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Max Brooks | Biography

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Born in New York City on May 22, 1972, Maximilian Michael Brooks is the son of celebrated filmmaker, actor, and comedian Mel Brooks and award-winning actress Anne Bancroft. Brooks studied history and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Pitzer College and later studied film at American University. He has written for television (notably, for Saturday Night Live) and film as well as taken various acting and voice-acting roles. Brooks is best known, however, as a horror writer and an authority on all matters zombie. He has been called "the Studs Terkel of zombie journalism."

In interviews, Brooks has said that a traumatic incident during his childhood led to his lifelong fascination with the living dead. However, since he often speaks in the persona of a zombie historian during interviews and has refused to give details about the incident, it's hard to say whether he's referring to an actual experience. In an October 30, 2003, Washington Post forum on The Zombie Survival Guide (2003), for example, he answered a reader's question and then added, "I'm glad you liked the book. I hope you never have to use it." His website similarly maintains the persona, and his author's page at Amazon mentions he lives in New York City but is ready "to move to a more remote and defensible location at a moment's notice."

The success of World War Z led to its adaptation in 2013 to a movie of the same name, based on a shared premise but with a more traditional narrative, a clear protagonist, and supernaturally speedy zombies. In an interview with PBS, Brooks described it as "a really interesting movie that just happened to have the same title as a book I once wrote." The unabridged audiobook (2013) won an Audie in 2014 and features a star-studded cast of names that, as Brooks said in an interview for Library Journal, "were very important to me, that I had grown up listening to."

Brooks's interest in zombies continues in additional works, including The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, illustrated by Ibraim Roberson (2009), and a multivolume work, The Extinction Parade (Vol. 1 2013), illustrated by Raulo Caceres, in which vampires come to the defense of humans against the undead. In contrast Brooks's script The Harlem Hellfighters (2014), illustrated by Caanan White, tells the story of an actual World War I African American unit but incorporates themes important to World War Z such as the enemy within, destruction, and survival.

Brooks continues to write and to speak publicly about dyslexia, which caused him anxiety when he was a young student. He and his wife, journalist and playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks, have one child.

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