I was born on July 23, 1940 in Berkeley, California. My mother, Monique Robert, was French, and partially raised in Barcelona, Spain. She died in 1942, at age 27. Her grandfather (my maternal great-grandad), Anatole Le Braz, was a noted writer and folklorist from Brittany (in the north of France) whose books are still in print over there.
Monique's first cousin, Laura Bouchage, one of Anatole's other granddaughters, married an American, Ralph Weymouth, and they are the parents of Tina Weymouth, who became bass player for Talking Heads. My French side of the family loves to brag about Anatole Le Braz and Tina Weymouth. Who can blame them?
My paternal grandfather and namesake, John Treadwell Nichols, was a well-known naturalist who for many years reigned as Curator of Recent Fishes at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He wrote several books on fish and hundreds of nature articles. He founded Copeia, the magazine of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH), in 1913.
Grandpa married Cornelia Floyd, a direct descendant of William Floyd, who signed the Declaration of Independence for New York State. My father, David G. Nichols, was born in 1916 at the old William Floyd estate (in Mastic on the south shore of Long Island 60 miles east of New York City) which my family eventually donated to the National Park Service as an historical museum and wildlife refuge. You can look up the William Floyd Estate on the Internet.
My dad's sister, Mollie Weld, was the mother of my first cousin, William Weld, who became the governor of Massachusetts. So my American family likes to brag about William Floyd and William Weld. And who can blame them?
After I was born in Berkeley, we moved around a lot. My dad got married and divorced a few more times. I have lived in Miami, Florida; Montpelier, Vermont; Westbury (Long Island), New York; Berkeley again; Wilton, Connecticut; Herndon, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Windsor, Connecticut; Clinton, New York (where I attended Hamilton College); Barcelona, Spain; and New York City. I speak illiterate French and illiterate Spanish and illiterate English.
In 1969 I moved with my family from New York to northern New Mexico, and have lived there ever since. This area has been the setting for almost all of my books. Some of my work has dealt with struggles for human justice, land and water rights in northern New Mexico. Other books spoof marriage, treat planetary collapse like Fast Eddie selling used cars on TV, and they equate trout fishing with capitaliist Armageddon. My stuff is often polemical and funny, except American Blood -- just don't go there girlfriend!
During my screenplay career from 1980 to a little after 2000, I did three political scripts (only Missing got made) for the Greek director, Costa-Gavras; The Milagro Beanfield War for Robert Redford; I worked on two films (one about Kayapo Indian struggles in the Amazon) for Ridley Scott that were never produced; a Warner Brothers movie for Karel Reisz (dealing with Haitian refugees) that went into turn-around; a mini-series for CBS about the life of Pancho Villa (that couldn't get off the drawing board); several (unsuccessful) drafts of my novel American Blood for Laray Mayfield; a sequal to Midnight Express (never produced) that occupied me for six years; plus a screenplay about Che Guevara that I did for Peter Davis and Bill Panzer (of Highlander movie and TV series fame) that died aborning because nobody except me could deal with the Marxist-Leninist politics.
Recently, I finished a book about the five years my mom and dad shared between 1938 and 1942, when Monique died. The book has taken 15 years to write, with over 90 drafts. Nobody has ever accused me of writing "too swiftly." And none of books have ever been "a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize." I can't believe I'm going to die while Donald Trump is President. Somebody please tell me I'm hallucinating!
Biography - John Nichols
© Copyright John Nichols 2018
Nichols in front of his home away from home, Brodsky Bookshop in Taos.