Over the past two years now I have gone to a number of book signing events hosted by Brad Meltzer. In all of the events I have been to so far there have been guest appearances by other authors, radio personalities, and the children of famous celebrities. For Brad's latest book the Fifth Assassin, a direct sequel to his previous book The Inner Circle, I didn't expect anything less. But what we got tonight was something so much more powerful and unexpected.
Brad started the evening with stories about his research, and the inspiration behind developing the presidential assassin in his latest novel. He joked at the fact that he is the only author releasing a book about presidential assassins just a mere five days before the Inauguration. I thought that it was great timing for a release, and makes his novel even more compelling.
Brad continued on talking about how the previous night in New York he set a world record with the most people in a gathered area using decoder rings. He exclaimed that every other book signing event from that point forward is downhill.
It was a lighthearted moment delivered in pitch perfect way. His deadpan delivery made you second guess how serious he was really being. He joked with the audience a little while longer before turning over the microphone for questions. For me what came next was the highlight of the night. Someone had asked Brad to talk about his time with the USO. Several months ago he worked with the USO to go overseas and meet with the troops of our nation to thank them for their dedication and service. On the way over, his entourage in itself is the stuff of comedic genius It consisted of a group of nerdy authors, professional UFC fighters, and the cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys. "Just picture for a moment", he said. "This strange gathering of people that have been clumped together to meet our troops."
It was funny to imagine but the purpose of the mission was very important. It was during this time that he was approached by a gentleman who thanked him for helping to get over 30,000 books donated to the USO. Up until this point only a handful of people knew Brad had been a driving force behind this donation. He was very stunned that someone knew this story.
Brad told the man who approached him that he shouldn't be thanking him, but a sailor aboard a submarine was the person who had inspired him. About ten years ago Brad had received a letter from a fan thanking him for his books, and how they had helped this sailor through tough times. He went on to mention that their library was so small, and the selection was very limited. After reading the letter Brad decided to call multiple publishers, and ask them if they had any books they could donate to the USO. It was during this time that more than 30,000 books made their way to the USO. After telling the man his story Brad decided that he was going to track down that sailor. More than ten years had passed by at this point, and his email address had change. After some very clever sleuthing Brad was able to find the sailor's phone number. Several weeks ago Brad actually made the call to the sailor, and he reintroduced himself to the man.
He went on to ask the gentleman how he was doing, and to Brad's surprise he said not well. His mother had just passed away from breast cancer two days prior to him calling. For those that didn't know Brad's mother had also passed away from breast cancer several years earlier. He had a moment of clarity and told the man, "I think that I was sent to give you a message." The man simply replied, "What message?" Before Brad told us what he said; he explained that when his mother had died he received all sorts of well wishes and good advice that was really bad at that time. Almost nothing anyone can say will make you feel better when you are grieving for the loss of a loved one. However, there was one thing someone said that stood out and made him feel better.
That was the message he delivered to the man on the other side of the phone that day. One letter from over ten years ago got Brad involved in the USO, which than lead to him being on the trip he was on. From there he was approached and thanked for his donation many years ago, which then inspired Brad to thank that sailor, and lead them to this conversation where he passed on a very important message to that man on a day he needed it the most. It's funny how life had a way of bringing them into contact with each other at just the right moment.
It was a powerful moment, but I saved the best for last. That was the last question and story of the night when a man raised his hand. Brad looked at him and before he had a chance to say anything he stood and said, "Can I finally shake your hand?" Brad's face welled up, and the two walked towards each other to hug.
It was the sailor from the story Brad had just told, and everyone in the audience had a tear in their eye. It was a very special and magical moment, and I am privileged to have been there tonight to witness it. I walked into the bookstore tonight unsure of what surprises or people there might be, and I left with something so much more than I ever expected.
I wanted to thank Brad for putting on a nice evening, and I am looking forward to reading his latest novel.
Till next time thanks again and take care!
- Robby Silk
Oh and for those decoder rings he mentioned. Well I forgot to get one. Maybe next time!