John Nichols, who wrote more than a dozen novels including The Milagro Beanfield War and The Sterile Cuckoo — both of which were turned into films by top directors — died Wednesday in Taos, NM. He was 83.
Nichols, whose works often told stories of small-town New Mexico and social injustice, also co-wrote the screenplay for Milagro Beanfield War. Focused on a battle between mostly Latino farmers and local politicians and real estate developers, it became a 1988 film produced and directed by Robert Redford. The pic starring Ruben Blades, Richard Bradford and Sonia Braga won an Oscar for Dave Grusin’s jazzy score. Watch a trailer below.
Nichols’ 1965 debut novel The Sterile Cuckoo was adapted four years later into a film by Alan J. Pakula. It starred Liza Minnelli in her Oscar-nominated role as Pookie, a zany but honest woman who falls for a young man (Wendell Burton) just before he leaves for college.
Born on July 23, 1940, in Berkeley, CA, Nichols’ novels also included his sophomore effort The Wizard of Loneliness, which became a 1988 film by Jenny Bowen that starred Lukas Haas and Lea Thompson. Other books included The Magic Journey and The Nirvana Blues — which, along with The Milagro Beanfield War, comprised his “New Mexico trilogy.”
Nichols wrote more than a half-dozen nonfiction books, including last year’s I Got Mine: Confessions of a Midlist Writer. His most recent novel was 2019’s Goodbye, Monique.
Also a social justice activist, he was a subject of The Milagro Man: The Irrepressible Multicultural Life and Literary Times of John Nichols, a 2012 feature documentary by Kurt Jacobsen. Built around an extensive interview with the writer, the pic gives an intimate account of his creative literary process.