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Author Meltzer says latest topic picked him

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‘The Fifth Assassin'

Author: Brad Meltzer

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing,$27.99, 448 pages

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Oline H. Cogdill
Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Brad Meltzer's thrillers gravitate to best-sellers' lists. His contemporary novels, which include “The Inner Circle” and “The Book of Lies,” are steeped in historical facts.

But wait, there's more. Meltzer has written five comic books, including the Eisner Award-winning “Justice League of America,” has two nonfiction books to his credit and is the host of “Brad Meltzer's Decoded” on the History Channel. His newest thriller is “The Fifth Assassin.”

Question: In “The Fifth Assassin,” a killer re-creates the crimes of presidential assassins. Why tackle this chilling subject?

Answer: The topic picked me. A reader who works in Washington, D.C., told me he worked in a secret museum that had pieces of Abe Lincoln's skull, the bones of John Wilkes Booth and the actual bullet that killed Lincoln. “Do you want to see them?” he asked. Yes! From there, I just became obsessed with what the four assassins had in common.

Q: What unusual help did you receive in researching “The Fifth Assassin”?

A: President George H.W. Bush provided great help and insight. There are some things in this world that only a few people know. I always treasure his input.

Q: What's the oddest or strangest thing you uncovered about the presidents?

A: I found the real hidden tunnel below Camp David. And if you want to know where it is, read Chapter 97. (How's that for a tease?)

Q: You've also written two nonfiction books about heroes for your children. Who are your heroes?

A: My mom comes first, may she rest in peace. No person loved me more. And no one sold more books.

Q: What possessed you to write comic books?

A: To me, the best part of the story isn't Superman. The best part is Clark Kent. Because we all know what it's like to be boring and ordinary and wish we could do something spectacular.

Q: If you weren't an author, what would you be?

A: A nerdy history teacher.

Q: People who have never heard you speak may not realize you are very funny. What makes you laugh?

A: My hair. Watching my kids listen to Bill Cosby. Albert Brooks. Patton Oswalt.

Oline H. Cogdill is a staff writer for the Sun Sentinel (South Florida).

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