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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Fiction rooted in fact.
South Florida best selling author Brad Meltzer has a new book out.
He sat down with CBS4’s Rick Folbaum and told him about the incredible access he gets to real government secrets in order to tell his stories.
In their conversation, Meltzer talked about how what he’s learned applies to the suffering in Parkland.
Meltzer first showed Folbaum the jacket of his newest book, The Escape Artist.
“Do you still get excited when you see a new book hot off the press?” Folbaum asked.
“Every time,” Meltzer says. “Every time.”
Meltzer’s been writing best sellers for 20 years. His thrillers mix history and suspense, mystery and magic.
The Escape Artist features a heroine he says is his favorite character he’s ever created.
“I love that people are comparing her to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” he says, referencing the Stieg Larsson blockbuster series. “But to me she’s just Nola.”
When the reader meets Nola, she’s on a mortician’s table at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Meltzer says, “The book opens with Nola Brown and Nola’s dead. The government says she died in a plane crash. And when her hero, Zig, is putting the body to rest, he finds a hidden note in the body. And the note says, ‘Nola you were right. Keep running.’ And we realize in that moment Nola’s not dead, she’s alive, and she’s on the run.”
Meltzer learned of Dover’s mortuary while entertaining the troops on a USO tour six years ago.
He knew it was a subject he had to learn more about.
So he called them, and amazingly got unprecedented access to Dover’s staff at its mortuary operations.
Meltzer has become known as an author who uncovers secrets.
“Everyone knows that Dover is the place where our fallen soldiers are brought to rest,” Meltzer says. “What I didn’t know is that it also has the biggest cases. So when the space shuttle Challenger went down. When 9/11 happened, that’s where the Pentagon victims went. It also has anyone who’s on a top secret mission that no one’s supposed to know about. That’s where the bodies go as well. So Dover is a place that is full of secret, and I said I want to know about that place. I want to get in to that place.”
And that’s what Meltzer’s fans have come to expect.
He gets into places that others can’t. He discovers things that others haven’t.
The note found hidden in a body? The Dover staff says it happened.
“They said after 9/11 when the victims from the Pentagon came to Dover, they opened up one of the bodies and they found a note,” Meltzer recounts. “They won’t tell me what’s inside the note. I have to respect that privacy. But for the next three years I wrote my book.”
And now, as he embarks on a nation-wide book tour, he can’t help but think about events here in his native South Florida.
“I look at the destruction in Parkland and it’s devastating to me. Because I’ve studied what these parents are going through. And the one thing I know is I have no concept of that pain, and I’ve studied it for three years [while writing this book],” Meltzer adds. “The one thing the morticians taught me at Dover is when you look at the violence that a gun can do, it doesn’t hit one person, those bullets. It devastates communities. It rips through everybody involved. And we’re seeing it in our own backyard.”
Folbaum also asked him what he thinks of these kids from Parkland; how they have taken their trauma and turned it into activism on gun violence and gun policy.
“These kids are heroes. I write about heroes every day, but these kids are my heroes,” Meltzer says. “Don’t tell me that kids don’t know what they’re doing. They’re powerful and they’re passionate and that’s why they’re having the success they’re having. I hope that they keep fighting and keep fighting and keep fighting because that is the only way the world changes – when someone has that passion in their belly that says ‘I’m not stopping.’”
Meltzer’s thrillers are works of fiction, but they are grounded in history. He considers himself a historian.
“The good news is that when you bring out the worst of our country you also bring out the best of our country and that’s the way the United States has worked. Every time we go through our worst moment, you actually come out sometimes on your best moment,” Meltzer says. “I have to believe that after the sun sets you’re going to get the sunrise. After you watch something like the violence in Parkland you’re going to see, and watch how this community comes together. We want a better country, and I still believe to this day we will always, always, always rise to something better. I have to believe that.”
Meltzer will be signing copies of The Escape Artist here in South Florida on Saturday.
He’ll be at the Alvin Sherman Library on the campus of Nova Southeastern University at 2pm, and then at Books & Books in Coral Gables at 7pm.
For More information on Brad and his books, visit http://bradmeltzer.com/