Brad Meltzer is known for many things, from his popular American political thrillers to his comic books to his History Channel TV series to his efforts to promote literacy in Florida. But here at BookPage, Brad is known for writing the warmest emails of all time. And so it comes as no surprise that Brad has some really great fans, as he shares below.
I’ve never told this story. And I promise this is true.
It was over a decade ago, at the start of my career. I can’t remember what book it was for. I think Dead Even or The First Counsel, but I’m pretty sure it was my first trip to Dallas. I was at a local Barnes & Noble and since I was new at this, I made sure to get to the event early. Really early, like, so early, no one else should be there unless we’re related.
So I was surprised to see this group of four or five young men and women in their late 20s, which was about my age at the time. According to the store manager, they’d driven all the way from Oklahoma.
I couldn’t believe it. From Oklahoma . . . all the way to Texas?! With my impaired sense of geography, that had to be like, a 16 hour drive (it was actually five). But still. No one had ever driven five hours to see me sign books before. You don’t forget when someone does that.
By 7:30 or so, the signing begins. People ask questions . . . I pretend I’m funny . . . and then the actual book signing starts. At the end of the line, I notice the folks from Oklahoma. Of course they’re waiting till the end. Whoever’s at the end gets the most time with the author.
Some more time goes by. The signing slowly moves forward, and every few minutes, I keep looking up at the Oklahomans. Even from where I’m sitting, they just seem . . . nice.
Eventually, they get to the front of the line and I sign their books. It’s late now, so I ask them where they’re staying in town. They look at each other and sheepishly admit that they have to drive back tonight. As someone who grew up without much money, I get it instantly: They don’t have the cash to pay for a hotel room (and yet here they are paying full price for a hardback book). They took their entire day to come and meet me.
Now let me be clear: What I was about to do, I’d never done before. I’ve only done it two other times since. But my gut told me these were nice people. And I trust my gut. So I said, “You’re not getting back in the car and just driving for another five hours. I’m taking you all out to dinner first.”
Their reaction alone was worth it.
But here’s the part I love: As we’re all leaving the bookstore together and heading for the restaurant next door, I spot one of the sales reps from my publisher lurking in the corner, by the door.
“What’re you doing here?” I ask, genuinely surprised.
“The publisher told me to come keep an eye on you,” she joked. Noticing the small crowd, she added, “Where you headed?”
“I’m just taking these readers to dinner.”
She almost choked right there. “Wait,” she told me. “You’re taking complete strangers—who you don’t know—to dinner?” I think she gave me some warning about how strangers can potentially chop you up into little pieces. Maybe she flipped through a copy of Stephen King’s Misery. But eventually, she was like, “I gotta see this.”
Looking back, she was just protecting her author from doing something stupid. But there’s nothing stupid about being a nice person. In the end, we all went to dinner together: me, the sales rep and my new pals from Oklahoma (you know who you are).
And the best part? Since the sales rep came along, she surprised us all by picking up the check. So you know what the real lesson is? Kindness will always be rewarded. Also, dinner’s always better when the publisher pays.
On June 16th, my new book tour started in NY. Don’t think I don’t know that at each event, the publisher stills spies on me from the corner.
See you on tour.
The President's Shadow is the newest in Meltzer's Culper Ring series, following The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin. Beecher White is a member of the Culper Ring, a centuries-old secret society founded by Washington and charged with protecting the President. When an arm is found buried in the White House garden, Beecher finds himself hunting down national secrets he never could have expected.
Author photo credit Andy Ryan.
Discover more great new mysteries and thrillers during Private Eye July.
It's Private Eye July at BookPage, a month-long celebration of the year's best mysteries and thrillers (so far!). Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass, or join in on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #PrivateEyeJuly.
Don't know what to read while celebrating with us this month? We've got you covered with the ultimate 2015 Private Eye July reading guide.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
It seems Hawkins' debut is everywhere this year, with its unreliable characters, hidden motives and juicy, deadly suburban drama. Everybody's doing it. C'mon—you know you want to. (Already read it? Stay tuned for our guide for what to read next, coming soon!) Read our interview with Hawkins.
Invasion of Privacy by Christopher Reich
The Big Brother conspiracy in Reich's new cyber-thriller is wildly entertaining. We'll let you decide just how far-fetched it is. Just don't blame us if you start eyeing your iPhone with suspicion. Read our interview with Reich.
The Stranger by Harlan Coben
Think your Facebook privacy measures are strict enough? Are you sure? Paranoid readers will especially enjoy Coben's latest thriller full of blackmail and unraveling secrets. Read our review of The Stranger.
The Swede by Robert Karjel
Karjel's English-language debut introduces Ernst Grip, a Swedish cop who's been called in to determine whether or not a suspected terrorist is Swedish. (One more for the road: Swedish.) Read our review of The Swede.
The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel
And now to Denmark, for the latest from the "Queen of Crime" and her returning detective, Louise Rick. This time, Louise is investigating the death of a woman—who had apparently died 30 years before, along with her twin. Read our review of The Forgotten Girls.
The Mask by Taylor Stevens
The thrillers of Vanessa Michael Munroe are wham-bam-thankya-ma'am action, and this is one of the best so far. Read our review of The Mask.
Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman
Former FBI agent Brigid Quinn is trying to build a nice little life after Rage Against the Dying. But then a few mysterious deaths lead to a much bigger problem. Read our review of Fear the Darkness.
Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight
Following her 2013 best-selling debut, Reconstructing Amelia, McCreight dazzles with a literary mystery, after the discovery of the body of a newborn girl is found in an idyllic New Jersey town. Read our review of Where They Found Her.
The Bones of You by Debbie Howells
Debut author Howells explores a quiet English village following the brutal murder of an 18-year-old girl. This one will especially appeal to fans of The Lovely Bones. Read our review of The Bones of You.
White Crocodile by K.T. Medina
Real-life trauma in Cambodian minefields serves as the backdrop for this truly harrowing story of a woman's investigation into her abusive ex-husband's death. Go Behind the Book with Medina, and read our review.
The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill
Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler is poised to take on the most formidable task of his career: the infiltration of a pedophile ring in his hometown of Lafferton, England. Hill's latest is very dark and absolutely unforgettable. Read our review of The Soul of Discretion.
The Liar by Nora Roberts
After her husband's death, Shelby returns home to Rendezvous Ridge, Tennessee, hoping to rebuild her life—and to get something started with newcomer Griff Lott. But Shelby's husband has left behind a dangerous trail. Read our review of The Liar.
Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick
Things get real hot in this Victorian-era romance as businesswoman Ursula Kern and archaeologist and adventurer Slater Roxton team up to solve a murder. Read our review of Garden of Lies.
The Whites by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt
Price's take on the classic police procedural crime novel is set in his signature stark, gritty urban landscape, filled with fully imagined characters with pasts and passions that resonate in the present. Moral ambiguities are our favorite ambiguities. Read our review of The Whites.
Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman
With Spider Woman's Daughter, Hillerman picked up where her father, Tony, left off. With the second in her series, policewoman Bernadette Manuelito and her husband, Chee, investigate two rather unusual cases. Read our review of Rock with Wings.
All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
Two former lovers (and ex-CIA agents) meet for dinner—a tame start to what becomes an urgent unraveling of secrets. A classic noir spy story for the modern age, this may be Steinhauer's best novel to date. Read our review of All the Old Knives.
Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews
The second espionage thriller from former CIA agent Mathews is an epic international race against time for Russian agent Dominika Egorova and CIA's Nate Nash. Read our review of Palace of Treason.
Toured to Death by Hy Conrad
It starts as all fun and sun for the Amy’s Travel group as they traipse around Monte Carlo, trying to solve a fictional murder mystery—like Clue on vacation. But it appears their fictional murder is a little bit too real. Read our review of Toured to Death.
Pride v. Prejudice by Joan Hess
The 20th installment in Hess' Claire Malloy series finds the unstoppable semi-retired bookstore owner in the middle of a murder mystery—plus a whole bunch of other (entertaining) chaos. Read our review of Pride v. Prejudice.
The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich
Authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment team up as A.J. Rich to tell a smart, twisty novel of psychological suspense about a woman who discovers her (former) fiance has quite a secret life. Read our review of The Hand That Feeds You.
Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline
Scottoline takes readers into the mind of a dangerous sociopath, as a deranged patient turns a psychiatrist’s life into the stuff of nightmares. Read our review of Every Fifteen Minutes.
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
King's sequel to his 2014 bestseller Mr. Mercedes explores the nature of obsessions—and you'll definitely be obsessed. Read our review of Finders Keepers.
What are you reading during Private Eye July? Check out all of our mystery and thriller coverage for even more great reading.
It’s Private Eye July at BookPage! All month long, we’re celebrating the sinister side of fiction with the year’s best mysteries and thrillers. Look for the Private Eye July magnifying glass or the hashtag #PrivateEyeJuly for a daily dose of murder, espionage and all those creepy neighbors with even creepier secrets.
Just a few things to look forward to this month:
Be sure to check out all of this year's coverage of mysteries and thrillers, and check back in for new goodies all month long.
Rick Hoffman has fallen on hard times—he's lost his fiancée and his job, and his only option is to move into his parents' decrepit old home. But then he finds a huge pile of cash hidden in the walls of the house. His elderly father, Leonard, is still alive, but he's in a nursing home and unable to communicate, so no help there. Rick was formerly an investigative journalist, so the mystery of the cash and how it got there—and what his father knows about it—gets his full attention.
The newest from Finder is an absolute page-turner, a fast and entertaining read.
"Let's see your hands, Dad." He took hold of Len's left hand and began to clip his father's thick grooved nails, and Brenda drifted out of the room.
Rick clipped slowly. His father held out each hand, one at a time. It felt oddly intimate. It was like taking care of a small child. He thought about how everything sooner or later comes back around. He realized with a jolt that his eyes had teared up.
He stopped clipping. "Jeff and I were doing some exploratory demolition," he said quietly, "and we opened up the wall next to your study, at the back of the closet." Len's mouth was frozen in that haughty expression, but his watery eyes seemed anxious. They followed Rick's. "There was money back there. A huge amount of money. Millions of dollars. How did it get there, any idea?" Rick swallowed, waited. "Is it yours?"
Len's restless eyes came to a stop, looked directly into Rick's.
The old man's eyes bore into his. Then he began to blink rapidly, three or four times. Nervously, maybe.
What are you reading?
It seems the reading world can't get enough of these psychological thrillers starring deceptive, unreliable female characters. Knight plays with our allegiances in this juicy domestic noir, already in the works to become a film with 20th Century Fox. Her debut tells the story of Catherine, a successful documentary filmmaker who receives a manuscript that describes in excruciating detail a day from her life she has tried so hard to forget. And at the end of the manuscript, Catherine's character dies. In alternating chapters, readers meet Stephen Brigstocke, who knows Catherine's secret all too well.
She tries to dislodge it with thoughts of the previous evening, before she picked up the book. The contentment of settling into their new home: of wine and supper; curling up on the sofa; dozing in front of the TV and then she and Robert melting into bed. A quiet happiness she had taken for granted: but it is too quiet to bring her comfort. She cannot sleep so she gets out of bed and goes downstairs.
They still have a downstairs, just about. A maisonette, not a house anymore. They moved from the house three weeks ago. Two bedrooms now, not four. Two bedrooms are a better fit for her and Robert. One for them. One spare. They've gone for open plan too. No doors. They don't need to shut doors now Nicholas has left. She turns on the kitchen light and takes a glass from the cupboard and fills it. No tap. Cool water on command from the new fridge. It's more like a wardrobe than a fridge. Dread slicks her palms with sweat. She is hot, almost feverish, and is thankful for the coolness of the newly laid limestone floor. The water helps a little. As she gulps it down she looks out of the vast glass windows running along the back of this new, alien home. Only black out there. Nothing to see. She hasn't got round to blinds yet. She is exposed. Looked at. They can see her, but she can't see them.
What are you reading today?
Debut novelist Catie Disabato "picks up" where her mentor left off in this faux-journalistic novel about two disappearances, one a Lady Gaga-esque pop star and the other music journalist Cait Taer. Multilayered doesn't begin to describe this tale packed with footnotes, commentary from Disabato, explorations into philosophy and history and the investigation itself, which includes secret notebooks, interviews and more. As complicated as all this sounds, Disabato is a clever guide and will charm readers hoping for something wholly original.
After Molly disappeared, a few kooks came out of the woodwork to offer elaborate explanations. A popular Illuminati conspiracy theory website called The Vigilant Citizen weighed in with their particular brand of insanity. On August 12, 2009, the website published a long article called "Molly Metropolis: An Illuminati Puppet," which claimed Molly was a mind-controlled puppet and every time she posed for a picture with her hair over her eye (which, admittedly, happend a lot in her early press photos and the music videos for her Cause Célèbrety singles) she was making herself into the symbol for the All-Seeing Eye. The Vigilant Citizen wrote: "Those who have passed the 101 of Illuminati symbolism know that the All-Seeing Eye is probablyits most recognizable symbol."
According to The Vigilant Citizen, Molly Metropolis disappeared because her "Delta" or "killer" programming had been activated and she completed her "final Illuminati opersation," then vanished to hide the evidence of her actions.* With the story, The Vigilant Citizen ran an early publicity photo with Molly dressed in a black t-shirt with a deep v-neck; she holds the back of her hand up to her left eye to reveal the tattoo of an eye inside a triangle Molly has on her palm. Needless to say, the police never investigated "Delta programming/evil Illuminati mission" as a possible explanation for her disappearance.
What are you reading today?
The 2015 Edgar Awards, honoring the best mysteries and thrillers and presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America, have been announced! Several of our favorites earned nods:
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Scribner)
BEST FIRST NOVEL:
Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman (Norton)
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL:
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin)
BEST FACT CRIME:
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
by William J. Mann (Harper)
Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe by J.W. Ocker (Countryman)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion)
BEST YOUNG ADULT:
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin)
MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD:
The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Minotaur)
Did your favorites win?
British noir author Ted Lewis (1940-1982) is best known for his 1970 novel Jack’s Return Home, later renamed Carter and then adapted to film by Mike Hodges as Get Carter, starring Michael Caine. Lewis' nine crime novels were brutal, unflinching in their depiction of the British underworld and set a new standard for hardboiled British thrillers. His final novel, GBH, is now available in North America for the first time. It tells the story of George Fowler from two periods of time: the first in George's past, when he reigned over a hardcore porn empire; the second in the present, when George is in hiding in a small English seaside town for some mysterious reason.
At the time of GBH's original publication in 1980, Lewis' literary career was plummeting, so it's not surprising that his final novel would go overlooked by many readers. But GBH is often considered to be Lewis' masterpiece, even better than his famous Jack's Return Home.
Consider a man like me and love. A butcher loves. He slits an animal's throat and dismembers it and washes the blood from his skin and goes home and goes to bed with his wife and makes her cry out in passion. The man who made it necessary to rebuild Hiroshima loved and was loved back, and I don't necessarily mean the pilot or the man who activated the bomb doors. Whoever left the bomb at the Abercorn rooms would comfort his child if it came into the house with a grazed knee. Everyone loves. Everyone considers things, considers themselves. And I considered why it came to be that Jean should be the one, as opposed to anyone else. And like everyone else, I could compile a list of things that added up to my obsession, and as with everyone else, it just remained a list; the final total defied the simple process of addition.
Her husband couldn't have timed his return from California any better. A couple of days after we'd made love for the first time. For a week I didn't see her; I waited for her to get in touch with me. When she did, she suggested we have lunch together; it was going to be one of those meetings.
What are you reading?
Nancy Atherton didn't intend to start a mystery series when she wrote her first book, Aunt Dimity's Death, and she certainly didn't intend to forever change cozy mysteries by creating the original paranormal detective. But she did! And with the publication of Aunt Dimity and the Summer King, Atherton marks the 20th book in her beloved series.
Twenty books? I’ve written 20 books? Are you serious? I guess you are, because Aunt Dimity and the Summer King is indeed the 20th title in a mystery series I began writing more than 20 years ago.
Aunt Dimity has been around longer than Netflix, Google, Facebook and some of you. The fact that she’s still alive and kicking (so to speak) in a brand-new story is nothing short of miraculous. Not in a million years could I have predicted that my first book would lead to my 20th.
When I wrote my first book, Aunt Dimity's Death, I didn’t think it had a snowball’s chance of being published. At the time, there was no known market for a nonviolent, non-vulgar novel that was sort of a mystery and sort of a love story, with a supernatural element, some gardening, a bit of military history, a pink flannel bunny and a recipe thrown in because, what the heck, why not? The plot couldn’t be summarized in a simple catchphrase, and the story didn’t fit neatly into an established genre. It was a very strange little book—a marketing nightmare!—and I was absolutely convinced that it would remain forever in a box on a shelf in my closet, unseen by any eyes but mine.
And I was OK with that. I hadn’t written Aunt Dimity's Death in order to see my name in print. I wrote it because the first two lines of the story popped into my head one evening, and I simply had to find out what they meant. If there’s one trait I share with my characters, it’s a burning desire to get to the bottom of things.
I didn’t stop to write an outline, and it never occurred to me to do market research. I just hopped, skipped and jumped my way through the book like a kid on a treasure hunt. I never knew what would happen next, and I loved the excitement of not knowing. I wrote to please no one but my characters and myself, and when I finished the first draft, I knew for certain that it would never be read by anyone but me.
I’ve seldom been so happy to be wrong. To my utter astonishment, Aunt Dimity's Death found a great publisher as well as a loyal and highly enthusiastic family of fans. Best of all, it contained a snippet of dialogue that inspired me to write my second book. I hadn’t intended to write a series, but my characters insisted that I stick around to tell more of their tales, and I’m exceedingly glad they did. It has been a privilege to watch them grow and change over time. It has been a pleasure to share in their continuing adventures.
Not in a million years could I have foreseen the long and joyful journey that would spring from the opening lines of Aunt Dimity's Death. I never dreamed that my strange little book would lead to a series that’s still going strong two decades after its most unlikely birth. I hope you’ll join me in a toast to my 20th title. And I hope you enjoy Aunt Dimity and the Summer King. As for me, I'm off to work on number 21. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
Nancy Atherton is the best-selling author of 20 Aunt Dimity mysteries, including the latest installment, Aunt Dimity and the Summer King (Viking; on sale April 14, 2015). The first book in the series, Aunt Dimity’s Death, was voted “One of the Century’s 100 Favorite Mysteries” by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. Atherton lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Author photo credit Grey Taylor.
Maybe we're excited about baseball season because opening day feels like a better beginning of spring than the actual equinox on March 20 (I mean, it was snowing in NYC). Maybe it's because our local minor-league team, the Nashville Sounds, is getting a brand-new stadium. Whatever the reason, we're excited. Our April issue includes a selection of stellar nonfiction baseball books, but every year we also enjoy a steady stream of baseball novels.
Leslie Dana Kirby has just published her debut novel, The Perfect Game, a psychological suspense that explores the murder of the wife of a professional baseball superstar. In this guest blog post, she digs into baseball as an interesting background for books:
Ahhh, spring. Longer days, warmer weather for reading good books poolside . . . and opening day of baseball season.
As a resident of Phoenix, I have already been enjoying a month of baseball as rabid fans stream in from all over the country to attend spring training games. And as the official opening date of the professional baseball season was April 5, this is a great time of year to crack open some books with baseball themes.
As a kid, I really enjoyed In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord, a charming book about Shirley Temple Wong, a young girl who immigrates to Brooklyn from China. As she struggles to assimilate, she finds herself inspired by Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson, who is proving that minorities can live their dreams in the United States.
While I was reading about Shirley Temple Wong, my older brother fell in love with Ball Four, an expose by pitcher Jim Bouton, which peeled back the curtain on professional baseball. When it was first published in 1970, it created a firestorm of controversy and was banned by some libraries. By 1999, it was being hailed by the New York Public Library and Time magazine as one of the most important works of nonfiction of the 20th century.
My first novel, The Perfect Game, is set against the backdrop of professional baseball. My protagonist, Lauren Rose, is devastated when her older sister and only sibling, Liz, is murdered. It’s a tragedy that is compounded by the fact that Liz was married to professional baseball pitcher Jake Wakefield. Jake’s fame quickly attracts a national spotlight to the murder and the ensuing investigation.
Why does baseball create an interesting setting for books? Perhaps it is because the topic takes many of us back to lazy summer days of enjoying peanuts and cracker jacks. Others relish the opportunity to get a glimpse into the glitzy and glamorous lives of professional baseball players. And the truly hardcore fans might be looking for a way to combine their love of the game with the joy of reading.
The slow pace of baseball play also allows time for reflection between plays. For baseball fans, that allows times for thinking about the possible implications of a hit or a fly ball. For authors, this allows time to discuss the reaction of the players or the spectators in between the action.
Additionally, baseball allows for reflection on individual performance more than most sports. For example, in my book, Jake pitches a perfect game, a tremendous achievement for a baseball pitcher. While other athletes might excel in a game, it isn’t really feasible for players in other sports, such as quarterbacks or basketball point guards, to accomplish a “perfect” outing.
Overall, I think for most of us, baseball represents the quintessential experience of long, relaxing days spent rooting on our favorite teams. So in between pitches in the next game of your favorite MLB team, consider reading some of these other popular books that feature the all-American sport:
I hope that one of these, or some other baseball book that you pick up this summer, might be a grand slam for you!
Thanks, Leslie! Readers, The Perfect Game is now available from Poisoned Pen Press.