Author Monte Schulz imagines a ‘Metropolis’ of love and intrigue

Monte Schulz, 71, plans a visit April 30 to Santa Rosa for a public talk about his novel, “Metropolis,” at the Charles M. Schulz Museum.|

Imagine a mighty city ruled by a secret council whose members are unknown even to each other. Picture a distant front where war has been waged for a century. And meet an upper-class college student, mostly oblivious to all of this, who falls in love with a young woman who lives in a house full of political radicals and revolutionaries.

All of that adds up to the novel “Metropolis” by Monte Schulz.

It took Schulz, the eldest son of the late “Peanuts” cartoonist and longtime Sonoma County resident Charles Schulz, 668 pages to tell the story of “Metropolis,” which helps make it feel more like a 19th-century classic in its style than a modern thriller.

“The audience for literary novels is small,” he conceded.

But that is his passion. Schulz, 71, who splits his time between Santa Barbara and Hawaii, plans a visit April 30 to Santa Rosa for a public talk about “Metropolis,” at the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

Depending on how you calculate the amount of time he spent on the project, the book took him either 16 years or less than one year to write. In 2003, he wrote 50 pages and then walked away from the book.

“Then in 2019, I picked it up again and finished it in nine months,” Schulz said. “I had no outline. I made it all up as I went. Maybe that’s lazy, but that’s the way I did it.”

If you go

What: Monte Schulz talks about his novel “Metropolis”

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30

Where: Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa

Admission: Included in museum admission, which costs $5-$12, free for children age 3 and younger

Information: 707-579-4452,

The original problem was that the hero and first-person narrator of the book, Julian Brehm, is a student of the classics, which provide clues that he and his drunken roommate Freddy, a puzzle master, use to decipher mysterious messages.

“I couldn’t figure out how Julian was able to read Greek and Roman classics in a fictional world,” Schulz said.

Ultimately, the answer was simple. He decided it didn't matter, and then he began writing at least two pages every day.

“It’s their world, not our world. I just had to make it up. Once I started writing again, it was easy,” Schulz said. “I wrote a page every morning before I ate anything. I don’t believe in writer’s block. My dad always said only amateurs get writers’ block. Professionals can’t afford it.”

The book imagines a world where the people of the city Metropolis banished everyone deemed physically, mentally or morally unfit to the distant, desolate eastern provinces a century ago.

After 40 years, when it was discovered the exiles had prospered on their own instead of perishing, the city dwellers started a six-decade war to wipe them out.

Julian’s fascination with the mysterious Nina Rinaldi, described by Schulz as a Bohemian, and her rather pesky 8-year-old sister leads the student into an uncomfortable new understanding of the unhealthy society he lives in. His search for contacts and clues leads him into the strange underground society that lies beneath the city.

Later Julian ventures into the war zone, where he learns of atrocities and faces mortal danger. Ultimately, he returns to the Metropolis, where he tangles with assassins and spies and battles to save captive provincial children from genocide.

“The books is a collage of love story, mystery, war story and a treatise on eugenics,” Schulz said. “That was the impetus for the book.”

Historically, eugenicists have attempted to alter human gene pools by excluding people and groups judged to be inferior or promoting those judged to be superior. Early advocates of eugenics in the 19th century regarded it as a way of improving groups of people. In contemporary usage, particularly since World War II and the Holocaust, the term eugenics is closely associated with racism.

“‘Metropolis’ is a warning against eugenics and against hating people you don’t like,” Schulz explained. “You have to stop seeing people you don’t like as enemies.”

Now Schulz is writing a sequel to “Metropolis,” titled “Undercity,” a collection of 28 vignettes, some of them featuring characters from the first book, excluding Julian.

“It gives you better idea of the city, because Julian really doesn’t know that much,” Schulz said.

“Metropolis” was published last year by Fantagraphics of Seattle, which specializes in publishing collections of new classic comics and has put out 26 hardcover volumes of “Peanuts” comic strips. Monte Schulz met Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth 15 years ago, after writing an essay about a controversial Charles Schulz biography for Groth’s Comics Journal magazine.

Books by Monte Schulz

“Down by the River” (1991), published by Viking

The following were all published by Fantagraphics:

“This Side of Jordan” (2009)

“The Last Rose of Summer” (2011)

“The Big Town” (2012)

“Naughty” (2013)

“Crossing Eden” (2016), a trilogy collection of “The Big Town,” “The Last Rose of Summer” and “This Side of Jordan”

“Metropolis” (2022)

Monte — his full name is Charles Monroe Schulz Jr. — is the eldest of the famed cartoonist's five children. Monte's father, Charles “Sparky” Schulz, was born in Minneapolis and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. He moved to Sonoma County in 1958, where he lived until his death in 2000.

Monte Schulz graduated from El Molino High School in 1970 and earned a bachelor's degree in English from Sonoma State University in 1978 and a master’s degree in American studies from UC Santa Barbara in 1983.

His first novel, “Down by the River,” was published in 1991 by Viking Press, and his most recently published work is the epic “Crossing Eden” from 2016, which previously had been issued in three separate parts, all published by Fantagraphics.

In addition to his six novels, Schulz also wrote a true crime book titled “Naughty,” based on a 1962 Santa Rosa murder case and trial. Iva Kroeger and her husband, Ralph, the operators of El Sombrero Motel on Santa Rosa Avenue, were charged with the murders of the motel’s true owners, Mildred and Jay Arneson. The Arnesons’ bodies were found buried in the basement of the Kroegers’ San Francisco home.

Since 2010, Schulz has been the owner and leader of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, which convenes annually, except for a hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s event will run June 18-23.

Monte Schulz is also a composer, songwriter and producer whose most recent album is “Seraphonium.”

He attributes his love of books to his father, a voracious and serious reader.

“We discussed books and had a dialogue which was very gratifying,” Schulz said.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.