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Is This The Most Prescient Novel Of 2019?

Last month, when I spoke to the author, screenwriter and film director Nicholas Meyer over at LitHub about his new novel “The Adventures of the Peculiar Protocols,” we spent some time talking about how unfortunately timely the book was. Both a chilling, cautionary tale and a rip-roaring yarn that sets Sherlock Holmes on the trail of the roots of anti-Semitism and the origins of “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” the novel was inspired by two very different sorts of influences — on one hand, it owes a certain debt to classic crime novels and films like Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes.” On the other, Meyer was moved to write it after he read “Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History,” by Steven Zipperstein. It is a hugely entertaining book. With the rise of white nationalist movements and the fake news promulgated by the president of the United States, it is also remarkably prescient.

The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols

On The Case: “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols” sets Sherlock Holmes in search of the origins of modern anti-Semitism. Image by Minotaur Books

“I’d say that I see my book as actually a sort of stealth novel. While ostensibly about Sherlock Holmes, it’s really about something else entirely, possibly Donald Trump,” Meyer said. “I think our country is in greater danger than any time since the Civil War. I am frightened that this man, who somebody referred to as the ‘Shakespeare of Shit,’ simply destroys everything he comes near. And I think he has succeeded in dividing and conquering, polarizing the electorate, so we’re all at each other’s throats. And I tremble. I grew up loving this country. I became an autodidact about the American revolution. George Washington remains my hero. It began when I was very young with my father telling me stories about the Revolution and I thought, ‘This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard—a nation founded by a bunch of philosophers who are trying to start anew.’ It’s still amazing to me: One piece of paper holding the whole rickety thing together. Amazing. And yet, as we have forfeited our cultural memory to such an extent that we no longer know or care who we are or what we stand for, we have abandoned ourselves, we have allowed education to wither on the vine. We have forfeited the whole notion of education, and a democracy depends on education. So I’m terrified, yes.”

Nicholas Meyer

Nicholas Meyer: Screenwriter, director, and author of “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols.” Image by Leslie Fram

Now that Fiona Hill has testified before Congress where she likened smears against George Soros to a new version of “The Protocols,” and spoke out against the evils of what she called “the longest-running anti-Semitic trope that we have in history,” Meyer’s novel has become even more relevant than he realized it would be when he was writing it.

“For better or worse, I’m in the right place at the right time,” Meyer said.

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