A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley

Neal Thompson. Crown, $26 (432p) ISBN 978-0-7704-3620-9
Robert Ripley was as unique and fascinating as the “Believe It or Not” newspaper feature that made him one of the most popular and widely read syndicated cartoonists in the country during the 1930s, and Thompson (Hurricane Season) delivers an equally fascinating biography that captures the influence of Ripley’s work life then and now, well into the age of television and the Internet. A slight, bucktoothed, and “socially timid” youth growing up in Santa Rosa, Calif., Ripley’s main interests were baseball and drawing caricatures of his classmates and teachers. He moved after high school to San Francisco to draw for the city’s main newspapers, first the Bulletin and then the Chronicle. Thompson presents a vivid portrait of the city’s hotbed of cartoonists who were “taking the concept of illustrated newspaper entertainment to new levels.” Later, he explores in detail how Ripley moved east to draw for the New York Globe, whose overseas assignments to cover odd sporting events eventually led to Ripley developing the “Believe It or Not” concept, turning it into a widely popular comic, a bestselling book, a radio show, and a traveling show—becoming “an unlikely playboy-millionaire” in the process. Thompson superbly shows how Ripley’ work is the basis for today’s more extreme reality shows by teaching readers “to gape with respect at the weirdness of man and nature.” (May)
Reviewed on: 03/25/2013
Release date: 05/07/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 310 pages - 978-0-7704-3621-6
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-7704-3622-3
Compact Disc - 978-0-385-36635-9
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-1-84794-720-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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