Talking zombies and shadows with author Max Brooks

Max Brooks has escaped his father’s shadow. Now he just needs to get rid of his own.
Photo: Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be Mel Brooks; I wanted to be Tom Clancy. I knew it back then, and I knew it through junior high and high school. Now that I’ve achieved that, the issue is to stay true to what I want, instead of trying to capture commercial success.

Has the changing face of the book industry affected you at all?

I really can’t let that affect how I write. If I have a story and want to just do it, I can’t sit down and wonder about what the marketplace will accept.

So what’s the current state of books?

I like them; I read them. I think people are going to continue to read, but in what format, I have no idea.


An Evening with Max Brooks
November 3, 7-9:30 p.m., free.
Clark County Library, 507-3459
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Do you have a Kindle?

I don’t use them, because my books don’t break. I like to have them on my bookshelf, take them out, use them. I like to see a copy of Red Storm Rising and know when I bought it. My father gave me an old leather-bound copy of Walden, which I don’t read because I don’t want to damage it, but I went out and bought a paperback version. I love how people are reading my Zombie Survival Guide on a Kindle: Why read a survival guide on something that needs batteries?

What got you interested in zombies?

I’ve always been scared of them, of the notion that there’s no safe place to run to. It’s an apocalyptic threat as opposed to an individual threat. Just the notion that it’s global. When I saw the 1978 Dawn of the Dead, and they escaped by helicopter, and you think they’re safe, and then they look down and say, “Jesus, it’s everywhere.” It’s like a serial killer versus an earthquake. One serial killer is scary if you’re the intended target, but an earthquake devastates a whole city, a whole state. That’s exactly like a zombie outbreak.

Are you branching into other aspects of horror?

I’ve got three projects coming out, and two of them have nothing to do with zombies or horror. One is a graphic novel dealing with a true story from World War I. I’m a history nerd. World War Z was based on historical events. I made nothing up. History is a subject I’ll always be fascinated by. I like true stories or fictional stories that take place in a historical setting.

Do you feel you’ve been pigeonholed as “the zombie guy”?

It’s funny, I spent years trying to get out from my father’s shadow, and now I’m under my own. But I don’t mind being pigeonholed for this, because at least it’s something I love.

Do you think the zombie craze is starting to wane a bit?

Not at all. People are insatiable for anything zombie. I never could have predicted that. I think it’s that we’re living in uncertain times, and as long as we have that anxiety, zombie movies will be popular.

What would your zombie movie character be?

I’d be the slow, flesh-eating, George Romero-type, not the running, Twitter zombie, where you have to kill within a certain amount of characters. Everything these days has to be fast and exciting. I’m much more scared by slow and suspenseful.

What do you think of AMC’s The Walking Dead?

I think it’s great, but I’m not watching the second season, because [executive producer] Frank Darabont [who was fired from the show] is a friend of mine. If they had done something like that to me, I don’t know if I’d want my friends watching the show that fired me.

What’s your relationship with your father like?

Every child of someone successful spent time trying to make a name for themself. Now the issue is I’m exactly where my father is. We’re both pigeonholed, and if we want to do something different we have to take our names off of it. Like he had to take his name off The Elephant Man and The Fly. That’s the biggest lesson my father taught me: The public’s expectations are not something to ignore. You’ve got to know how to deal with that. That’s a big deal.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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