Reading the West 8-17-09
In June Western Writers of America inducted Frederick Faust into the Western Writers Hall of Fame. It amazes me that he had not already been included since he is one of the best known of all Western Writers. While you may not recognize him as Frederick Faust, if you have read any Westerns over the decades, you will almost certainly know him under one of his pseudonyms: George Owen Baxter, Evan Evans, David Manning, John Frederick, Peter Morland, George Challis, Frederick Frost, and the best know of all – Max Brand. Faust saved the use of his legal name for the classically themed poetry he considered his real vocation.
Brand, as he is best known, is one of the most prolific authors of all time having written more than 500 novels for magazines and almost as many stories of shorter length. He is estimated to have written between 25 and 30 million words, some of them put down at nearly breakneck speed, reportedly as many as 12,000 words in the course of a weekend. His early publications appeared in the 1920s, and new books, based on magazine serials or unpublished manuscripts or restored versions continue to appear, averaging a new book every four months for 75 years. In addition, a Faust work is newly reprinted every week of every year in one or another format somewhere in the world.
The two newest books published under his name are “Black Thunder,” a trilogy of his work including “Lawman’s Heart,” “White-Water Sam” and “Black Thunder,” stories first published in the 1930s in periodicals; and “Mountain Made,” a novel that tells the story of Winsor Glanvil and his plan to marry Louise Carney, heiress to a fortune. As with any traditional Western penned by Max Brand, this one has a man bent on forestalling the romance, with plenty of action, revenge, and some surprises along the way.
Faust’s love for mythology was a constant source of inspiration for his fiction and his classical and literary inclinations. His first novel “The Untamed,” became a motion picture in 1920 starring Tom Mix. More than 70 of his stories would inspire films. He created the Western character “Destry,” featured in several filmed versions of “Destry Rides Again,” and his character “Dr. Kildare” was adapted to motion pictures, radio, television, and comic books.
Born in Seattle, he grew up in central California and worked as a cowhand on a ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. As a student at the University of California, Berkeley, he began to write prolifically for student publications, poetry magazines, and occasionally newspapers. He became a highly paid writer, settled in Hollywood and worked as a scriptwriter for a number of film studios, during which period he conceived the character for Dr. Kildare.
In World War II, he became a front-line war correspondent in Germany and Italy. He was wounded by shrapnel during the war and died in 1944. Yet his stories and novels continue to be published, and to dominate book shelves across the country.
The Western Writers Hall of Fame is now located at the McCracken Research Library within the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo.
Authors included in the Hall of Fame are chosen by the membership of Western Writers of America from nominees selected by a committee. To be eligible, a writer must have a significant body of work about the American West, and have been deceased for at least 10 years. Other recent inductees include Glendon Swarthout, author of “The Homesman” and “The Shootist”; Jack Schaefer, Will Henry, and Frank Waters.