William Brinkley

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William Brinkley
William Brinkley
Brinkley in the mid-1950s
Born William Clark Brinkley
(1917-09-10)September 10, 1917[1]
Custer City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died November 22, 1993(1993-11-22) (aged 76)
McAllen, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Novelist, journalist, naval officer, writer, editor, reporter
Language English
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Oklahoma
Period 1948–1988[2]
Genre Post-apocalyptic, fiction, comedy, non-fiction
Notable works Don't Go Near the Water (1956)
The Last Ship (1988)
Spouses Jean Brinkley
Children David Shelander (stepson)[3][4][5]
Relatives Paul Brinkley (brother)[6]
Virginia McCabe (sister)[6]
Daniel Squire Brinkley (father)[6]

William Clark "Bill" Brinkley (September 10, 1917 – November 22, 1993) was an American writer and journalist, best known for his novels Don't Go Near the Water (1956), which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adapted to an eponymous 1957 film, and The Last Ship (1988), which TNT adapted as a television series.[9]

Early life and education

Brinkley as a young man.

Brinkley was born in Custer City, Oklahoma on September 10, 1917, the son of Daniel Squire Brinkley, a Baptist minister.[6] The youngest of five children, Brinkley attended the University of Oklahoma and graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa in 1940.[10]


Naval service

Brinkley was a commissioned officer in the United States Navy during World War II, where he served in Europe and the Pacific, primarily in public relations duties.[11]


After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 1940, Brinkley went on to work for The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Afterwards, Brinkley was a reporter for The Washington Post from 1941 to 1942 and from 1949 to 1951. In the latter period he wrote an article about an exorcism that later became the basis of William Peter Blatty's bestselling novel The Exorcist (1971).[12] Brinkley was also a staff writer, correspondent, and assistant editor for Life magazine from 1951 to 1958 and a member of the National Press Club until his death in 1993.[13]

After his tenure as an officer in the U.S. Navy, Brinkley wrote and published his first novel, Quicksand (1948). In 1954, Brinkley wrote his only non-fiction book, The Deliverance of Sister Cecelia, a biography of a Czechoslovakian nun based her memoirs as recited to him. The novel was later adapted into an episode[which?] of Climax! in 1955.[citation needed] In 1956, he went on to write the best-selling novel and perhaps his most prominent work, Don't Go Near the Water, a comedy about U.S. Navy sailors serving in the South Pacific during World War II. Don't Go Near the Water would later be adapted into film by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as Don't Go Near the Water (1957), which was released in theaters across the United States and became both a critical and commercial success.[14][15][16]

In peacetime Lieutenant Commander Clinton T. Nash had been in charge of a Merill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane office in the Midwest. Not long after Pearl Harbor he had been commissioned directly from his brokerage office without the corrupting effect of any intervening naval training.
William Brinkley, Don't Go Near the Water, Chapter 1.[17]

In 1961, Brinkley wrote and published The Fun House, a comedy novel set in the offices of a picture magazine, similar to that of Life. The following year, in 1962, Brinkley wrote and published the novel, The Two Susans, which was followed by The Ninety and Nine (1966), a novel detailing life on board a United States Navy LST operating in the Mediterranean Sea and at Anzio during World War II.[18] In 1971, Brinkley moved to McAllen, Texas and would live there until his death in 1993. Throughout the 1970s, Brinkley only wrote one novel, Breakpoint (1978), about tennis.

Breakpoint was followed by Peeper (December 1981), a comedy novel about a voyeur in the small Texas town of Martha, Texas, near the Rio Grande. In March 1988, Brinkley published his last work, The Last Ship, a post-apocalyptic fiction novel dealing with the sailors of the USS Nathan James (DDG-80), a fictional United States Navy guided missile destroyer, which survives a brief, full-scale global nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.[19][20][21]

Later life and death

On November 22, 1993, after suffering from a major depressive disorder for over several years, Brinkley died by suicide at his home in McAllen, Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico, at age 76, from an overdose of barbiturates. He was survived by his wife, Jean Brinkley, along with his sister, Virginia McCabe, who died in 1999, his brother, Paul Brinkley, who died in 2000, and his stepson, David Shelander, who died in September 2013.[3][4][5][6] He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Gulf of Mexico.[6]



  • Brinkley, William (1948). Quicksand. 
  • Brinkley, William (1956). Don't Go Near the Water. 
  • Brinkley, William (1961). The Fun House. 
  • Brinkley, William (1962). The Two Susans. 
  • Brinkley, William (1966). The Ninety and Nine. 
  • Brinkley, William (1978). Breakpoint. 
  • Brinkley, William (1981). Peeper. 
  • Brinkley, William (1988). The Last Ship. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-80981-0. OCLC 16682861. Retrieved December 9, 2013. 


  • Brinkley, William (1954). The Deliverance of Sister Cecelia. 


  1. ^ "Brf – Brn". New General Catalog of Old Books & Authors. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 1917 Sep 10 – 1993 Nov 22 
  2. ^ "Novelist and Journalist William Brinkley Dies". The Washington Post. November 25, 1993. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Snowden, Holly Shelton (2013). "In Memoery of David Shelander". Life Legacy. Pensacola, Florida: Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Associated Press (November 25, 1993). "Obituaries: William Clark Brinkley, Author Of 'Don't Go Near The Water'". The Seattle Times. Seattle, Washington: The Seattle Times Company. Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Associated Press (November 24, 1993). "Author, Reporter Brinkley Commits Suicide at 76". Associated Press. Associated Press. Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f USNDDS (August 15, 2015). "William Clark Brinkley". Find a Grave. Archived from the original on September 18, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Brain-Juice Biography of Steven Soderbergh". 
  8. ^ "Steven Soderbergh". 
  9. ^ Gidmark, Jill B. (2001). "Encyclopedia of American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes". Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Archived from the original on February 14, 2010. Retrieved February 14, 2010. 
  10. ^ Brinkley, William (1956). Don't Go Near the Water. Bluejacket Books. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  11. ^ Pace, Eric (November 25, 1993). "William C. Brinkley, 76, Writer Known for His Novels of the Sea – Obituary;Biography – NYTimes". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Brinkley, Bill (August 20, 1949). "Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil's Grip". Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company. Retrieved April 8, 2014. 
  13. ^ "William C. Brinkley; Novelist, journalist". Associated Press. Los Angeles Times. November 27, 1993. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  14. ^ "The Deliverance of Sister Cecilia, by William Brinkley". Fantastic Fiction. United Kingdom: Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  15. ^ ""Climax!" The Deliverance of Sister Cecilia". Internet Movie Database. 
  16. ^ "The deliverance of Sister Cecilia". Amazon. 
  17. ^ "William Clark Brinkley Quotations". GIGA. March 23, 2006. p. 1. Archived from the original on January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  18. ^ "The Ninety and Nine by William Brinkley". 
  19. ^ Peeper: a comedy. 
  20. ^ "William Brinkley Book List". FictionDB. FictionDB. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  21. ^ "The Last Ship by William Brinkley". FictionDB. FictionDB. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 

External links

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