A WTF! Q&A with Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Books, Ripley, Writing | No Comments

Well this was fun… chatting with the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! folks for their cool WTF! blog. (No, it actually stands for Weird True Facts.) Re-purposing the interview. Thanks for the great questions Suzanne!  Q: What sparked your interest in Robert Ripley?  Why write a biography on him? Neal: For starters, I was shocked and […]






Seattle Met feature story: The Carver’s Life

Posted by on Apr 28, 2011 in Ripley, seattle | One Comment

While researching my biography of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley, I learned about Ripley’s visit to Seattle in 1937, when he spent $1,000 at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Among his purchases were a couple totem poles by a Native American carver named Sam Williams. I later learned that John Williams, who was shot and killed […]






End-of-summer updates – and an exhale

Posted by on Sep 15, 2010 in Authors, Books, Ripley, Writing | No Comments

So ends a summer of wackiness – house guests, van-driving kids around to skateparks, and the passing of a loved one. (One summer highlight was a road trip with my dad and two sons to Utah’s Zion & Bryce national parks. Here’s a slideshow of our adventures. Plus two summer skate vids: 1 & 2.) […]






Writing’s a bitch – and so’s Neil Gaiman

Posted by on Jan 24, 2010 in Authors, Books, Ripley, Writing | No Comments

While catching up on the New Yorker stack composting beside the bed, I read a profile of Neil Gaiman, the prolific and versatile author of spooky kid and adult books, comics, graphic novels, screenplays, and more, who described himself as having the good fortune of being a “facile” writer. The Londoner lives in rural Wisconsin, […]






Favorite (& best) libraries: New York + Seattle

Posted by on Nov 7, 2009 in Authors, Books, Newspapers, Ripley, Writing | One Comment

Like most non-fiction writers, I’ve spent untold hours in libraries and archives all over the country. I love these places, homes to the printed words that help bring my subjects to life – old court cases, manuscript collections, century-old books, and microfilmed newspapers. I’ve been fortunate to have lived in two cities with spectacular libraries […]






More newspaper woes

Last week, the family and I visited San Francisco for spring break, in keeping with our practice of visiting cities for vacation. (Last year: Philly)  I had been invited to give a talk to the Sonoma County Historical Society, an hour north of San Francisco, in Santa Rosa, home town of cartoonist Robert “Believe it […]






Death of a newspaper

Posted by on Mar 23, 2009 in Journalism, Newspapers, Ripley, Writing | No Comments

As a pre-launch to this blog, it seemed an appropriate inaugural post to comment on last week’s closing of the print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which will now become the largest daily newspaper in America to be available only on the Web. The “P-I,” as it’s known here in Seattle, is owned by the […]