|photo: Caroline Markel
Brad Ricca is a writer who lives in Cleveland. He was written five books, including the Edgar Award-nominated Mrs. Sherlock Holmes and the Ohioana Award-winning Super Boys. True Raiders (St. Martin's Press, September 21, 2021) is the untold true story of Monty Parker, a British rogue nobleman who, after being dared to do so by Ava Astor, the so-called "most beautiful woman in the world," headed a secret 1909 expedition to find the fabled Ark of the Covenant.
On your nightstand now:
My nightstand is a wobbly tower of books, comics and a phone I am trying to ignore. I'm reading When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain, which is beautiful and intense. Also The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy, which is fascinating, like if Faulkner wrote sci-fi in the Midwest. Also the Beowulf translation by Maria Dahvana Headley (amazing) and Riff on Six: New and Selected Poems by James Reiss, which has been there for most of this past year. Lots of comics, including Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing, the end of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Black Panther and Captain America runs, and X-Men by Jonathan Hickman, which I've read more or less nonstop since the '80s. I'm working on something new, so there is also an old paperback of John Flint Roy's A Guide to Barsoom, which smells amazing.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald, which is about the adventures of two brothers--one of them a wildly intelligent swindler--out on the Mormon frontier at the end of the 19th century. Full of believable wonder for young readers (a chapter on the family's first toilet is unforgettable) and masterful to read as a writer. Also Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater, which cannot be spoken of, only experienced.
Your top five authors:
I went to grad school for 500 years to get a Ph.D. so: Emily Dickinson, Emily Brontë, Walt Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Plus Charles Schulz. So many more, but these are the ones I always go back to.
Book you've faked reading:
My college Organic Chemistry textbook.
Book you're an evangelist for:
For kids: Frog Goes to Dinner by Mercer Mayer. No words, but a hilarious story with the single best depiction of being in a car with silently furious parents.
For parents and anyone who has them: Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. A careening story about parenthood, nostalgia and trauma--with superheroes and veggie trays.
For 2021: Notes on the Sonnets by Luke Kennard is a reworking of Shakespeare's sonnets set at a lame house party. Beyond its laughter, sadness and incredible expertise of language, this book just plain helps. I cannot recommend it enough.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Anything with a cover by Frank Frazetta.
Book you hid from your parents:
Whether it was orchestrated or just fatigue, my parents never policed my reading, which I am grateful for. I could read dinosaur books or Power Man and Iron Fist, though I did hide a sickly yellow That's Incredible! TV tie-in with an "actual ghost photo" in it that terrified me. I eventually threw it up into the back of the attic like a grenade.
Book that changed your life:
Dracula by Bram Stoker. Because it was fantasy presented as some kind of truth across letters and facts, medicine and folklore. It was a horror story--the horror story--but we were reading it in Jon Thompson's eighth grade G/T English class as literature. That book has never let go of me.
Favorite line from a book:
It's really the whole page, but from Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: "This is death in my hand, this is ruin in my breast pocket, where I keep my reading glasses."
Five books you'll never part with:
My Dad's beat-up copy of Walden, which he always kept in his nightstand. My Regards to the Man in the Moon signed by Ezra Jack Keats that my Mom got for me after hauling me to a Young Author Conference when I was in first grade. My mass-market Fantastic Four reprint by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, my original blue paperback The Fellowship of the Ring, and the aforementioned Dracula from middle school. These are all books from my youth, so maybe I'm being overly nostalgic, but they are foundational to me.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
There are a lot of books in this category, but I'd say The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Not only is the story perfectly paced, but the sentences are droolworthy.
The book you would choose for the country to group-read (or listen to, etc.) during the pandemic:
For whatever reason, this is something I have put a lot of thought into, and I would love to hear other people's answers. I am not remotely confident of my own choice and am obviously stalling, but I think The Road by Cormac MacCarthy. My hope would have been that it might have scared more of us--not through politics or disease--but by story, into protecting those we love.