‘Decoded': Brad Meltzer now hunts for fact as well as fiction

Oct. 03, 2011 | 1:23 p.m.

Bestselling author Brad Meltzer was a comic-book kid growing up in South Florida, and it still informs much of his writing life, whether it’s subtle (the Superman publishing history provided a backdrop for his novel “The Book of Lies,” and check out the title and cover image of his “Heroes for My Son” ) or more overt (he’s written the landmark “Identity Crisis” miniseries for DC and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comics for Dark Horse). Now, though, he has a new sort of success with the series “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” on A&E’s History channel, and it speaks to a very different bookshelf — although some of the episode topics would qualify for old issues of “Weird War Tales,” and Meltzer’s team (a journalist, a mechanical engineer and a trial attorney) could be nicknamed “Challengers of the Unknown.” Our Geoff Boucher caught up with Meltzer to talk about fact and fiction.

GB: This a busy time for you with “The Inner Circle” arriving in paperback last week and the second season of “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” beginning this Wednesday. With the show, its goal is to sift out fact from folklore, and that has considerable heritage on television, thinking back, say, to “In Search of…” but it’s also a genre that can drift into the silly and the sensational.

BM: It’s so easy to make a bad version of this show. All you have to do is say the word “Freemason” and play lots of scary music. But I think the reason so many people latched onto the show last season is that they know we’re after the true scariest story of all: the one that shows the truth. Last year, I wanted to do this story about Adolf Hitler. And the reality was, we didn’t have the budget. They told me, “No offense, but we’re not flying the cast and crew to Germany for a new show that’s totally unproven.” So with Season 2? We get the budget. And Europe. And my quest for the real-life magic item that Adolf Hitler was looking for.

brad meltzer Decoded: Brad Meltzer now hunts for fact as well as fiction

Brad Meltzer (History)

GB: There’s so much historical fiction and fantasy now, I wonder if audiences lose track?

BM: You know what’s the No. 1 question that tourists ask at the National Archives? “Is there a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence?” Insanity, right? And though the plot of “National Treasure” is great, we all know there’s no treasure map on the Declaration. But you know what really is on the Declaration of Independence? A handprint. And no one knows who it belongs to. And no one knows who put it there. That’s a great episode to me. That’s a great mystery.

GB: You have so many different pursuits, how do you rank them as far as priority or energy and emphasis?

BM: You have to prioritize or you’re going to have a lot of crap. You have to be passionate about what you do, all of it, because if you don’t truly love it, it’s not going to be good anyway. But if I have to prioritize? I love doing the TV show — and I’m blown away by the ratings that we got, which were twice what History expected and was like 2 million viewers an episode — and I love doing the comics, but the novels are the house I built with my own hands. There’s nothing that ever compares to that.

GB: More than a storyteller, the novels and this show have given you this aura of “the finder of secret histories.”

BM: I love history. People think history is battles and these dates that have to be memorized, but that’s not what history is. It’s a living, breathing thing. History is a selection process. People think that it chooses moments and people and puts them together. That’s not how it works. History chooses every one of us every single day. That’s the best part about it. The only question is, “Do you hear the call?” On “Decoded” I get to go out and solve something for real and solve something for real, but it’s different than what I do for the novels. If I’m going to find the secret tunnel below the White House for a scene in a novel, I’m going to go try to find it in the real world. It’s the same skill set but one is for a novel and the other is on TV.

GB: Has there been any path you’ve followed on “Decoded” that left you anxious — in other words, did you ever get spooked by the image you saw as you put together the puzzle pieces?

BM: It’s interesting because the show is a brand new sort of creation, it’s half reality show and it’s half history show. I think when we first started no one was really sure if we were there to fearmonger with the best of them or are we there to actually try to find the real answer. When I first got started, [the expectation was that I would be saying] “Oh, I’m so worried the Illuminati have infiltrated the Freemasons.” They are words that people wanted me to say, but I don’t believe the Illuminati exists, I’m not worried about the Freemasons, it’s all going to be fine.

We’ve found a voice that is rational and I think that’s a rare thing in any environment these days. I think that’s why people are responding to it…. One of my first days out there, one of the producers said to me, “On shows like this when you don’t have a lot of facts, you play a lot of scary music.” There were no truer words spoken. And I never want to be that show. Make no mistake, we come armed with our scary music. But what people appreciate and what they’ve responded to is that at the end of the show we don’t say, “Are the Freemasons going to come and eat your babies?”

– Geoff Boucher

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Comments


26 Responses to ‘Decoded': Brad Meltzer now hunts for fact as well as fiction

  1. Baramos says:

    Hahaha, no, it's still fiction. I hate all the new History Channel shows espousing dingbat conspiracy theories, lizard men, cryptozoology, Masons/Illuminati, cargo cultism, ancient astronauts, all that dumb stuff. Decoded, Ancient Aliens, Nostradumus, Monster Quest…they have brought "history" to a new low.

  2. Chuck says:

    That show is unwatchable crap– you can even see it in the phony facial expressions of the cast– sheesh

  3. Karen 119 says:

    I have to say I am a history buff and have enjoyed Decoded very much. Unfortunately Mr Meltzer's books, not so much. I just can't do present tense novels. Gotta say I've been disappointed.

  4. Paul says:

    The show on Fort Knox is a joke. Fort Knox is not part of or guarded by the military post that is adjacent to it. The people that are guards are not members of the military, but part of the Treasury Dept.

    I could live with the show if they weren't blatantly lying on the show.

  5. Cynthia says:

    Dear Brad – if you really want something scary – more than the Freemasons, call us. My husband was raised Mormon. Joseph Smith was a Mason. The Mormon faith is bizarre as all get-out and also has echoes of Ancient Aliens (Can you introduce me to Girgio?). Yes, my husband too an oath to cut his throat. He later recanted. He could still be killed by another Mormon by Blood Atonement. In other words, if one thinks another might sin, it is OK to skill that person so that he does not. Read "The Mormon Murders" circa 1992 about a real life case that will blow your mind. 571-323-8163 EST, DC – Cynthia

  6. Guest says:

    When I toured the NY Federal Reserve, they said that most of the Ft. Knox gold had been moved to the basement of that building, because it is more secure. Odd that Meltzer didn't even mention that.

  7. WakeUpNumNuts says:

    Yeah who wants to watch all these conspiracy shows anyway, right? Anyone who questions things is just nuts! I mean, if it were all true, just imagine how hard it would be to accept that everything YOU have ever been told, including history, is a lie and YOU have been fooled? Ugh, the horror that would impose on one's ego! Don't listen to them, run away, hide!!! Everyone knows that the governments and powerful people who run things behind the scenes don't ever lie. Why would they want to commit mass genocide and control a smaller world under a single government? Sounds very satanic to me and everyone knows the devil doesn't exist, right? Right? Ummm right? Oh my. Hummm…

  8. Brandon says:

    I have enjoyed the show because it has brought up things I have never heard of before. I never read a BM book or really knew anything about him, but I have enjoyed I will say Most of the shows. Some of them like the earthquake/doomsday show and the fort knox show was tough to sit through. I would like to see them do a show on the coral castle in Florida.

  9. Civics Educator says:

    As a history teacher I have to say that, while I haven't seen all of the episodes, I did catch one of the most recent ones. I saw several minutes of the one devoted to the Declaration of Independence. Since I'm teaching on that this week in class, and my son had recorded the episode, I watched a few minutes of it. It lined up with everything I know and have read about the Declaration. Though I didn't see the entire episode, I had no problems with any material presented…

  10. rjshic says:

    The show is OK because I take it as entertainment and nothing more. But the Fort Knox show was terrible. They had not one shred of proof that the gold wasn't in there but by the end of the show two of the "investigators" believed it was gone. Why??? Because the waitress told you it was!

  11. Elfman says:

    Brad, great show and don't liste to all the jealous haters. Jealousy is a sign of weakness and as we all know there are alot of weak people around. Let's start a petition for the 5th head on Mt Rushmore to be John Adams.. For those who don't think so just watch HBO's documentary..Maybe throw Abigail up there too!!!

  12. Bart Bartlett says:

    i like the show but what i would really like to see is an episode involving the families that really rule the world. The Rothchilds are rumored to be worth 300 to 500 trillion dollars and they rule the worlds economy. The Rockefellars are supposedly worth 12 trillion. They actually own the world bank and countries borrow their currency from them. WHY

  13. Rugman415 says:

    I wish Brad Meltzer would investigate the "Paul Is Dead " Conspiracy.
    I thought for years it was a publicity stunt back in ths 60's.
    Then I watched "The Last Testament Of George Harrison " Now I'm not too sure anymore .
    Can someone dig a little on this one ?
    Rugman415

  14. Rachethead says:

    I watched the episode where you had an FAA Official (?) giving an account where he says he interview pilots of an airline who had see a UFO. I would question Mr. Callahan since he was not in any capacity to interview anyone. His duty at the FAA Center in Atlantic City, NJ was as a Branch Manager of an automation area. Therefore his contact with pilots of any airline would be fictional if at all. You should investigate your interviewees a little more in detail.

  15. bill franklin says:

    was your ufo seen over or near the george washington bridge in new york

  16. FACTorFAKED101 says:

    Wow, his new episode about 2012, Bull Crap. NASA has spoken about this and has eveidence to prove that nothing like so could happen but in a few million years. I am a large history buff and the mayan's well NONE ARE LEFT! 2012 wont occur, yea a solar flare will but the mayan calender just resets after a long-year (5125 Years) just like ours resets after 12 months. NONE ARE LEFT doesn't that say anything. No freaky weather, no nothing, no plague, NOTTA! Brad quit picking people with a bias! December 21 2012 wow all of them said that they would be armed! YA! that will help you. The future is UNPREDICTABLE! You can't prove CRAP! So BRAD READ THIS! You are bias you bullcrap people so they would believe you! NOW GOT SEARCH "will the world really end in 2012" on google, and click on the NASA link. See what they said. Oh, yea WHY DONT YOU HAVE SOMEONE FROM NASA ON THERE, IDIOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Telling me i wont live for another year. FICTION CRAP!

  17. ronnie harris says:

    Mr.Brad what about looki

    ng in to john henry

  18. James Brown says:

    Why does everyone try to prove things instead of disprove them. Especially where UFOs are concerned. Before retiring, I worked for Colins Radio in Cedar Raoids. When work was slow, we would look through the company library. We came across an interresting article in one of the company news letters. It was about a project that Collins was working on for the military. Since there were no satelittes, it was difficult to send radio signals around the world. Collins was experimenting with high altitude stationary ballons with reflecting discs that could be used to bounce radio signals. They were also being used to test high altitude flight suits and instrumentation. One of these top secret ballons had a failure and crashed……………in Roswell, New Mexico. This information is freely available in the Rockwell Collins company library in Cedar Rapids. Along with other interresting things like specifications for the SR71, information about space flights and moon landings, Critical failure points in the Space Shuttle program, development of aircraft with no vertical stabilizer that can turn in a instant, other projects that the company has been involved in.

    • Jjsgrandma says:

      Really? Why would a radio station have top secret information? Give me a break! They are just copying old stories.

  19. Chad says:

    Do you really think if NASA had information on the end of the world they would tell the general public? really? Brad's show is show from a different perspective. And why would the show say there are no more Mayans left? To state the obvious?

  20. Elvis Presley says:

    "Why does everyone try to prove things instead of disprove them." That's right! I'm Elvis Presley (the famous one) and no one can disprove that. -Elvis

  21. AL says:

    The show decoded is just a big joke…it's not decoding anything. The only thing the show is good for is to scare people. The one about the devil grave yard was a complete waste of time. The people in Alaska might want to look under the ice cap for the missing.

  22. Alice Dellmire says:

    Dear Mr. Melzer: I love your show "Decoded" as well as your books. There is just a coupke of things I would add to your nirations. 1. One must always take into account the time and circumstances n which a situation took place or was erected and 2. you cannot assume the true reasons behind ones reasons for doing, saying, and/or erecting objects that you now decode. I was rwatchinh your decoding of Mt. Rushmore. I can assure you that the original KKK was not what they are today. I have a genuine hatetred for the KKK, as well as the nazi's past and present and any people or groups that advocate hatred and/or conflict but many who join groups later leave when said groups turn to evil. Please keep decoding your show is very refreshing in todys society.

  23. Guest says:

    Here's a challenge; check out the mystery of the Oak Island Money Pit in Nova Scotia

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