3 Questions: Brad Ricca
The Cleveland-based author’s book “True Raiders” delves into the details behind a real-life 1909 expedition to find the Ark of the Covenant.
As a child, Brad Ricca fell in love with “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the 1981 action-adventure that paid homage to the Saturday afternoon serials of the 1930s and ’40s. Now teaching part time at Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland resident stumbled upon the true story of a 1909 expedition, led by Montagu Parker, Fifth Earl of Morley, through what was then Palestine to find the Ark of the Covenant.
The quest became the subject of his next book, True Raiders due out Sept. 21. Ricca is no stranger to tackling tales that capture the imagination. His 2013 book Super Boys told the stories of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Cleveland-born teens who created “Superman,” while his 2017 book Mrs. Sherlock Holmes delved into the true story behind New York City’s greatest female detective and the 1917 cold case she helped solve.
We talked with Ricca about how True Raiders came to be, the unusual twists his research took, and what pop culture subject he’d like to tackle next.
How did you unearth this topic?
About seven or eight years ago, I read this book called Jerusalem by Simon Montefiore. There was just a page or two about this expedition to find the Ark of the Covenant, and it was like my face melted off. Once I found the story, I knew I had to tell it. I knew the bare bones of the story, but every time I got excited about it, I’d go looking for more, but I’d hit a brick wall. I wrote to the current Earl of Morley, and finally, about two years ago, all these doors opened out of nowhere.
What was the craziest thing you uncovered researching this book?
I knew it was going to be a weird book, but I embraced that, because I felt like if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be true to the story. So, I said, “Wherever it takes me, I’ll go.” I never thought it would go to Jack the Ripper. But parts of the Jack the Ripper conspiracy theory just came up out of nowhere. There are like 7,000 books on Jack the Ripper, and I said, “I’m not going to write about Jack the Ripper unless I add something new,” and I think I did.
What’s the next piece of Generation X childhood pop culture you feel like taking on
This was the big one I always really wanted to do. It was just awesome. “Star Wars” is the obvious answer, but I actually wrote some content for the “Star Wars” website, so I’m not sure what else I can say. But it’s the ’80s. It’s never really over.
For more information, visit trueraiders.com.