Fans of Brad Meltzer’s work have gotten used to the cycle – he’ll work on a novel for a year or two, and then come back to comics for a project, then another novel, and then some more comics. With his new novel, The Book of Lies, coming out in September, Meltzer is getting the chance to merge his two worlds.
Lies will focus on two murders – that of Abel in Chapter 4 of the Book of Genesis, and also on the murder of Mitchell Siegel, father of the young Jerry Siegel – one of the two boys who created Superman.
“The pitch goes like this,” Meltzer says. “In chapter 4 of Genesis, Cain kills Abel. It is arguably the world’s most famous murder, but the Bible is silent about one key detail – the weapon which Cain used to kill his brother. And that weapon is lost to this day.
“In 1932, a man named Mitchell Siegel is shot in the chest and killed. While mourning the death of his father, his young son comes up with the idea for a bulletproof man that he nicknames Superman. The murder weapon from that murder is also lost to this day. So the question is, what do these two murders, thousands of years apart possibly have to do with each other? The answer you will see is in The Book of Lies, which comes out in September.”
The roots of the new novel’s story obviously reach into Meltzer’s lifetime love of comics, but they took on new life relatively recently, thanks to a Sarasota, FL book signing.
“I was at a signing in the middle of Florida, and, as I do at every signing, I was waxing on about my love of comics, and this sweet old woman raises her hand and says, “I know Jerry Siegel,” and I think to myself when you’re sitting in hot, Sarasota, Florida, there is no way that any woman who is at a bookstore and raises her hand and says that is going to tell me more about Jerry Siegel than I know about him myself.”
Meltzer was surprised to find out he was wrong. Very wrong.
“The lovely woman tells me that Jerry was her first cousin, she knows the whole family, she grew up in the house with the family, and my mouth dropped open. I cornered her after that, got her phone number, and everything started. I always wear my love for them on my sleeve, and will talk about them to anyone who will listen, and just happened to be in front of the right person. So for the past two years, I’ve been researching the murder of Mitchell Siegel and I won’t say much more about it, but needless to say, it has become an obsession for me.”
As a result of his work, Metlzer’s come to a conclusion about the murder of Jerry Siegel’s father: “People don’t know the story,” the writer says. “They really don’t. That’s the most amazing part – here’s arguably one of the greatest heroes ever created, and we don’t know why we got him.”
Of course, the research included several trips to Cleveland, where Mitchell and his family lived. Actually, some of Meltzer’s trips made news as Newsarama’s Mike San Giacomo dropped his name here and there as one of the many comic folk he’d taken on the tour of “Jerry Siegel’s Cleveland,” which includes the house in which Jerry grew up.
As regular Newsarama readers know, Cleveland will be holding a “Summer of Superman” this year, in honor of the 70th Anniversary of Superman’s creation. Again, San Giacomo named-dropped Meltzer, this time as someone who would be helping in the restoration and preservation efforts of the house.
“I knew what I was doing when I went into the house, and I knew what role the attic was going to play when we went there,” Meltzer recalls of a research trip to the house, “But when I saw the shape that it was in – new wheels started spinning in my head. So one of the things that we’re going to do is try and save this house. This is an American landmark. It deserves better than what its received. This is something that I take very seriously – they went in and saved the house where the founders of Google came up with it. That pales in comparison to this.”