March 14

This Day in History

Old West

Mar 14, 1919:

Max Brand publishes his first novel

Max Brand, perhaps the most prolific writer of western stories, publishes his first novel, The Untamed.

Max Brand was one of 21 pen names used by the Seattle-born author Frederick Faust. When he was still a young boy, Faust's family moved to the San Joaquin Valley of California, where he grew up in poverty and enjoyed few educational advantages. Early on, though, Faust developed a passionate love for reading. He was especially fond of traditional poetic writers like Milton and Shakespeare, and he initially tried his hand at writing serious poetry.

Faust's poetry was forgettable at best, and it held little potential for providing him with a living. Reluctantly, Faust began to write short adventure stories. Editors who had previously rejected his serious work eagerly snapped up his popular fiction and encouraged him to write more. Motivated primarily by the considerable money he could make writing for popular magazines, in 1917 Faust began to churn out a prodigious number of short stories, from spy thrillers to medical dramas to Westerns. Embarrassed by his "lowbrow" stories, he never appended his real name to any of his popular works.

Faust claimed to dislike the American West, and he spent most of his adult life in Europe. Nonetheless, he wrote more stories and novels in the Western genre than in any other, many of them dispatched from his luxurious Italian villa. He published his first Western, a fast-paced adventure called The Untamed, in serial form in 1918. The serial was so popular that the Putnam Publishing Company brought out a hardcover edition of the story on this day in 1919.

Unlike many western authors, Faust made no pretense to historical accuracy in his works. His novels concerned a mythic West of his imagination, and he rarely provided any identifiable geographical details or demonstrated any mastery of the minutiae of western life. His strength was his ability to tell a compelling story, and he had a keen sense of style.

In The Untamed, Faust created the hugely popular Dan Barry, a peaceable man who avoided trouble whenever possible. However, when Barry or those he cares about were attacked, he was transformed and was capable of wreaking violent vengeance on wrongdoers. Faust continued Barry's story in two bestselling sequels.

Besides gaining fame and fortune as the author of Max Brand westerns, Faust also created the character of Dr. Kildare for his medical thrillers. Faust died in 1944, having written an estimated 30 million words, including more than 500 western serials or short stories.

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This Week in History, Mar 14 - Mar 20

Mar 14, 1919
Max Brand publishes his first novel
Mar 15, 1767
Andrew Jackson born
Mar 16, 1903
Judge Roy Bean dies
Mar 17, 1804
Jim Bridger born
Mar 18, 1852
Wells Fargo and Company established
Mar 19, 1864
Artist Charlie Russell born
Mar 20, 1823
Ned Buntline born

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