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History’s mysteries ‘decoded’ on Brad Meltzer’s new TV show.

December 2, 2010

Brad Meltzer

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

“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.”

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    December 2, 2010 2:35 pm

    Freemasons, eh? Intriguing.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      December 2, 2010 2:55 pm

      Yeah. How come nobody ever writes about the conspiracies involving the Rotarians, or the Kiwanians, or, for God’s sake, the Odd Fellows?!?

  2. Tommy Smart permalink
    December 2, 2010 3:02 pm

    I love a good conspiracy theo… err… I mean possibility as much as the next guy or gal, but having scoured the internet for all things chemtrail, HAARP, Tri-Lateral and reptilian I gotta say Meltzer has his work cut out for him if he wants to impress me with his revelations. I read about the mummified John Wilkes Booth story awhile ago and having a couple of Freemasons in the family I have heard it all. And it all makes me laugh. Freemasons are about as nefarious as the 4H when compared to the Hellfire Club or the gatherings at the Grotto. I will watch Decoded to find out what is up with the Statue of Liberty. Could Lady Liberty be sporting a thong, could she really be a homing beacon for unidentifed submersible objects? Maybe. I still like to think of her as the first woman who let me inside her.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      December 2, 2010 6:23 pm

      Why, Tommy! You will make us all blush. Very clever.

  3. December 2, 2010 4:55 pm

    I never met a writer who was more un-full of himself than Brad. You know all those puffed-up book trailers authors are doing these days? Take a look at Jonathan Safran Foer’s gag-inducing humorless self-homage:

    Now check out Brad does it:

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      December 2, 2010 6:25 pm

      Yeah, I almost mentioned the Everybody hates Brad Meltzer video, but I was running long (as per usual). Like I said, he’s a nice guy, and lucky (but he works hard, too).

  4. December 2, 2010 10:00 pm

    Another find that I knew nothing about, Chauncey. I need to get out of this cave & take a look at what’s going on. It’s all passing me by. I’ll definitely check out the History channel & Meltzer now. Thanks for the 44th time.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      December 3, 2010 10:37 am

      Just doin’ mah job, sir, just doin’ mah job.

  5. Marla permalink
    December 2, 2010 11:07 pm

    I’m watching it right now!

  6. Lawrence permalink
    January 9, 2011 12:18 pm

    I do not like this show Decoded. I am a historian, and I love to get down to the truth about things; so this is not a dis-like for the show, but a strong dis-like for the way this shows comes up with its conclusions. The show is suppose to be getting down to the truth about these American conspiracies; but in all reality the show has not uncovered or decoded anything. Now don’t get me wrong, I watch the show; I keep giving it chances but every time I watch it, I dis-like it more and more. One of the reasons for that is Christine McKinley, she is a very bias on every episode I have watched. The very first show was the episode on the Masons and the missing cornerstone, in this episode her whole conclusion was based on the fact that her dad was a Mason, and she couldn’t believe that her dad would be involved with a bunch of people who would do something like that. All through the episode she kept saying ” I find it hard to believe that MY DAD would be involved with these kinds of people”. News FLASH!!!!!! If it was my dad I’d have a hard time believing it to. In every episode she has a bias opinion, like the one about John W. Booth, where there was applicable evidence showing the man in that photo was in fact John W. Booth. No matter how much evidence came up, she stuck to her beliefs, and thats not a investigator. Investigators gather all evidents and then make a logical conclusion about what they have. And what qualify her for the show any way? What, cause she a mechanical engineer who relies on facts and clear evidence in every situation? No, cause when the evidence is shown she relies on the lies that she grew up believing. I love Buddy and Scott on the show though, they collect the evidents first; then make a conclusion, but in all of that; they’ll get so far into the investigation and stop, right when they start to get deep into the conspiracy. I would like to see them get rid of all the bias opinions and work with nothing but the evidence.

    I leave you with a question, If you refuse to look at the fact/ truth of the situation because of you beliefs, does that not in fact make you a conspirator? Because in all reality, your helping to keep the Lie and Conspiracy alive.

    Peace & Love
    Seek Truth

  7. Bryan permalink
    January 8, 2012 6:22 pm

    Lawrence, you’re 100% right and this show is brutally pathetic. I’ve watched maybe 3 episodes and have gotten so mad i nearly threw something at my TV from frustration. If they EVER solve a damn mystery, let me know and i’ll be happy to see. As far as it is now though, its an educational show about all of these conspiracies and what may have happened, simply throwing further doubt onto all these situations. Brad Meltzer really just seems like some loser who has a good imagination and has gotten phenominally lucky. To me, hes an arrogant joke. I wish this show to be cancelled, but wait! Season 2 is here and its note polite like that last season. Oh boy, does that mean they’re going to go up to the last civil war veteran and pull his finger nails out until he tells them where the Confederate gold is? Or are they going to end every show with the entire cast flipping off the camera in a nice little insult to any fan who continues to watch this trash?

    The show had promise, and instead chose to insult its viewers. So much rage.

  8. November 20, 2012 2:37 pm

    I haven’t watched this show a lot but have come to the conclusion that you leave the show knowing no more then you did going into it. They take you around in a lot of circles but never give you an answer. At best they are twisting history and making people believe a history that isn’t true. They put a bunch of Oh my gosh ! in it but show nothing. I’m watching the Alaskan Triangle show. They are throwing out more crap then a ghost chaser show. “You see that?! You hear that?! I’m very opened minded but this show isn’t cutting it.

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