.

Nation, January 7, 1991, Thomas M. Disch, review of Shadowlands (play) p. 27.

National Review, February 7, 1994, James Como, review of Shadowlands (film), p. 72; February 6, 1995, John Simon, review of Nell, p. 72; August 14, 1995, John Simon, review of First Knight (film), p. 55.

New Republic, February 7, 1994, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Shadowlands (film), p. 26; October 12, 1998, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Firelight, p. 30.

Newsweek, July 10, 1995, Jeff Giles, review of First Knight (film), p. 56.

New Yorker, November 3, 2003, John Lahr, review of The Retreat from Moscow, p. 94.

New York Times Book Review, February 13, 2005, Tobin Harshaw, review of The Society of Others, p. 13.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 26, 2006, Katie Haegele, review of Seeker.

Publishers Weekly, August 28, 2000, review of The Wind Singer, p. 84; November 19, 2001, review of The Wind Singer, p. 70; August 26, 2002, review of Firesong, p. 70; September 29, 2003, review of the "Wind in the Fire" trilogy, p. 67; January 17, 2005, review of The Society of Others, p. 36; January 9, 2006, review of The Trial of True Love, p. 32; June 19, 2006, review of Seeker, p. 63.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 1998, Mick La-Salle, review of Firelight, p. C3.

School Library Journal, December, 2000, John Peters, review of The Wind Singer, p. 146; December, 2001, Eva Mitnick, review of Slaves of the Mastery, p. 141; January, 2003, Beth L. Meister, review of Firesong, p. 141; August, 2006, June H. Keuhn, review of Seeker, p. 126 August, 2007, Emily Rodriguez, review of Jango, p. 124.

Science Fiction Chronicle, February, 2001, Don D'Ammassa, review of The Wind Singer, p. 38.

Spectator, March 20, 2004, Piers Paul Read, review of The Society of Others, p. 50; May 7, 2005, Digby Durrant, "Love Lies Bleeding," review of The Trial of True Love, p. 51.

Time, November 19, 1990, William A. Henry III, review of Shadowlands (play), p. 106; December 27, 1993, review of Shadowlands (film), p. 72; December 12, 1994, Richard Corliss, review of Nell, p. 92.

Variety, September 29, 1997, Lisa Nesselson, review of Firelight, p. 61; May 17, 2004, "Scribes at Work: Tony-nominated Playwrights Look to the Future," p. B2.

Washington Post, November 24, 2002, Abby McGanney Nolan, review of Firesong, p. T09.

ONLINE

Achuka,http://www.achuka.co.uk/ (February 24, 2005), "William Nicholson."

BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (July 5, 2008), Anise Hollingshead, review of Seeker.

Curled up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (July 5, 2008), Luan Gaines, review of The Trial of True Love.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (February 24, 2005), information on author's film work.

SF Reader,http://sfreader.com/ (July 5, 2008), C. Dennis Moore, review of Seeker.

Spectrum,http://www.incwell.com/ (February 25, 2005), interview with Nicholson.

William Nicholson Home Page,http://www.williamnicholson.co.uk (February 24, 2005).

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