Henry Santoro: New York Times best-selling author and History Channel TV star Brad Meltzer and I have a great relationship. The relationship works like this: he writes the books and I get to interview him. We’ve been doing this since 1997 with his first published novel, “The Tenth Justice.” And now 20-plus books and several comic books later, we’re still doing it.
Brad Meltzer: You know what’s so crazy when you say that, is I realize that when I first met you, I had so much hair.
HS: You know, people say, “How long have you known him?” and I say, “I knew him when he had hair…”
BM: That’s it! ...
HS: 'The House of Secrets,' your newest novel, just out, is a collaboration between you and author Todd Goldberg. Now, it’s a partnership that began between you and Todd because you have a relationship with his brother. Is that correct?
BM: That’s right. He works with Janet Evanovich and when you write a book with someone else… now I believe that ideas are living breathing things. There’s nothing more powerful than an idea and someone once told me a fellow writer said, "If you don’t do your idea, someone else will eventually do it." A good idea will go out into the universe and live. I heard this amazing story of George Washington and Benedict Arnold, the last moments between them were some of the most heartbreaking in U.S. history because they were such good friends. And when he was betrayed, they said it was one of the only times George Washington ever was seen crying. And the last moments after the betrayal a letter was delivered from Benedict Arnold to George Washington. I heard this over half a decade ago. And the letter said three things, Henry. It said, one, it said, “Please don’t kill my wife. She didn’t know I was a traitor.” Two: “Don’t kill the staff, they didn’t know I was a traitor.” And three, in the most crazy moment in letter writing history, it said, “Please send back my belongings and my clothing.” This guy just put a knife in the back of George Washington and he’s basically saying, “Send me my stuff.”
BM: And here’s the thing that drove me crazy. Nobody to this day knows what is in that baggage that George Washington sent back to Benedict Arnold. And I won’t ruin chapter 85 of “The House of Secrets”, but you’ll see it answered. But for years, I just couldn’t shake the answer to that question, “What’s in that baggage?”
HS: Now, “The House of Secrets” introduces us to a lot of brand new characters, but of course there is one from your past novels that makes an appearance. We won’t say who that is. But with this book, and these new characters, is this the beginning—is this a new series?
BM: Yeah, no! It’s a brand new series and we start, truly… let’s talk about it. I mean the “The House of Secrets” is a thriller. Opens with a woman who wakes up in a hospital and she has no memory. And she’s told that there’s been an accident that’s killed her father, who was the host of a conspiracy TV show. And the FBI comes in and says the person who was last seen with her father was also found dead with an object stuffed into his chest. And the object is a priceless book that belongs to Benedict Arnold. She quickly realizes she has no memory. She has guns in her house, she doesn’t know how they got there. She has scars on her body, she doesn’t recall where they’re from. And it’s only by solving this murder can she figure out who she really is.
BM: And who, obviously, killed her dad, but she is the mystery. You know, great plot is great plot, but the best plot is great character. And it becomes this great novel and psychological twist for us to be able to play with identity. Like the Benedict Arnold piece, is she good or is she bad? And Benedict Arnold people say, is he good or is he bad? And what they all are, like all of us, is more complicated.
HS: Well this is where you shine because this is where it becomes a page turner that you can’t put down. That is the voice of Brad Meltzer. His latest thriller, “The House of Secrets,” is written with Todd Goldberg. Brad, we keep the tradition going where you write ‘em and I get to interview.
BM: Thanks for always lookin’ out for me.
To listen to the entire interview with author Brad Meltzer and WGBH Henry Santoro click on the audio file above.