History’s mysteries ‘decoded’ on Brad Meltzer’s new TV show.
Brad Meltzer is living the dream of every 12-year-old boy. For one thing, he’s a bestselling thriller writer. He gets to pen new issues of favorite comic books. And now the History Channel has given him a nonfiction series, ‘Brad Meltzer’s Decoded,” to play with.
Did I mention that Meltzer’s one notable failure, the TV drama “Jack & Bobby,” was a critical darling, ran a full 22-episode season and is now something of a cult favorite?
Really, the only thing that makes Meltzer tolerable is that he knows how extremely lucky he is.
“This show was born,” Meltzer said in a conversation at last month’s Miami Book Fair, “in dumb luck.”
It turns out that his last novel, The Book of Fate, happened to be read by “a guy at the History Channel” who was taken by the story’s mix of intrigue involving Freemasons, Thomas Jefferson’s presidential code and other unsolved historical mysteries.
“He said I want a show like this book,” Meltzer recalls. “We’ll give you three researchers and you pick your 10 best mysteries and we’ll help you solve them.”
Meltzer’s show grabs hold of a Freemasons’ enigma in the first episode, which airs tonight at 10 p.m. on the History Channel. As he explains, Freemasons laid the White House cornerstone in 1792 — but it disappeared within 24 hours and has been missing ever since.
Harry Truman tried to find it, Meltzer says, and so, supposedly, did Barbara Bush, among others. Not only does his team solve the mystery, they uncover another intriguing artifact missing from the early days of U.S. history.
“We figure out the answer,” Meltzer says, “and it changes history.”
Amazingly Meltzer can say things like that without sound pompous or full of himself.
In the coming nine weeks, Meltzer will explore Jefferson’s codes and how they might have contributed to the mysterious death of Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame). He promises you will never look at the Statue of Liberty the same. He turns up evidence John Wilkes Booth’s body may have been mummified and turned into a sideshow attraction.
“When the words John Wilkes Booth and mummy are in the same sentence you have my attention,” Meltzer says.
“Decoded” is an outgrowth of interests and obsessions Meltzer developed as a bookish child growing up in Miami. A former lawyer, he’s sometimes thought of as a writer of legal thrillers, but from his debut, The Tenth Justice, his seven novels have brimmed with often esoteric mysteries, codes and conspiracy theories.
I haven’t seen the show yet, but the combination of Meltzer’s storytelling instincts and the History Channel’s production values and relative integrity (“Ancient Aliens” notwithstanding), it should be watchable and informative. You can find previews at Meltzer’s web page and at History.com.
“I think the secret to creativity and understanding is to look at things in a way that people aren’t usually seeing them,” Meltzer says. “That’s what we’re going to do.”