It is probably no great exaggeration to say that Max Brand was responsible for my choice of profession and hence for the general outlines of my life, as well as much if not most of its actual content. For as nearly as I can recall, what gave me the idea of becoming a doctor was watching a TV rerun of an old, i.e. late 1930s, Dr. Kildare movie. Before that I was aiming to become a chemist – as 10 or 11 year old boy understands being a chemist. For that aspiration I owe thanks to A. C. Gilbert of Gilbert Chemistry Set fame. But it is to Max Brand and his fictional character, young doctor Kildare, that I mainly owe my career and everything connected with it. It seems, therefore, only fitting to offer a little tribute here to my unwitting mentor. I am certain there have been many more like me –who can say how many?- similarly motivated and directed by the works of people like Max Brand and his adapters. There is something touching, weird, comic, and genuinely alarming in the prospect of great numbers of children being propelled into lifelong careers by works of popular entertainment. Then again, what better way to find and feel out the myriad possibilities of life before one has had the chance to lead much of it?
Where to begin regarding Max Brand? How about with his real name: Frederick Schiller Faust. What a name! But that is only the bare beginning. The Max Brand story is in many ways much more interesting than the almost unbelievable number of fictional characters and their stories that he created in his relatively short life. In his 52 years he wrote more than 500 novels and countless short stories. It has been estimated that his total output was between 25 and 30 million words. Besides the Dr. Kildare stories, he was, and remains, a widely read Western adventure author. In fact, he is much better known for his Westerns, which are still popular, than the Dr. Kildare books, which I imagine are seldom read these days. To top it all off, he volunteered as a war correspondent during World War II – and was killed in action during the Italian Campaign. He was personally commended for bravery by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His life itself reads like a work of fiction. There is no doubt that he profoundly influenced my life and the lives of many others, the great majority of whom doubtless do not even know his name, or that he ever existed.