Thursday, January 3, 2008

"Internes Can't Take Money" by Max Brand (from The Collected Stories of Max Brand)

Say the name Max Brand and people generally think Western. But this prolific writer from the pulp era dabbled in many genres, from spy stories to fantasy and even poetry (the work he saw as his true calling).

Brand even created the character of Dr. Jimmy Kildare, featured in over a dozen movies and two television series. The Collected Stories of Max Brand showcases mainly his non-Western work to great effect, including the first Kildare tale, "Internes Can't Take Money" (published in Cosmopolitan of all places in 1936).

Crime fans will likely enjoy this first foray into the medical drama, since it is contains a touch of the noir. Internist Jimmy Kildare gets involved in a Damon Runyon–esque (only without as much humor) cadre of criminal types in a situation that eventually folds in on itself in a manner more than somewhat reminiscent of O. Henry but still very satisfying.

Throughout, as Kildare is patching up various gunshot wounds and the like, he stays true to his calling and never accepts a dime for his work — until a friend of his desperately needs money. Then he is more than willing to accept the cash.

Though "Internes Can't Take Money" is not a great story, it is highly entertaining and, more importantly, inspired a film the next year (starring Joel McCrea) that eventually gave rise to the series (movie, radio, and TV) that would make the now-surprising idea of a good doctor who is also ethical into a pop-culture icon. The character also made its author a very rich man. And it all started with this story.

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