The Boston Globe
Catching a code
September 4, 2006
Brad Meltzer has written best-selling novels, comic books, and a TV series. So what does the former attorney and ex-Bostonian do for an encore? He spends a few days with former presidents Bush and Clinton, and then spends time researching an alleged Masonic code that is supposed to be hidden in the buildings and streets of Washington, D.C. The result is ``The Book of Fate," a brilliant thriller that hits bookstores tomorrow. (Meltzer will read from the book Sept. 20 at Brookline Booksmith.)
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
A: I got a letter from former President Bush saying he liked one of my novels. And whatever your politics are, that's a fun letter to get. So I sent him a book -- when you are a former president, you get a free book -- and then I sent him another letter asking him if I could come to see what his life was like. I spent a week with him in Houston and then went up to visit Clinton in Harlem, and ``The Book of Fate" was born when I had this moment to see into these lives.
Q: What was it like working with the ex-presidents?
A: It's one of those moments when you think it's going to be fantastic. But when the president has his hand on my shoulder and is talking about my novel, I know I need to get out of the conversation before he realizes I am not as smart as he thinks I am.
Q: So how did the code part come into it?
A: The code part came when a friend of mine sent me a list of all the famous Freemasons. The list included everyone from Bob Dole to Jesse Jackson to Harry Houdini to John Wayne to 15 US presidents. I started digging and found that when George Washington designed the grid of Washington, D.C., he and his fellow designers put Freemasons symbols into the actual plans of the city. The symbols can only be seen from above, so either Washington predicted air travel or thought aliens were coming. Either way, it is a great seed for a thriller.
Q: So what will the aliens see?
A: It's fantastic. The city was laid out like any other city -- on a grid. But the diagonals form a pentagram. The top point of the pentagram is the White House. When you go east, there is the Masons' most sacred symbol -- the compass and the square. And the top of the compass is the US Capitol. So this was not random nonsense. It was laid out with them really knowing what they were doing.
Q: Are you a conspiracy theorist?
A: Let's be honest: What thriller doesn't have conspiracy theory in there? So you will see a code, but by no means in the way that you think.
Q: But hasn't the code thing been done to death?
A: ``The Book of Fate" has a code in it, but it is really about the character of Wes Holloway. The character was born when my father had cancer. Watching my father deal with that was humbling because he was handling it far better than I ever would. So I thought to myself that, instead of writing the same hero as in every thriller, I would shatter the hero in chapter one and watch that shattered hero try to do what his old version would have done. That is what the book is about more than anything else.
Q: Boston has the oldest Masonic temple in the country, so this should be a special visit, right?
A: Yes. You have the first Masonic Grand Lodge. And I started writing this in Boston, so that had an influence on me.
Q: OK, so which is cooler: a best - selling novel or doing a comic book?
A: That is a question that haunts me, because ``novelist" is the one that impresses my mom, but the comic book side is the skin that I am more comfortable in, and it makes me feel that I am part of my own secret club. But when it comes to being a novelist, I own it. It is my creation, and there is nothing like putting the bricks together on your own house.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.