Book 168. A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley (Neal Thompson)
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.
I love nonfiction but I’m not normally a biography fan. However, when you’re in need of some nonfiction and the other books you want aren’t available at the library, you take what you can get. What I got was a happy surprise. A Curious Man is an interesting look at the fascinating genius behind the Believe It or Not brand. Beginning as a cartoonist with his local paper, in a few years, Ripley had become the most widely recognized cartoonist in America and was on his way to becoming the head of a multi-million dollar empire. A pioneer in radio and television, he travelled the globe searching for the weird, the wacky and the wonderful. Growing up in the 80s, I fondly remember catching weekly episodes of Ripley’s Believe It or Not with the perfectly cast host, Jack Palance (Sorry Dean Cain, you just didn’t cut it). I loved this stuff then and I still do today. While I found Thompson’s writing to be repetitive in places, Ripley’s life was filled with great adventure, great success, and great heartbreak.
Book 169. Countdown City (Ben H. Winters)
Detective Hank Palace returns in Countdown City, the second volume of the Last Policeman trilogy. There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank’s days of solving crimes are over… until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband. Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace—an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees.
While I absolutely loved Ben H. Winters’ first book in this series, The Last Policeman, and was eagerly anticipating diving into the second novel, I was not completely blown away by Countdown City. Everything I loved about The Last Policeman was there – superb writing, believable characters – but it didn’t have the impact (pun intended) that the original had. The story picks up just a short time after the first novel ends, the asteroid is still on its unavoidable collision with earth and society is falling apart. However, the investigation former Detective Hank Palace finds himself involved with didn’t grab me. The story, for me at least, wasn’t as exciting or thrilling as the original. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Countdown City. I did. Winters’ writing is superb and drags the reader right alongside Hank as he digs deeper into the mystery while trying to avoid succumbing to the “end of world hysteria” that’s gripped everyone else. Looking forward to book three to see how this whole thing turns out. Global conspiracy, that’s my guess.
Yikes! With the addition of these two books, I’m still behind on my reading goal for 2013. I wanted to read 30 books in 12 months; I’m currently only at 18. I doubt I’ll make it to my goal but that’s my fault. I got caught up in NFL football again (I run the pool in my office) and David and Sylvia got me addicted to
Breaking Bad (I still have 27 episodes to go…!). I am going to make an effort though to read
as much as I can between now and December 31st.