|Brad Meltzer’s “Book of Lies,” on sale now.|
In Chapter 4 of the Bible, Cain kills Abel. But the Bible is silent about the weapon Cain used to kill his brother. That weapon is still lost to history.
In 1932, Mitchell Siegel was killed by three gunshots to his chest. While mourning, his son created the world’s greatest hero: Superman. And like Cain’s murder weapon, the gun used in this unsolved murder has never been found. Until now.
What do these two murders, committed thousands of years apart, have in common?
Following his critically acclaimed run on the relaunch of DC’s “Justice League of America,” Meltzer set to work on a book he has been thinking about as long as he can remember.
“Last night, my wife told me that she thought this book was inevitable for me,” Meltzer told CBR News. “And that’s the perfect word. Inevitable. It’s my love of comics, my love of mysteries, my love of research and history. And come on, we’re a country founded on our own legends and myths, and in this election year, where everyone is pushing hope, what’s crazy to me is that we still don’t know which of these myths are real.”
But does it even matter if these myths are real? Meltzer explained that more importantly, these myths tell us about ourselves.
“It’s all about expectations. Cain is known as one of the world’s worst villains, but when you look at the actual translations, maybe he’s not the bad guy in the story. And why did the world get Superman? Because a little boy named Jerry Siegel heard his father died in a crime and, in grief, created the world’s greatest crime fighter,” offered Meltzer. “These stories — about Cain and Abel, about Superman — are not just folklore. They’re stories about us. Our heroes and villains tell us who we are. And sometimes we need to find the truth, even if it means revealing our own vulnerabilities.”
Over the years, Meltzer has interviewed the who’s who of America’s political arena while researching his books. But never was he been more nervous than when he met the widow of Jerry Siegel, Joanne, who served as the inspiration for Lois Lane.
“I’ve met Bill Clinton, former President Bush, lots of Senators and namedrop, namedrop, namedrop. But I was never more scared than when I called Jerry Siegel’s wife – except the one time I called Alan Moore. Namedrop,” said the Columbia Law School graduate, who interviewed America’s last two presidents for his 2006 novel, “The Book of Fate.” “But back to the Siegels, his daughter told me that in all the years that people have written about the Siegels, I’m the first one to actually call and speak with all of them. That’s just sad to me.”
Meltzer thanked Grant Morrison (“All Star Superman”) and Geoff Johns (“Action Comics”) – his “Final Crisis” collaborators – in the book’s acknowledgments for ‘feeding’ his Cain fascination.
He also expressed his gratitude to living legends Stan Lee, Paul Levitz and Jerry Robinson for “so much more than comic book lore.”
Asked what, if any, feedback he has received from his comic book brethren, Meltzer quipped, “Geoff just started it and others just got it. I think a lot of them are balancing their couches with it.”
Meltzer also enlisted the services of Brian K. Vaughan (“Ex Machina”), Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8”) and Damon Lindelof (“Lost”) to create arguably the coolest trailer for a book in the history of publishing.
“My publisher showed me all these so-called ‘book trailers.’ And all of them simply had Mr. Scary Voice Guy reading the back of the book jacket in his Mr. Scary Voice. And I was like, ‘Can’t we invest people in the story? Can’t we introduce some suspense?’ It sounds so pretentious, but I thought, we need to try and change how books are sold. So I started writing my first little independent film. And like any independent film, I just called in some friends,” said Meltzer.
And why stop at a trailer? “The Book of Lies” also boasts a soundtrack.
“Does a book really need a soundtrack? No. And neither does a movie or a TV show. But when you pull on those manipulative strings that music tugs on, you sometimes get something that’s just mesmerizing,” offered Meltzer. “And so we built a soundtrack. Sony Music had someone score the key chapters of the book — they sent me the songs — and I rejected most of them. Then we fought and pulled each other’s hair and finally settled on songs that truly evoked the mood of the novel. You can go to a certain chapter, hit ‘play,’ and read along with music that I believe perfectly represents that chapter. And that’s cool to me. Plus, I got to call Stephen J. Cannell and ask him if we could use ‘The Greatest American Hero’ theme.”
Beyond creating yet another incredible work of fiction, writing “The Book of Lies,” inspired Meltzer to give something back too.
That something is “the very best thing he has ever done with his books.”
While researching “The Book of Lies,” Meltzer visited the house where Superman was created in Glenville, Ohio.
What he found shocked him. And now he won’t rest until it’s right.
“I expected to find a house out of a Norman Rockwell painting. This was the actual house where Superman was born, where young Jerry Siegel sat in his bed and stared at the ceiling as he gave birth to the idea. But the place is a mess,” explained Meltzer. “The house where Google was created is saved. But Superman’s is a wreck. It’s actually a great old house, painted bright red and blue, and it’s in one of Cleveland’s worst neighborhoods.
“When you walk inside, you feel like your foot might go through the floor. The roof is bad. The paint is peeling. When you look up at the ceiling, you see the exposed rafters overhead. And the nice family that lives there doesn’t have the resources to fix it themselves. The owners there told me that the city of Cleveland wouldn’t even give them a plaque to say Superman was born there. I knew if we didn’t do something soon, the house wouldn’t exist anymore, like Joe Shuster’s, which was torn down.
“To that end, I and so many others have been working with the city of Glenville to save the house through the charity called the Siegel & Shuster Society. You can see the results at www.OrdinaryPeopleChangeTheWorld.com.
For more on this initiative, check out this story.
Brad Meltzer Bibliography
“The Tenth Justice”
“The First Counsel”
“The Zero Game”
“The Book of Fate”
“Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest”
“Justice League of America: The Tornado’s Path”
“Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga”
“Final Crisis: Last Will and Testament”