‘Pandemics Come in Predictable Cycles. If I’m the Smartest Guy in the Room, We’re in Big Trouble’ [Hadley Freeman/The Guardian]

Remarkable profile of Max Brooks, a leading authority on global disasters (such as pandemics), bestselling author of thriller/horror novels such as “World War Z” (which fictionalized real lessons about responding to global disasters, such as pandemics), and the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.

Brooks is not anyone’s image of a Hollywood brat. Yes, his parents had famous friends: Reiner, Van Dyke, Gene Wilder. But when they would all meet up on Sundays, they tended to talk about whether anyone had found a good dentist in Los Angeles, and who knew of a decent car mechanic. “They were all immigrants to this town – they were trying to figure out how to live,” Brooks says. The family was comfortable, but his father drove him to school in a Honda Accord 1982 (“best car ever”) because, he told his son: “It’s OK to make your fortune. But don’t drive your fortune past people who are starving.” His dad may have written the line, “If you got it, flaunt it”, for The Producers, but that was very much not how he lived. “Both my parents came from poverty and most people who are first-generation wealth always worry they’re going to lose their money, because they’re not really sure where it came from,” says Brooks. His father lives close by in Santa Monica and, until the virus started, he would come to Brooks’s house every evening before heading off for his nightly dinner with his best friend, Carl Reiner. These days, Brooks and his son go to his father’s house and wave at him through the glass door, just as he did in the video.

Brooks has his mother’s dark Italian colouring and his father’s features as well as his wit. (When I ask if he liked the 2013 movie adaptation of World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, he replies: “thought it was a really cool movie that happened to have the same title of a book I once wrote.”) He credits his love of science and research to his mother: “In show business they only ever want one flavour and everyone just wanted her to be sexy Mrs Robinson. Nobody cared that her favourite book was about microbes – but I did. Everything I am comes from her,”he says.

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner