Saturday, May 16, 2020

Young Dr. Kildare a novel by Max Brand

Two years after publishing a short story about a young medical doctor (reviewed here), Max Brand wrote a full novel about the character.

Young Dr. Kildare was serialized in Argosy in 1938, and came out as a book in 1940. It is the beginning of the story of James Kildare. It is both a chronicle of his first days on the job and the mystery he needed to unravel to save a patient.

The novel opens with the new doctor returning to his family home in New England where his parents have prepared an office for him. They expect him to begin his practice side by side with his father, the town doctor.

But young Kildare has other plans. At first he does not discuss them for fear of disappointing his parents. He does not want to be a small-town doctor. He wants to go into a prestigious intern program at a city hospital.

One night, he tells this to a local girl he grew up with and who is in love with him. Here, the bright young doctor seems a little dense. Not only does he hurt her, but also strings her along.

In his first few days on the job, he angers the head of the hospital. He also ticks off brilliant but ornery old diagnostician, Dr. Leonard Gillespie.

Kildare’s first assignment is ambulance duty. On a call, he saves a young woman who attempted suicide. The stodgy old doctors want to confine the girl as a dangerous mental patient. But Kildare discovers she has a guilty secret. He refuses to break his word to the girl by revealing what she told him. For this, he faces dismissal from the hospital. The young doc defies everyone and goes out to investigate the true story behind the girl’s secret.

Turns out, the girl fell in with some artists, one of whom got her stoned and, she thinks, took advantage of her. This may have been hot stuff in 1938. It was evidently too hot for MGM. When the studio made the film, “Young Dr. Kildare," it eliminated the drug angle completely.

Kildare solves the mystery of what actually happened to the girl and restores his own position in the hospital. He also earns the respect of Dr. Gillespie by correctly diagnosing the old man’s cancer (and without blood tests and scans – this is one hell of a doctor). Gillespie takes Kildare on as his assistant and pupil and everyone is happy – except the girl he left behind in the little town.

All this sounds like pretty corny stuff – and it is – but Young Dr. Kildare is an enjoyable read.

There are plenty of problems with story but I will leave them all alone except one. Brand did not handle the suspense well. When Kildare receives an important clue about the girl’s secret, he does not fly into action, but mopes about for a while.

Unlike some other Max Brand books I have read, his dialogue here is not too bad and he tells his story in a light, breezy style.


  1. Probably not one I'll rush to track down, Elgin.

    1. A completely understandable reaction, Col. But stay tuned. I’ve got some hard-boiled stuff coming soon.