William Nagle was born in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, in 1947. Educated at St Joseph’s College in Geelong, he left school at seventeen and enlisted in the army. He trained as a cook and in 1966 was deployed with the SAS to Saigon. There he was disciplined for refusing to cook egg custard and later was transferred to the infantry in Australia.
Nagle was discharged from the army in 1968, and went on to work in television, and on stage with the Melbourne Theatre Company. The Odd Angry Shot, his debut novel, fictionalised his experiences—and those of his SAS mates—in Vietnam. Nagle completed the first draft in one sitting, working around the clock for six days.
Published in 1975, the novel won the National Book Council Award and became an instant classic. In 1979 it was made into a film starring Graham Kennedy, John Hargreaves, John Jarratt and Bryan Brown. ‘It was a risky commercial venture,’ said director Tom Jeffrey. ‘The Vietnam War was a dirty subject. Few people wanted to be reminded of our involvement.’
Nagle wrote the screenplay for Death of a Soldier (1986) and co-wrote the screenplay for The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989), both about the Vietnam War. He worked in film and television for many years in the United States before his death, in 2002.