Book of Lies Book Review (Mania.com)
By:Kurt Anthony Krug
Review Date: Friday, June 12, 2009
In The Book of Lies, New York Times bestselling novelist and comic book author Brad Meltzer connects Cain, history’s first murderer, to Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, the world’s greatest hero.
And he pulls it off. Before you scoff at this being one of these DaVinci Code-lite thrillers, don’t. Yes, Meltzer did his homework and researched Cain and Abel. He’s very passionate about his craft. He’s also more passionate about Superman, the iconic DC Comics super-hero who debuted in 1938’s Action Comics No. 1. Meltzer chronicled Superman – most notably – in his well-received mini-series Identity Crisis and Justice League of America.
In Lies, Meltzer spent a good deal of time researching how Jerry Siegel and collaborator Joe Shuster created the Man of Steel. At a book signing a few years ago, a lady approached him and told him that she knew more about Superman than he did.
“I’m like, ‘Lady, no way,’” recalled Meltzer.
It turned out the woman was Jerry Siegel’s niece. Meltzer also learned an actual mystery surrounding the creation of the iconic hero. Jerry Siegel’s father, Mitchell Siegel, a Jewish immigrant, was shot and killed in a robbery in 1932, although half the family says his death was a heart attack.
“While mourning the death of his father, his young son came up with the idea for a bulletproof man that he called Superman. And that’s why the world got Superman. Not because America is the greatest country on Earth, but because a little boy lost his father,” explained Meltzer. “The truly incredible part is that almost no one knows the story, because in 50 years of interviews, Siegel never – not once – ever mentions his father.”
While researching Lies, Meltzer interviewed Jerry Siegel’s wife and daughter. He also saw Mitchell Siegel’s death certificate.
“It says flat out that he died during a robbery. There is no question (Jerry) Siegel knew,” said Meltzer.
Asked why Siegel never talked about this, Meltzer responded, “(Jerry) Siegel knew the value of telling a good story. What sounds more interesting: two poor kids in Cleveland changing the world by creating Superman or one little boy missing his daddy? Only one story works. What’s interesting to me is that Superman comes not from a place of strength, but one of complete vulnerability.”
Meltzer took the unsolved murder of Mitchell Siegel and tied it to the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible. In Lies, Cal Harper, a disgraced federal agent, comes across his long-lost father, Lloyd, who was left for dead in a park. Together, they race against time and an evil assassin named Ellis, who is part of a powerful criminal conspiracy, to find the world’s first murder weapon – the one Cain used to kill Abel – which somehow ended up in the hands of Mitchell Siegel centuries later.
“I wanted to take Cain, the world’s greatest villain, and Superman, the world’s greatest hero, and connect the two,” explained Meltzer. “The stories of Cain and Superman continue to fascinate us, not because they’re interesting stories but because they’re about us. The interesting part of Superman is (alter-ego) Clark Kent. We’ll never be Superman, but we are Clark Kent.
Everyday in all our ordinariness, we’d like to rip open our shirts and do something for someone else. We all wish we can do that.”
Further, when researching Lies
, Meltzer saw that Jerry Siegel’s childhood home in Cleveland had gone to seed. Vowing to save the house of the creative genius who gave the world Superman, Meltzer launched Ordinary People Save The World, a charity dedicated to preserving the Siegel house. Originally, the goal was to raise $50,000. Instead, $101,000 was raised to make additional repairs. A ribbon-cutting is planned for this summer. For more information, go here
Mania Grade: B+
Novel: The Book of Lies
Author: Brad Meltzer
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing