FORT LAUDERDALE — Best-selling author Brad Meltzer, a South Floridian since he moved to North Miami Beach from New York City as a teenager, is celebrating his 20 years in the thriller-writing business with a new yarn, The Escape Artist.
And he credits a former North Miami Beach High School teacher for his daring to think he could one day write a novel, let alone make a good living at it.
“It was Ms. Spicer,” he tells the Herald in a phone interview following several morning TV show appearances this morning. “Sheila Spicer. She was my English teacher. She told me one day: ‘You can write.’ I told her, “yeah, many people can write.’ But she persisted and made sure I understood she said I really could write.”
So Spicer, who’s now retired, had young Meltzer follow honors English on the sly and the rest, as they say, is history.
Twelve adult novels and best sellers later, the 47-year-old writer is on a national tour to hawk his latest. He’s expected to chat up fans at the Nova Southeastern University library at 2 p.m. Saturday then at Book & Books in Coral Gables at 7 p.m., also Saturday.
Over the years, Meltzer has become mostly known for impeccable journalistic-style research on his favorite topics, usually conspiracy theories that emanate from the Washington, D.C., halls-of-power as in The Tenth Justice or The President’s Shadow.
In The Escape Artist, Meltzer ushers the readers in the worlds of the U.S. military and Secret Service after the disappearance of a servicewoman who happens to hold one of the U.S. Army’s artist-in-residence, a unique job where the artist paints and draws scenes of life in the military.
Now a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Meltzer has had help write his novels from several presidents and their entourages. But when it comes to the Donald Trump White House, he says he’s been hesitant to present his editors any ideas.
“My editor would probably reject that kind of story,” Meltzer says, “because it would not be believable. Who would’ve thought a reality TV star would become president? Fiction couldn’t compete with what’s going on right now.”
Meltzer also briefly talked about the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, saying he has been inspired by the children involved in the anti-gun effort since the killing of 17 of theirs.
“This country is starved for heroes,” he says. “And these kids have inspired me to write better heroes, more realistic ones.”
Which brought Meltzer back to his old English teacher, Ms. Spicer.
“I went to see her by surprise at school in 1997 to thank her for her influence on my life,” he said. “And she started crying. She told me she was contemplating retirement because she wasn’t sure she was having an impact.”
After his visit Ms. Spicer, Meltzer says, stayed in her job for another 12 years before retiring.