Max Brand – The Western Genre’s Greatest Pseudonym

maxbrand_001Once referred to, in a review, as ‘The Shakespeare of the Western Range,’ Max Brand was a pen name used by Frederick Schiller Faust, to publish his books in the western genre. Faust was born in Seattle on May 29, 1892, and lost both parents during his childhood. He moved to California shortly after where he spent a few years as a cowhand before attending the University Of California. Failing to graduate, he joined the Canadian Army in 1915, deserting shortly after to move to New York City. In 1917, during World War I, Faust attempted to enlist in the US army but his application was rejected. He settled down, marrying Dorothy Schillig later that year and eventually having three children with her.

In the 1910s and 20s he wrote mainly for Pulp Fiction magazines, eventually moving with his family to Europe. By 1934 he was publishing in more upscale markets, and most of his work was completed in his Italian villa. Due to political unrest in Europe, the Fausts moved back to the United States in 1938, and settled down in Hollywood.  Being located in the heart of the entertainment district Faust began writing for the big screen. He worked with a number of film studios including Warner Brothers and MGM, becoming one of the highest paid writers of his day.

As a self-proclaimed alcoholic, Faust claimed that drinking took him to a fantasy world where his stories materialised. In 1944, during one of his MGM ‘bull sessions,’ Faust convinced his associate Colonel Nee that he needed to be assigned to a company of foot soldiers. This was to be the research for a war novel, which would rival all the books that he had put out so far, and within a few weeks he was given an assignment as a war correspondent in Italy for Harper’s magazine. On May 12, 1944, while travelling with the American troop he was assigned to, Faust lost his life as a result of flying shrapnel. After his death President Franklin Roosevelt personally commended him for his bravery.

During his career Faust wrote under 15 pseudonyms, and claimed that all the books he had written had the same plot, ‘The good man becomes bad and the bad man becomes good.’ He trained himself to write exactly 14 pages each day, which amounted to approximately 1,500,000 words each year. This resulted in him publishing over 500 novels, and just as many short stories for several magazines. Since his death much of his work has been revised and published, with an average of one book coming out every four months for over 75 years. Many of these books are still being reprinted and Frederick Schiller Faust is known as one of the most prolific authors of all time.

Writing as Max Brand, Faust developed an extremely popular character in Dr. Kildare. This fictional doctor was based on a college friend of his, Dr. George Fish, a New York surgeon. Kildare was introduced to fans in March 1936, when he appeared in a Cosmopolitan short story Interns can’t take Money. Later made into a film, this story introduces the world to an aspiring young doctor who leaves his parents farm to become an intern at a big hospital in the city, coming into contact with many criminals through his practice. Faust began writing the Dr. Kildare series for MGM, but was not involved in later films. The studio continued to attribute the creating of the characters to Max Brand in each film that it subsequently produced.