You don't encounter many people who live life completely on their own terms, the way Dean seems to have done from a very young age. Do you like deadly snakes? Go catch some and sneak ‘em into your parents’ house. Hate high school? Drop out. Want to study art with Salvador Dali? Just show up on his doorstep with a sample of your work. Want to collaborate on a novel with William S. Burroughs? Write him a letter and send him one of your stories. Want to sing with a famous orchestra? Just let them hear your voice and go on tour. Want to travel the world? Marry exotic women? Just do it. And if some venom finds its way into your bloodstream along the way, get over it, and don't hold it against the snakes.
– Katie Scarvey, Salisbury Post.
Fortunately I number among my friends a young man named Dean Ripa, who could have stepped from a Joseph Conrad novel. – William S. Burroughs.
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DEAN RIPA IS THE AUTHOR of the new mega-weird adventure novel Perseus Unbound, and numerous other works of fiction now being brought out for publication for the first time. Enjoying one of the most diverse and adventurous careers imaginable (renaissance-style painter, jazz singer, ethnographic art collector, professional snake hunter, de facto herpetologist, scientist and museum owner), Dean's ambitions have remain unchanged since his teen years when he tried (and failed) to publish his first novel at the age of 14, Confessions of a Gaboon Viper Lover (manuscript lost). “ ‘The world of letters is the only world worth living and dying in,’ wrote Robert Louis Stevenson, “and that is a feeling I have always shared. Looking back on my life I realize that even my maddest and most farfetched endeavors were only peripheral to my writing, a way of gathering the material and experiences that would someday, I hoped, enlarge my insights at the typewriter.” While on the road singing big-band songs for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, he was writing during the daytime in his hotel room. While traveling the world collecting dangerous snakes for zoos, he was still writing, and lugged a portable typewriter with him into the deepest jungles. Bitten 14 times during these journeys and several times near-death, he turned his roving pen toward the symptoms of snakebite itself, and wrote whole scientific tracts on the effects of the venom. But again, he was not interested in becoming a scientist, per se, simply adopting the scientific method as a means of expression. His lifelong fascination with snakes would take him to more than 30 tropical countries, but the snakes, he insists, held another purpose than the outward and obvious one of catching and possessing serpents. “The experiences were what I was after – extreme experiences. Snake could give me that – a life exotic and strange, and provide the financial means to keep it going. Like a drug leading into a kind of deep mysticism snakes were my drug to be sought after. . . my own personal doorway into an occult otherworldly experience probably not lived since the days when Ophiolatry was the Way, the Truth and the Life. Naturally, all this found its ways into the ink.Dean Ripa’s weird, exquisitely crafted letters to William S. Burroughs in the 1980s earned him a chance to collaborate with the author on his last and, some have said, fait accompli, “The Western Lands.” When Burroughs read Ripa’s first novel, The Lila (1989), he pronounced it “GREAT!!!” in caps and with exclamation points. “I really mean it! YOU are a writer!” Echoing Samuel Beckett’s own rather aloof seeming praise of himself (that Burroughs was “a writer”), in fact it was the greatest possible compliment, since Burroughs considered very few writers to be real writers at all.
After some initial publications and joint creative work with Burroughs in the 1980s, Dean Ripa seemed to have vanished suddenly from the literary scene. But he had not quit writing, far from it. “I recognized soon enough that it would be many years before I made any money with it [writing] and this was so firmly established in my mind that I soon abandoned even the notion of publishing, viewing it as a mere formality, an unnecessary distraction from the work at hand. Somehow in spite of all the very demanding other things that were happening around me, and that I was doing largely only to get money so as to keep on writing, I still managed to squeeze in 6 to 8 hours every day at the typewriter. And I did this religiously, day after day, year after year, till I woke up three decades later to realize I had produced more than a dozen novels.”
So under what bushel has Dean been hiding all these literary prodigies? Keep watching this website for publication updates on Dean’s latest, Perseus Unbound, a shocking tale of adventure and horror in the jungles of Central America.