Home Bookselling The Blue-Collar Bookseller’s Critique: Faust’s Secret War | Comments

The Blue-Collar Bookseller’s Critique: Faust’s Secret War | Comments


Frederick Schiller Faust was born on May 29, 1892 in Seattle, Washington. His parents were poor and life was hard. He will escape his life of hard work thanks to his fertile imagination and his love of medieval literature. His parents died when he was still young.

Orphaned, he was sent to live with a distant relative, Thomas Downey, a high school principal. Downey introduced him to mythology. Greek and Latin literature would continue to fuel his love of storytelling throughout his life.

He then attended the University of California, Berkeley, and wrote for student publications, poetry magazines, and newspapers. He showed promise as a writer and had a natural inclination for poetry. He was not, however, a good student. He was too restless – a maverick – and never graduated.

When the United States entered World War I, Faust attempted to enlist, but was rejected even for the Ambulance Corps, due to an enlarged heart. He then focused on becoming a major poet.

He worked manually until Mark Twain’s sister read a letter he wrote to the New York Times. She was so impressed that she arranged for him to meet the editor of Munsey Publications.

He started writing a lot for pasta magazines. By the time he sold his third story, he had started writing under a pseudonym. It was more than the desire to be anonymous. America was at war with Germany, and using a German name would destroy his career. What name is more German than Faust?

Once he felt his new vocation as a magazine writer was secure, he married his college sweetheart, Dorothy Schillig. He began writing for more upmarket magazines, and many of his stories have inspired films. His character, Dr. Kildare, has been adapted for radio, film and even comics.

He made a small fortune from these adaptations. He also started working as a screenwriter for Hollywood studios. At one point he was making $3,000 a week with Warner Brothers, at a time when most people weren’t even making that in a year. Faust became one of the highest paid writers of his time.

Faust disparaged his commercial success. He only used his real name for his poetry. He spent every morning devoted to the work he considered his literary vocation. He considered three lines designed as a successful day. In the afternoon he could produce thirty pages of a story.

Many Faust characters died heroic deaths in battle. It was perhaps this romantic notion that drove Faust to insist on doing his part when the United States entered World War II. He had missed the Great War, and he wasn’t going to miss another.

He was elderly and suffered from chronic heart disease. So he had to use all his connections to become a frontline war correspondent on the Italian front.

There he lived among men who had grown up reading his stories of heroes and great deeds, and it was there that he died. In 1944 he was mortally wounded by shrapnel in what some historians have called the “bloody conflict of the entire war”. President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally commended him for his bravery.

Often condemned by those who seek realistic detail in fiction, this did not prevent Faust from becoming one of the most popular and prolific storytellers in the world.

His love of mythology and storytelling drove him to write over 500 novels, and almost as many short stories. His literary production is estimated between 25 and 30 million words. He was a poet, author of novels, fairy tales, legends, dreams and dramas, and wrote over 300 Western novels and stories.

Faust wrote under many pseudonyms, including George Owen Baxter, David Manning, Evan Evans, George Evans, John Frederick, George Challis, Peter Morland and Frederick Frost, but you probably know him as Max Brand, the Shakespeare of Western range…

Writing is just one of the hats I wear as a blue collar bookseller, visit me at From My Shelf Books and I’ll find a hat/book to suit me.

Kevin Coolidge is currently a full-time factory worker and part-time bookseller at From My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro, PA. When he is not working, he writes. He is also a children’s author and creator of The Totally Ninja Raccoons, a children’s series aimed at reluctant readers. Visit his author site at kevincoolidge.org

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