(????--????) (1924 - )
Added 6/21/2010: Edited now that I have new information (in green). The main article remains the same for historical purposes, but see the note at the end.
William Johnston is a mystery. I've never seen any biography (even on the books he wrote). I have a strong suspicion that the name is a pseudonym. It's even possible that multiple writers used the name. His books are long out of print -- all paperback originals tied in with gimmicky TV shows.
He also wrote some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen.
Johnston's best known work was a series of novelizations of the Get Smart TV series. Starting with Get Smart in 1965, he followed it with Get Smart Once Again! (1966), Missed By That Much! (1966), Max Smart and the Perilous Pellets (1966), Sorry, Chief... (1966), And Loving It! (1967), The Spy Who Went Out to the Cold (1968), Max Smart Loses Control (1969), and Max Smart and the Ghastly Ghost Affair (1969).
I loved the TV show, and bought the first book back when it was out. I liked it so much that I read all the titles through Sorry, Chief . . . , buying a couple (I still have my copy of Sorry, Chief . . . ) and borrowing the rest from friends. I also picked up his novelization for Captain Nice in a remainder bin.
Johnston was funny. His strength was long, strange conversations, filled with catchphrases (some from the show, others for the book alone). I can still get a smile from the phrases "six invisible guinea pigs," or "Vot you doink in mine staderoom?", things that came up time and time again, with wildly funny variations in Sorry, Chief. . .
Johnson also wrote a series of Happy Days books, one or two Flying Nun books, and a novelization of Klute*. There also appears to be a standalone novel, Sam Weskit on the Planet Framingham, which I'm sure didn't do all that well**.
In any case, Johnston disappeared in the mid-70s. My feeling is that he was a pseudonym*** and he just moved on. I would love to find out who he was, and also to see that his work returns to print. With all the trademark issues, that might be impossible, but one can always dream.
On June 18, 2010, the mystery of William Johnston was solved. I had guessed wrong: the name wasn't a pseudonym at all. In any case, see Lee Goldberg's blog for the facts.
*Talk about one thing that doesn't match the others.
** The problem of writing novelizations is that no one remembers the author's name (other than Isaac Asimov for Forbidden Planet, but most people think the movie was made from the book, not vice versa).
*** If anyone knows, I'd love to find out. I have a suspicion it might be Ron Goulart, but I could be way off.