During the past week, we've gotten updates from best-selling novelist Brad Meltzer about his release in paperback of The Book of Lies, as well as a status report on his drive to save the home of Jerry Siegel, half of the team that created Superman.
Today we follow-up up with the writer on some of the other projects he's got lined up, as well as getting into a few more details about story in The Book of Lies.
First up, as Meltzer mentioned in our earlier discussion, the new paperback release of Book of Lies will have an advertisement in the back for the writer's next comic book: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8. The ad was a trade with Buffy publisher Dark Horse Comics because the company included the first chapter of The Book of Lies in the Buffy comic last September.
"So this is just -- using my scary movie trailer voice -- payback!" Meltzer said. "The ad is focused on my upcoming stint on Buffy, so the goal is to hopefully tell some of the novel readers about other projects I'm working on."
Fans may remember that Meltzer did something similar with The Book of Fate, which included an advertisement for the writer's run on Justice League of America for DC Comics.
"You'd be surprised how many people emailed and Facebooked and said, 'I didn't realize you wrote comics,'" he said. "So the goal, as always, is just to hopefully grow that group and bring them in."
Another promotion that Meltzer is doing for the paperback release is a collaboration with the Freemasons. For Meltzer readers, it's easy to understand where he hooked up with that organization, since their organization was a focus of his best-selling novel The Book of Fate.
"I love those guys," Meltzer said, "and after The Book of Fate, we connected in that Mork/Orson way and they started pointing out all these Freemason things that had been running through my books without me knowing it. Was wild. And so, we're launching a geocaching puzzle."
Geocaching, the writer explained, is a high-tech treasure hunt played throughout the world by people armed with GPS devices. The basic idea is to solve puzzles and locate hidden containers, called geocaches, that are buried all over. The Book of Lies geocach is a series of 11 caches in the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia area that are based on The Book of Lies.
"I'm not saying any more, but if you're in (or plan to be in) Washington, D.C., Maryland, or Virginia, go to www.bradmeltzer.com and get ready to dig," he said. "We hid the stuff but good."
As for the story in The Book of Lies, for those who have read the novel and other stories by Meltzer, it's hard not to notice that tortured father-son relationships can be traced through everything from his Identity Crisis story to The Book of Lies. So we jokingly asked if the writer had listened to a lot of Bruce Springsteen as a kid -- and bingo, it turns out he had.
"The very first CD box set I ever got, and the very first CD I bought for myself -- I had to save for a month -- was the Springsteen Live 1975-85 set," Meltzer said.
But those father-son issues were already long built into him before Bruce came along, the writer said.
"When I was 13 years old, my father lost his job and moved us from Brooklyn to Florida. He called it the do-over of life," Meltzer explained. "He was 40 years old, had two kids, no job, no place to live, and barely $1,200 to his name. Once we got to Florida, we couldn’t afford babysitters, so we’d go on the job interviews with my Dad. I still remember sitting in a Wendy’s while he was being interviewed for an insurance job — we had to pretend we didn’t know him, and all I could think was, 'I can’t believe my life is being decided in a fast food joint.'
"From there, my parents used a fake address to get me into the good local public school, and it was there I first started thinking about college. Seeing all those rich kids, and their cars and houses, and how little they appreciated it all...that made a mark in me. It made me hungry, and it gave me my most leaned-on, overused point-of-view: as an outsider. I’ve never been part of the in-crowd," he said. "And I never want to be (except on my weakest days). But in that mix of mess that built my life, all the blame and credit began with those poorly planned decisions by my father. It’s an easy joke, but I’ve been writing books to deal with it since. And let's be honest, as a comic fan first, there's only one real Bruce in my life.
"But yes," Meltzer admitted, "this was the first book where I was determined to be truly honest about those issues."
And as the writer has discussed with us before, one of the two murders on which The Book of Lies focuses -- the murder of Jerry Siegel's father -- was something he discovered at a book signing in Florida, and that led to not only the premise of the book, but the visit to the Siegel home.
"I think I first read about it in Gerard Jones's book, but it was barely a paragraph or so," he said of the Siegel story. "The real moment for me was when an old woman came to one of my signings and said, 'I know more about Superman that you'll ever know.' I thought, 'There's no way you know more than me, lady.' And then she says, 'I do. Because Jerry Siegel is my uncle.' And she's the one who invited me into the family and first told me the story of the murder."
When Meltzer started to consider that murder as part of his next novel, he wondered if he was doing right by the Siegel family.
"I was terrified of doing right by them," he said. "And doing right by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Those families -- those men -- have been through enough. They didn't need more headache from me. But halfway through the process, I can't tell you the eureka moment that it happened, but it slowly became clear that they had even less information than I had.
"Jerry Siegel was an amazing storyteller. But when it came to his father, he kept those stories to himself," the writer explained. "So as the research went forward, I was determined to (to the best of my ability) help this family find their history. Sure, the novel takes its own creative leaps. But finding the Siegel's real name. Finding the rest of the family in Lithuania. Finding the death certificate and all the other supporting documents. Even finding the current family... Laura Siegel became a friend who I treasure and I'll never forget her saying to me, 'In all the years people have written about my dad, you're the first one to actually come and speak with us.' That was just so sad to me.
"So the goal shifted from protecting their history to actually finding and uncovering it," Meltzer said. "To this day, although people (and the family itself) can forever argue over whether Mitchell Siegel was shot or had that heart attack, I'm just proud that we let people definitively know that Jerry Siegel's father died during a crime. That is a part of American pop culture history."
Meltzer said he researched a lot about the murder, including speaking to the FBI about whether ballistic reports would still be in the system. "[They] told me where they would be and who had the deepest ballistic records, especially military ones," Meltzer explained. "But putting it at the fingertips of a few keystrokes? I don't do the full Bruckheimer with the snazzy visuals, but fiction for sure."
For those who have read the book, Meltzer said the faux-Shuster artwork that was used for clues in The Book of Lies was by Mark Lewis. "He's a brilliant animator," Meltzer said. "I was introduced to him by Eric Wight, who told me he could do the best Shuster art of anyone he knew. So once the puzzle was designed, Mark took over and made it beautifully Shustery."
The sequence in the book where everyone is trying to suss out what was going on based on small drawings from 80 years ago is one of the more memorable scenes in The Book of Lies, and Meltzer said he tends to like putting ordinary people in those types of situations.
"Some people are great at writing the lantern-jawed hero who can do anything," Meltzer said. "Some write the confident, cocky asshole rogue smartmouth who everyone swoons for. I don't write those people. Because for me, those people don't exist. Or if they did, I'd hate them and they'd hate me. For me, the best battles are the ones we fight within ourselves."