Neal is a veteran journalist and author whose fourth book – a biography of eccentric world-traveling cartoonist Robert Ripley – scheduled to be published in 2012. Tentative titles: A Curious Man or The Curious Mr. Ripley.

Neal has appeared on ESPN, the History Channel, C-Span, Fox, TNT, and NPR, and has written for Outside, Esquire, BackpackerMen’s HealthSports Illustrated, etc. Prior to becoming a full-time author and freelancer he spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter, serving time at the Baltimore Sun, St. Petersburg Times, Bergen Record, Roanoke Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer. [Samples here and here; three favorite Balt Sun stories here, here, and here.]

He has taught creative non-fiction at the University of North Carolina’s Great Smokies Writing Program. He’s an avid runner and skier, which does not keep him from appreciating a well-poured Guinness and a Jamesons on the rocks (preferably side by side). He has two teenaged skateboarding sons – hence the Jamesons.

MORE, from Neal…

As a journalist and author, I’ve written primarily about adventurous men – athletes and explorers, astronauts and bootleggers, warriors and risk-takers. My goal is to tell inspiring stories that capture the flaws and aspirations of those who strive to live large, especially those who overcome hurdles, hardships, and setbacks. By living risky lives and accomplishing great and lasting things, I believe such men achieve immortality.

After serving my fifteen years in newspapers, I had decided I wanted to pursue stories that mattered to me, inspired me. And I’ve learned a lot from my subjects.

Alan Shepard taught me how to aggressively work toward the things I want in life. Coach JT Curtis taught me about surviving hardship, about faith, about motivating others. Raymond Parks and his fellow bootleggers taught me about taking risks and overcoming fear (and appreciating bourbon). And now, Robert Ripley is teaching me how to appreciate the world’s idiosyncrasies, and how to allow curiosity to guide me.

Hopefully, they’ve all helped me become a better man.

On Minnesota public radio, 2007
On NPR’s “Only a Game”
On WUNC Public Radio’s “The State of Things” with Frank Stacio (“Driving with the Devil”)
On WUNC Public Radio’s “The State of Things” with Frank Stacio (“Hurricane Season”)

“Hurricane Season” excerpt in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Interview with Gelf Magazine (“Hurricane Season”)
Interview with the Campaign for the American Reader (“Driving with the Devil”)
Interview with the Campaign for the American Reader (“Hurricane Season”)
Interview with Appalachian History (“Driving with the Devil”)

Neal on the Tube
Neal on UNC-TV’s “Book Watch”

author + publicity + book tour photos:
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

even MORE about Neal:
-Still types with two fingers (ever since severed fingertip in 9th grade kept him from typing class)

-Hasn’t used a comb or brush since the 70s

-Guitar playing and skiing haven’t improved in 30 years

-Favorite drinks: well-poured Guinness & Jamesons/rocks (preferably side by side)

-Most memorable reading experiences: Hugo’s Les Miserables (many tears), and John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany (finished at 3 a.m. on a work night in 1992).

-Not afraid to wear Carhartt, fleece, and/or Keens in public (in Seattle or Asheville, at least)

-Neal is a citizen of the Republic of Ireland (see Guinness, above)


  1. Jill

    Hello, and Good for You! I’m the person that had recently emailed you regarding a certain artwork that Ripley’s Entertainment had purchased, some years ago. Though I don’t care to expand upon that subject, I do wish to share that I certainly understand the frustration of not being able to fully express “a bit of” yourself when working for others. Personally, I have been fortunate in being able to help others to express themselves, over the past few decades, by designing and implementing customized tattoos. Of course, it does feel good to help others through any acceptable means, as I’m sure you know, and I’m glad to read that you do so through writing. Although I have yet to discover a way to share my writing (poetry, particularly), but will review your various articles regarding the issue. Wish me luck with that, and, Mr. Thompson, keep up the good work! I will look forward to reading it now and in the future. JJ

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks and take care.

  3. Artlady

    Halfway through Driving and cannot put it down. It is a wonderful read and wish there was a continued sequel as the strange world of cars and drivers continued. You have captured the dark and the light …..thank you so much. julia taylor

  4. Anonymous

    Hi Julie, Thanks for touching base. Great to hear from you, and really glad you had been enjoying the book – “cannot put it down”: that’s like music to a writer’s ears. And I’m glad you appreciate the dark and the light. That’s one thing I loved about this story. 
    Take care, 

  5. Rick Brown

    Thanks for the great read. I enjoyed and learned a lot about Raymond Parks, Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall, whom I had heard about but did not really know about, as well as the Red’s. Growing up ” Southern” as I did I have been around racing as long as I can remember, and have read a lot of books on the subject, many of which you listed.

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