MIAMI (CBSMiami) - South Florida has a proud history of producing of accomplished writers, like Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry. But just as deserving to be on that list is Brad Meltzer, whose mysteries and thrillers have garnered fans all over the world.
Who does Meltzer credit for his success? A Miami Dade Public Schools teacher named Sheila Spicer, who he says encouraged his writing from a young age. She told Meltzer to keep at it. And he has. He's developed into a New York Times Best Selling author, and his latest book The President's Shadow is out today.
Meltzer, who grew up in Miami and now lives in Broward with his family, is proud of his hometown's colorful and exciting history.
"I love South Florida," he says, adding "and I can say this because I'm from here. But we all know there's no place crazier than South Florida." And Meltzer means "crazy" in that South Florida has been the setting of many unusual and unique events through the years. Meltzer exposes a lost chapter in that history in the new book.
He says he was digging through material before writing The President's Shadow when he discovered that four of the co-conspirators convicted for their role in Abraham Lincoln's assassination where brought to our area.
"When I'm researching this book and I hear that Abraham Lincoln's killers have a link to South Florida, I'm interested. I'm listening," he says. The four were brought to what is now Port Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas near Key West. While there, one of them, Dr. Samuel Mudd, goes from killer to life-saver when he treated patients during a massive yellow fever outbreak on the island.
Meltzer weaves Mudd's real life story of transformation into the end of his novel, which begins with a modern day First Lady finding a severed hand in the White House Rose Garden. It's a mysterious object still clenched in the disembodied fist that sets this book off on a rollicking start.
Melzer's literary work isn't just for adults. He also writes a popular series of books for children called "I Am," which introduces grade schoolers to historical figures like Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein and Lucille Ball. He started writing them for his own kids, and is always looking for more subjects to tackle. You may also have seen Brad on TV, hosting a cable series called "Brad Meltzer's Lost History." He jokes that the title, with his name front and center, is the "Greatest title of all time." He says he asked his wife "What's for Brad Meltzer's dinner, because I'd like to eat Brad Meltzer's meal at Brad Meltzer's table. And she said, 'Keep it up and you'll be sleeping on Brad Meltzer's couch.' And anyone who knows my wife knows she wasn't kidding."
As for Ms. Spicer who spotted Meltzer's talent in her 9th grade classroom at Highland Oaks Junior High, he got to present her with a teacher of the year honor a few years back.
"I am a product of this school system, these public schools," Meltzer said. "The very first person who ever told me I could write is an English teacher from right here in South Florida, so I owe her everything."
Meltzer will be signing copies of The President's Shadow Saturday night at Books and Books, and Sunday at the Alvin Sherman Library on the campus of Nova Southeastern in Ft. Lauderdale.
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