Max Brooks: The Zombie Survivalist
Photo by Ryan Orange
One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.
The Zombie Survival Guide started as nothing more than a personal survival plan that Max Brooks wrote and buried away in a drawer, never anticipating its publication, much less literary success. Even after it was published by Random House in 2003, with an initial run of just 18,000 copies, Brooks was so worried about its prospects that he traveled the country giving "zombie defense lectures" to gain exposure.
The rest is history. The work became a New York Times best-seller, reviving the zombie genre. It continues to devour hearts and minds more than a decade after its original pressing, even as Maximilian "Max" Michael Brooks, 41, has become an accomplished author with nine books and graphic novels to his credit, including World War Z, which was adapted into a film last year starring Brad Pitt.
Sony Pictures bought movie rights to The Harlem Hellfighters, Brooks' latest graphic novel, and he's writing the script. Unlike his other works, this story is based on a historical event, illustrating a fictionalized account of the first all - African-American regiment to fight in the trenches of World War I, taking on a friendly fire of discrimination and hate as well.
"A lot of the characters in Harlem Hellfighters were real people, so I felt like I had a very heavy burden, a very deep obligation to be true to their story and sort of tell the story the way it should be told," Brooks professes.
An L.A. native, Brooks wrote his first short story at age 12 while on vacation with his parents, director-actor-writer Mel Brooks and actor Anne Bancroft. He was dyslexic, so reading and writing were difficult. Still, he says, he never had a doubt in his mind that he wanted to be a writer, recalling that it took just three days to complete that story, about "hunting neo-Nazis in the catacombs under Rome."
Brooks says, "People ask me, 'Is there a lot of pressure being Mel Brooks' son?' I say, 'Well, that's relative.' Evel Knievel's son has a lot of pressure. Y'know, the worst thing that happens to me is that someone says, 'You're not as funny as your dad,' and they're probably right. Robbie Knievel could die. He's got to jump over twice as many buses."
If writing isn't dangerous, Brooks' hobby is. He collects machetes - he has 30. "I collect them because I write about them," he explains. "I have to know how they feel, how they work, how they're used."
Life in Venice with wife Michelle and son Henry, 9, is idyllic. "I absolutely adore L.A., because not only is it my home but I know where all the good parts are," Brooks says. "I don't go to the tourist traps, and what's great is now that I have a son, I have been rediscovering L.A., because when I was a kid I would go out and do stuff, and then when I got older I sort of retreated into my head. And now that I have a kid, the weekends are a chance to go adventuring."
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