Brad Meltzer’s new thriller gets Oval Office insight

Updated 16 January 2013

Brad Meltzer’s new thriller gets Oval Office insight

When researching his forthcoming novel about a serial killer plotting to assassinate the US president, New York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer went straight to the top: 41st President George H.W. Bush, a fan of the author’s work.
“Bush was extremely helpful,” Meltzer, 42, told Reuters ahead of the release of “The Fifth Assassin” by Grand Central Publishing yesterday.
Meltzer explained that the former president was a fan after reading previous political thrillers he had written.
“Bush wrote me the best fan letter I ever got in my life. Then he invited me to Houston to spend some time with him as I was researching one of the books. We became friends over the course of many years,” Meltzer said in a telephone interview.
“I’ll always ask him about little details about White House life that only he and a few others could possibly know,” the author added.
“But asking a president about the hidden staircase in the White House residence is different than asking him about what it’s like to know that someone’s out there planning your death.”
Asked how he broached such a sensitive subject with Bush, Meltzer, who holds a Columbia law degree, was frank: “Maybe I should be smarter, but I just ask. They’ve dealt with far worse than me.”
“The Fifth Assassin,” Meltzer’s 12 novel, features the return of hero Beecher White and President Andrew Wallace, characters from Meltzer’s previous novel, “The Inner Circle.”
White works as an archivist at the US National Archives and belongs to the Culper Ring, a covert network of spies founded by George Washington during the American Revolution.
After White joins the Culper Ring, he learns Wallace is hiding a few sins behind his presidency.
“(White is) part me, part dream,” Meltzer said. “Twice as smart as me, but twice as broken. The truth is, I just love that our hero isn’t some silly, macho cliche. He’s an archivist. His best weapon is his brain.”
In the book, White and the Culper Ring are on the trail of a remorseless killer who sets his sights on Wallace.
The killer — who may well be someone White knows from his youth — is recreating the crimes of John Wilkes Booth, Charles J. Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz and Lee Harvey Oswald — the assassins of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy, respectively.
Even more disturbing, White discovers these four presidential assassins may not have been acting alone, contrary to what is written in history books.
Meltzer explained that the idea for the book came during a visit to the little-known US Army-run National Museum of Health and Medicine near Washington.
“It began with a government employee who told me that I needed to come to a museum that almost no one knew about,” he said. “Naturally, I was suspicious ... Then he told me, ‘We have pieces of Abraham Lincoln’s skull, the bullet that killed him and even the bones of John Wilkes Booth, if you want to see them.’

“But as I started looking at the items, I could feel my brain working out the plot of the thriller. What if, over the course of 100 years, the four assassins — from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald — were secretly working together?”
It is familiar territory for Meltzer, who also hosts “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded,” a television series on the History Channel where he and a team of experts examine history’s mysteries.
Meltzer has also written comic books, including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for Dark Horse Comics as well as “Green Arrow” and “Identity Crisis,” which featured Superman and Batman, for DC Comics.
His projects after “The Fifth Assassin” include a “Decoded” book, then a children’s book and another Beecher White novel.
Grand Central Publishing is an imprint of Hachette Book Group, which is owned by French publisher Hachette Livre, a subsidiary of Lagardere Group.

My Ramadan with Safi Enayat: Experiencing the Holy Month in Copenhagen

Updated 21 May 2018

My Ramadan with Safi Enayat: Experiencing the Holy Month in Copenhagen

  • Safi Enayat came to Copenhagen as a refugee from Afghanistan in 2001
  • This Ramadan, he’s hosting a pop-up iftar with chefs from Baker & Spice Dubai

COPENHAGEN: Safi Enayat came to Copenhagen as a refugee from Afghanistan in 2001 and found a job washing dishes in a restaurant kitchen before working his way up to become head chef and a restaurant owner in his own right. His cooking is a reflection of the diverse cultural influences that have characterized his life, from the traditional Afghan dishes with a modern twist he cooks for friends to the Indian-inspired cuisine served in his restaurant chain, as well as the international fare he has encountered in Europe. This Ramadan, he’s hosting a pop-up iftar with chefs from Baker & Spice Dubai which aims to attract a mixed crowd of Muslims and non-Muslims to break bread over delicious Arabic food.

Read on to experience Ramadan in the European city in his own words...

Everyday life goes on as normal during Ramadan in Copenhagen because the Muslim community here is not that big. In general, people congregate at the city’s larger mosques to pray and break the fast together. There are a few larger events that I look forward to, such as Iftar på Rådhuspladsen, when everyone gathers in City Hall Square and brings a dish to share with their family and friends. It’s an amazing feeling, sitting on the floor in front of this beautiful venue with people from all cultures — Danish, Afghan, Arabs… usually several hundred people attend. Here, you have the right to enjoy your religion as you want and while Danes might be curious to know why we fast, they are very accepting. Last year one of my Danish friends called during Ramadan to say he was fasting for the day to understand it better. I was touched. I think it showed a lot of respect for my religion, which is something I often find here.

Since coming here, I feel like Ramadan has become more visible, people are more aware of what is going on and more interested in why Muslims are fasting and why they do it for so long. It’s a friendly interest. With the long days at this time of the year, many Muslims in Denmark choose to take some of their summer holidays during Ramadan so they have less work and can enjoy the Holy Month.

We’ll be hosting a pop-up iftar called The Opposite Kitchen with Baker & Spice from June 2 to June 8, which is something new to the city. We’ll invite everyone from all cultures and religions to come and learn about the meaning of Ramadan. For me, the beautiful message behind Ramadan is that when you fast, you can see what it’s like for someone who is starving on the other side of the world and can’t put food on the table, and I think it’s important to understand that. I also think that food is an important way of bringing people together. It’s something we all share and enjoy. I found my way into the Danish community through food, it was an easy way to become a citizen of the city and a part of life here. I’ve been here for so many years that this is home for me now.