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.
Emma Donoghue is best known for her international best-selling novel Room, which was a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth and Orange Prizes. The story of 5-year-old Jack, who has spent his entire life within the confines of a single room with his Ma, is fierce and daring, but young Jack's pitch-perfect narration is what has given the novel such staying power.
With that unforgettable young narrator in her back pocket, Donoghue will publish her first middle grade novel, The Lotterys Plus One, with Scholastic's Arthur A. Levine imprint in February 2017. Sumac Lottery is a little girl at the heart of a big, loving family——six siblings, two moms and two dads all piled into a big Victorian house called Camelottery. It's a lovely life—but then her racist, homophobic grandfather moves in, too.
Says publisher Arthur A. Levine, "This is a tale about the unbridled joy of living in a big, loving family, and the lengths to which one creative nine year old will go when that crazy, delicate equilibrium is threatened. Only a writer with the incredible skill of Emma Donoghue could present such a vibrant bounty of personalities with perfect clarity and true heart."
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: View all our coverage of Emma Donoghue's books.
Teens already have plenty to read in preparation for the next school year, so nonrequired reading should be majorly entertaining. From big laughs to creepy thrillers, we've selected the best new YA books to keep teens reading all summer long:
Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer
Hillyer's debut is perfect for a super-lazy summer day. When four friends reunite after drifting apart for years, a novelty photobooth sends the girls back in time to their last summer at camp, where they relive those sunkissed days and get a second chance at saving what has been lost. Read more>>>
The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
Konigsberg has a knack for balancing hilarity and real emotion, and his latest novel is no exception. New Yorker Carson and his psychologist mother are spending the summer in Billings, Montana, to care for Carson’s estranged, dying father. Then he meets Aisha, gay and cast out by her own father. Add a road trip plus plenty of quirky jokes, and you've got a great summer read. Read more>>>
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Ugh, sunshine. How about something a little darker? Hardinge's new novel is a fantastic work of horror without skimping on elegant prose. When Triss awakes from an accident, she's insatiably hungry and her parents are terrified of her, and yet she can't remember what happened. Cuckoo Song has creepy dolls and changelings so horrifying it'll make your skin crawl, and then you've got a nuanced exploration of post-WWII grief. This is horror at its best. Read more>>>
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Suma consistently blows us away with her unsettling tales and gorgeous writing, and we were rewarded with everything we wanted from this ghost story. After being convicted of murdering her abusive stepfather, Amber was sent to Aurora Hills, a juvenile detention facility, where she becomes roommates with Ori. Ambitious, Julliard-bound ballerina Vee was once Ori's best friend. The unraveling of these girls' darkest secrets is shocking, suspenseful and so, so good. Read more>>>
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
In this lush romance set in the historical Persian empire of Khorasan and inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, the courageous Shahrzad volunteers to marry the Caliph of Khorasan after her best friend becomes one of his murdered brides. But it seems there's something more to the Caliph—and soon her feelings start to grow. There's so much to enjoy about this kickass heroine. Read more>>>
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Maas kicks off a new series full of faeries and curses and lusty glances. Our heroine here is a bit of a damsel, but she's got an edge to her, and nothing will stop her when love is on the line. It's much spicier than her popular Throne of Glass series, so this one will be best suited to teens ages 14 and up. Read more>>>
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Based on her award-winning webcomic, Stevenson's riotous graphic novel is set in a medieval society with both old-world magic and high-tech gadgets. Nimona wants to be the sidekick to Ballister Blackheart, “the biggest name in supervillainy.” Go ahead—bust a gut. It's hilarious. Read more>>>
Hold Me Closer by David Levithan
So you loved John Green and Levithan’s collaboration Will Grayson, Will Grayson (didn't EVERYONE?), and you were especially obsessed with the openly gay character Tiny. Now you can finally read Tiny's musical in its entirety. "Funny" doesn't even begin to describe it. Read more>>>
Undertow by Michael Buckley
Debut author Buckley serves up a major dose of action and entertainment in this sci-fi thriller set on Coney Island, renamed "Fish City" after the arrival of the Alpha, strange creatures from the ocean. Read more>>>
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
In the magical, feuding lands of Norta, Red-blooded commoners serve the Silver-blooded elite, who possess superhuman abilities. But when Red-blooded Mare discovers her own powers, the entire rigid class system is thrown into chaos. This will satisfy readers' thirst for dystopia while exceeding their expectations. Read more>>>
From Harry Potter announcements that seem to roll out weekly (this week: American Hogwarts!) to new books, it seems J.K. Rowling never stops—and we're not complaining.
Rowling's mystery-writing alter ego, Robert Galbraith, returns October 20 with the third in the Cormoran Strike series, Career of Evil, published by Mulholland Books.
Following The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm, Career of Evil finds Detective Cormoran Strike and his girl Friday, Robin Ellacott, once again tackling a clever and unexpected mystery. From the publisher:
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.
Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible—and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.
With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them . . .
Readers: If you haven't yet checked out Rowling's traditional mysteries, now is the time. Are you looking forward to this one?
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's tough to compete with swimming pools, lake days and bike rides in the sun. To keep kids reading all summer long, it's going to take a whole lot of adventure and magic. Fortunately, there are several new children's books that fit the bill:
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Ten-year-old Micah Tuttle has grown up listening to stories about the amazing Circus Mirandus, with its talking animals, invisible tigers and otherworldly performers. But when he discovers that magic is real, Micah and his new friend Jenny go in search of a miracle. “Once in a while, it’s good to be ridiculous and amazing," writes debut author Beasley. So true! Read more>>>
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This enchanting story set in the Louisiana bayou explores the world of 10-year-old Maddy as she discovers her family's magical legacy. Readers will love the novel's Southern roots and African mermaid mythology, which features a uniquely heroic mermaid. Read more>>>
Grounded by Megan Morrison
The classic Rapunzel fairy tale takes off in a fun, imaginative direction, as our naive heroine discovers her safe little world in the tower may not be all it seems. She journeys into the world of Tyme with her friends Jack and Prince Frog, and their adventures make the pages fly by. Read more>>>
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
With codes, puzzles and literary references, this one will delight young readers who may already be inclined to opt for reading over swimming. The story of 12-year-old Emily as she attempts to win the great Book Scavenger game will both challenge and entertain. Read more>>>
Woof by Spencer Quinn
In the first in a new middle grade series, Birdie and Bowser form as lovable a sleuthing team as Chet and Bernie, the stars of Quinn's best-selling adult mystery series. In their first adventure, Birdie and Bowser take on the mystery of Grammy’s mounted championship black marlin, which has gone missing. Everything's more fun with a dog! Read more>>>
Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Plucky Tabitha Crum has been invited with a group of other children to the huge, possibly haunted Hollingsworth Hall. With her mouse sidekick, Tabitha unearths the secrets of the mansion—and makes some new friends along the way. Read more>>>
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
Kids might not want to think about classes and field trips between the months of May and August, but they'll be laughing too hard to care while reading Pulitzer Prize winner Barry's hilarious novel about a school trip to the nation's capital. Read more>>>
Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith
One word to describe Smith's first novel for middle grade readers: wacky. It's all over the place—in a good way. This story of an amusement park, werewolves (possibly) and homework might not make sense to you, but kids will likely devour it. Read more>>>
Beach House by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates
This pleasant, gentle picture book captures the joys and rituals of the family beach trip, from unloading the car and prepping the house before all parading to the water, to relaxing at the end of an exciting day with a bonfire in the sand. Read more>>>
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
This deceptively simple picture book finds a little boy hesitating at the edge of the swimming pool, but as soon as he dives in, he makes a new friend. Together they explore an imaginative deep-sea world full of incredible creatures. Read more>>>
Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sís
A little boy reveals all the amazing things he has learned throughout the summer, but clearly he's been thinking about one thing above all else—ice cream! Read more>>>
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?