Max Brand is the most popular of the several pen names for Frederick Schiller Faust. In total, he’s said to have written over 500 novels and hundreds of short stories for the various pulp magazines. Even more impressive is that he managed to do this while living only until the age of 51.
He’s said to have not cared much about his pulp writing, attaching his real name to his poetry instead. Although, this is somewhat hard to believe when you read the beauty in some of his passages.
The opening of Stagecoach, for instance, is about as great an opening for any story I’ve ever read.
Someone who knew what he was talking about said that no man should go into the West–the real frontier West, that is–unless he was capable of inspiring some measure of awe. Perhaps by his personal dignity, which is, after all, the best way of keeping a man out of trouble. Or through physical strength or mere size, or by dauntless power of eye, or through fighting skill–any or all of these attributes would be most serviceable. But Sammy Gregg did not have any of them.
This passage does so much to introduce the tone, setting, and character in a such an economical amount of words.
Where many of Brand’s contemporaries described the setting of the West in great, colorful detail, Brand’s uniqueness is in his descriptions of horses. From Bull Hunter, for instance:
Not that Bull Hunter analyzed the stallion in any such fashion. He was, literally, ignorant of horseflesh. But in spite of his ignorance the long neck, not overfleshed, suggested length of stride and the mighty girth meant wind beyond exhaustion and told of the great heart within. The points of an ordinary animal may be overlooked, but a great horse speaks for himself in every language and to every man.
Brand’s love for animals comes through in passages like these that are woven throughout his hundreds of stories.
“The Cure of Silver Canyon,” a Max Brand short, concludes the Sundown Western Tales collection. Like many of Brand’s stories, it’s a gem worth checking out.