William Karl Thomas

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William Karl Thomas
Born January 25, 1933
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, United States
Occupation book author, screenwriter, cinematographer
Spouse(s) Orrie Floyd

William Karl Thomas (bornJanuary 25, 1933) is an American book author, screenwriter, songwriter, and cinematographer whose works center around the entertainment world of the 1950's and 1960's. He was the youngest of three children born to Erle Carter Thomas and Katherine Ida Schmidt. His parents divorced the year he was born and he, along with his sister Thelma, four years older, and his brother Alfred, eight years older, was raised by his single mother in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He married his high school teacher, Orrie Floyd, in 1951 and was divorced in 1955 with no children.[1]


William Karl Thomas began his career as a cocktail pianist in New Orleans French Quarter in 1951, saw a year of combat in Korea serving in the United States Air Force from 1953 through 1957, worked in Hollywood as a photographer, cinematographer, screenwriter, and public relations executive, and moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1979.[2]

His career as a book author began in 1989 with the memoir Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet, which described his ten year collaboration with that controversial comedian from 1956 to 1966,[3] early in Bruce's career,[4] during which he collaborated on three screenplays (The Leather Jacket, Killer's Grave, The Degenerate) that never made it to the screen, and the comedy material of Bruce’s first three albums, that became classics.[5] Thomas also worked with Bruce as an album cover photographer,[6]and as a cinematographer on a pilot for their first screenplay, and on a documentary about Bruce’s obscenity trials, though Bruce died before it was completed.[7] Of Thomas’ current thirteen books in print, his show business trilogy, The Piano Man, pioneers the inclusion of written music by including the script and score of an original stage musical in the second book of the trilogy.[8]

Both his non-fiction and his fiction reflect the periods of his life with historical accuracy of the social and political issues of the times. His style has been praised by reviews such as The Manchester Guardian which said, “His work sometimes reads like a Bogart script,”[9] and Kirkus Reviews which said, “He aptly conveys the heights and depths of human capability.”[10]

Thomas currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, where he sometimes teaches media classes at a local community college, and continues to write.

Select works

  • Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet, a show biz memoir, Archon 1989, Media Maestro 2000, DHC Tokyo 2001[4]
  • The Genteel Poor, a childhood memoir, Seaboard 2008, Media Maestro 2014
  • The Josan and the Jee, a war novel, Infinity 2010, Media Maestro 2014[11]
  • Cleo, a civil rights novel, Infinity 2011, Media Maestro 2014[12]
  • Hollywood Tales from the Outer Fringe, a short story anthology, Media Maestro 2012[13]
  • A Place For Us, a biography of disabled activist Wendy Wolf, Media Maestro 2012
  • The Candy Butcher, a biography of screenwriter Frank Ray Perilli, Media Maestro 2015[14]
  • The Piano Man, a show biz trilogy, Media Maestro 2016
  • Piano Man: The Musical, a sequel, Media Maestro 2016
  • Piano Man: The Movie, a sequel, Media Maestro 2016
  • Immortal, a science fiction trilogy, Media Maestro 2016
  • Immortal: Resurrection, a sequel, Media Maestro 2016
  • Immortal: Armageddon, a sequel, Media Maestro 2016