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The first ever complete biography of “Believe It or Not!” creator Robert Ripley

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson

The first ever complete biography of “Believe It or Not!” creator Robert Ripley

A Curious Man

Neal Thompson
  • Imprint: Crown Archetype
  • On sale: May 7, 2013
  • Price: $26.00
  • Pages: 432
  • ISBN: 9780770436209
Contact: Ellen Folan

Praise for  A CURIOUS MAN

“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 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 ….Thompson superbly shows how Ripley’s 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.’” —Publishers Weekly

 “Thompson paints a picture of Ripley as a brilliant but aggressively eccentric man, a globe-trotting curiosity seeker who always believed there was something even more unusual just around the corner. A Curious Man is a fine introduction to a man who, for most of us, has been merely the name above a famous title.” —Booklist

 “What’s truly unbelievable is that it’s taken us so long to get a full-fledged biography of this great American character, a man who tapped into our fascination with bizarre non-fiction and who can rightly claim to be the godfather of Reality TV. It was worth the wait.”—A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically

 “Anyone who wants to understand America needs to read this book.”—Ben Fountain, Winner of the Pen/Hemingway Award and author of the National Book Award Finalist Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

  “Turning the phrase ‘believe it or not’ into a global brand and multimedia empire built on equal doses of sex, information, and oddity, Robert Ripley played a fascinating role in the rise of modern American entertainment….Shrewdly, he conjured a first-person fairy tale for the modern age, helping millions to forget the specter of world war and depression.  Now, for the first time anywhere, Thompson brings us Ripley in all his gaudy glory, crafting a hardboiled Horatio Alger story for a media-obsessed age.”—Tom Reiss, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner The Black Count 

  “Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that the history of a time can be resolved in the biography of a few stout and earnest people.  Robert Ripley was certainly one of those and, in this fascinating account, Thompson rescues for us a colorful slice of history.”—Colum McCann, bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin

 “A Curious Man is the rollicking, terrific story of one of America’s greatest men. … Thompson tells the story with a perfectlypitched sense of what makes such a man, and a nation, tick.  I laughed and cried.  I became convinced that the next slot on Mount Rushmore should go to Robert ‘Rip’ Ripley.”—Peter Heller, New York Times bestselling author of The Dog Stars

 “A Curious Man is a work of real beauty and fun and emotion—and intense readability. It is a single-session book, one of those that takes your clock and renders it mute until the book has had its say. Thompson is the genuine article: smart and witty, empathetic and a pleasure to read.”—Darin Strauss, bestselling author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng


 Howard Hughes crossed with P.T. Barnum, Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley was a lonely, buck-toothed cartoonist turned eccentric millionaire and renowned world-traveler who in the 1930’s and 1940’s earned international fame by journeying to the farthest corners of the earth in search of the world’s most exotic curiosities. But for all his success in uncovering oddities, no piece of Ripley’s collection was as remarkable as the man himself. From his youth as an awkward young artist with an innate empathy for “freaks,” to his golden years spent on a private island stocked with rare artifacts and strange pets, Ripley lived life on the kind of grand scale normally confined to fiction. Now with A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley (Crown Archetype; May 7, 2013) acclaimed biographer Neal Thompson has delivered a marvelously compelling account of this great American story, told for the first time ever—a thrilling tale of the underdog who taught us to believe in the unbelievable. 

 A the height of his success, Ripley was one of the most widely-read and influential syndicated cartoonists of his day, one of the highest-paid newspaper men of his generation, and among the best-traveled men in history, a man whose global dispatches gave readers much-needed entertainment during the depths of the Depression. As a media pioneer, he played a significant role in the evolution of newspapers, radio and television that were tapping into something deep in the American consciousness—a taste for the titillating and exotic, and a fascination with the fastest, biggest, dumbest, and most weird. Today, that can be seen in reality TV, YouTube, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Jackass, MythBusters and a host of other pop-culture phenomena.

 In the end, the supreme irony of Ripley’s life, which was dedicated to exalting the unusual, is that he may have been the most amazing oddity of all.

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 About the Author

NEAL THOMPSON is the critically acclaimed author of Light This Candle, Driving with the Devil, and Hurricane Season and has contributed to such publications as Outside, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two sons.  You can find him at

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