- Oprah.com “Book of the Week“
- Barnes & Noble “Booksellers’ Pick”
- Amazon “Best Book of the Month“
- Vanity Fair “Hot Type” pick
- iTunes/iBookstore “Best Book of the Month”
- NPR pick for 2013 (selected by Ben Fountain)
Also featured in Parade, Harpers, Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, New York magazine, AARP, Men’s Health, the LA Review of Books, on NPR’s All Things Considered, the BBC, and … The Daily Show! (see the clip below)
“An engaging, fast-moving biography…” —Columbus Dispatch
“A buoyant, boozy tale of American adventure and enterprise …The author draws a striking, unforgettable portrait.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Thompson … narrates with the infectious, drop-jaw glee of a writer who cannot believe his good fortune.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Fascinating and fun… makes a convincing case that Ripley struck something deep in the psyche of the American public.” —Chicago Tribune
A shy, insecure, bucktoothed boy, Robert Ripley willed himself to become a man of the world: a talented artist, an athlete, a rabid traveler, an unlikely ladies’ man, a heavy drinker, a playboy-millionaire, a shrewd businessman, entertainer, and media pioneer. He was Howard Hughes crossed with PT Barnum; Peter Pan crossed with Marco Polo. A goofy everyman, a bit of a yokel, his obsessive curiosity about the world and it’s oddities earned fame and fortune. Yet, as his housekeeper once said, the greatest “Believe It or Not” of all was Ripley himself.
“A Curious Man is the rollicking, terrific story of one of America’s greatest men…Ripley brought back to an awed nation the richness of an endlessly exotic world, and Neal Thompson tells the story with a perfectly-pitched sense of what makes such a man, and a nation, tick.” —Peter Heller, New York Times bestselling author of The Dog Stars
“Anyone who wants to understand America needs to read this book… Neal Thompson gives us a vivid portrait of this complex, restless man in all his maniacally conflicted glory.” —Ben Fountain, National Book Award Finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award winning author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Raised poor in northern California, LeRoy, as he was known, survived the 1906 earthquake a year after losing his father. Forced to quit high school and to find a job, he started his newspaper career as a sports cartoonist in San Francisco. After moving to New York in 1912, he toiled in relative obscurity until his ‘Believe It or Not’ cartoons, created in 1919, became increasingly popular through the 1920s.
His first book of cartoons and essays, published in 1929, became an instant best-seller and led to his hiring by William Randolph Hearst, who paid him $100,000 a year. By the mid-1930s, he had become one of the highest-paid entertainers of his day, earning $500,000 a year from his cartoons, best-selling books, lectures, films, radio shows, endorsements, and museums. He received more mail than any single person in history (millions of letters a year), and in 1936 was voted the most popular man in America.
By the start of WWII, he had become one of the most eloquently traveled men alive, visiting obscure corners of more than 200 countries. He crossed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans dozens of times and belonged to the Circumnavigators’ Club and the Explorers’ Club. He collected oddities from around the world–as well as beautiful women–at his eccentric mansion on a private island off Mamaroneck, New York (where he moved after living for fifteen years at the New York Athletic Club in midtown Manhattan).
He died after suffering a heart attack in 1949 while filming the 13th episode of his TV show, which featured a story about the creation of the funeral song, Taps.