Among the oddities one learns about his life: Ripley traveled often to faraway places, but he was afraid of flying. As a young man, he was a handball champion. He also tried out for a major league baseball team. He played a key role in the adoption of The Star-Spangled Banner as the national anthem. Barry Goldwater, who later ran for president, as a young man took Ripley down into the Grand Canyon for a radio broadcast. And a dog belonging to the aforementioned Charles Schulz, then 14 years old, once appeared in one of Ripley's cartoons. The dog ate pins, tacks, screws and razor blades.
One of the curious things about his life that Ripley kept secret was that while he was making as much as $350,000 a year during the Depression for drawing his cartoons, he paid a man named Norbert Pearlroth just $75 a week to dig out most of the oddities that appeared in those cartoons. Pearlroth didn't seem to mind, for he loved spending long hours in the library looking through books.
Ripley drank too much, and although an athlete as a young man, he turned fat and flabby in middle age. He died at 59.
Thompson's fine biography turns this "curious man" into someone who was flesh and blood, and even believable.