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The Jewish John Grisham
Bethesdas Brad Meltzer writes one best-seller after another
by Aaron Leibel
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
January 11, 2001
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 If Brad Meltzer weren't writing books, he'd
probably be working in a large
law firm, repaying college loans.
Instead the Bethesda resident may be on his way to becoming the next
Meltzer, 30, already has cranked out two novels The Tenth Justice and
Dead Even that were on The New
York Times best-seller list, and his third, The First Counsel, which came
last week, seems to have the
ingredients needed to make him and his publisher more big bucks.
He credits his Jewish background with helping him succeed in the
literary world. Someone once asked me
if any of my characters are Jewish, Meltzer says. I said, 'They're all
because that's what I know.'
For example, is Ben Addison in The Tenth Justice Jewish? No. But his
mother loves to overfeed him and
all his friends and loves to take out baby pictures when his friends come
over. And he loves to roll his eyes and say,
'Oh, come on, mom.' Is that Jewish? Of course, it is.
In a conventional sense, however, Meltzer concedes his Jewish
has been a little shaky. He was
born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and became bar mitzvah in an Orthodox shul. But he
had to read his Haftorah in English
phonetics, for he had failed to learn to read Hebrew.
However, his wife's influence and a visit to Israel have him learning
read Hebrew (I wanted to be able to
go to services without remaining silent) and the two are synagogue shopping
His first venture into the world of book writing was less than
successful. After finishing undergraduate
school at the University of Michigan, he took a job at a Boston magazine
called Games to pay off some of his
college loans. However, the person at the magazine who had induced him to
work there left shortly after he started
Frustrated, Meltzer began to work on a novel in his spare time.
It was published by Kinko's, he says, joking. After receiving his 23rd
and 24th rejection letters in one
week, he was determined to write another book. If they didn't like that one,
I'll write another, he remembers telling
Meltzer began writing The Tenth Justice (Warner Books), a story that
examines the power of U.S.
Supreme Court clerks, while a student at Columbia Law School. I was
daydreaming in class and the idea came to
me, he says. It was published in 1997.
Meltzer stayed with the law in his next novel, Dead Even, which dealt
with a New York City assistant
He was researching White House lawyers when he wondered, What would
happen if a 'first daughter'
dated a White House counsel?
The result is The First Counsel, in which, he says, the attorney sees
something he wasn't supposed to see
on their date and that has an effect on everyone including the president.
I wanted to write the best book I could and legal thrillers came out,
I don't know where the ideas come from, the author says. I just say
'Thank God for that.'
Meltzer says success hasn't changed him. Success doesn't make me a
better person," he says. ``It just
means that I get to sit at home and write. If it means more than that, smack
me in the head.
``Writing is all that I want to do," he adds. ``How lucky am I!''
© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced
without written permission.