“True Raiders” author Brad Ricca to speak at Ruth Keeler Memorial Library

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“You just start tugging on one string and it keeps going and going, and all of a sudden this big story has unraveled.”

That’s how “True Raiders,” author Brad Ricca’s story of the secret 1909 expedition to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant, turned an idea into a critically acclaimed book that Kirkus Reviews called a “fascinating story of a bizarre expedition.” The book plots the true story of Monty Parker, a British nobleman who was dared by Ava Astor, the so-called “most beautiful woman in the world,” to find one of the Bible’s most sacred objects.



Ricca was inspired to write the book when he came across a mention of the Parker expedition, a group of European aristocrats who traveled to Jerusalem in the early 1900’s to locate the Ark of the Covenant. “I couldn’t believe that there was someone who had done this,” Ricca said.

Mounted, from left to right: Robin Duff, Habib Bey, Monty Parker, Cyril Foley, Macasdar, Cyril Ward, the Hodja (a holy man), Clarence Wilson. Image courtesy of Brad Ricca.

Ricca, a child of the 80’s, had grown up mesmerized by “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the iconic movie starring Harrison Ford. “I saw it in the theater with my dad and little brother and it was just awesome. Something about it always stuck with me,” Ricca shared, adding that he likes to write about things that maintain a pull on his consciousness or with which he feels some kind of connection.

For “True Raiders,” Ricca, who also wrote “Olive the Lionheart,” “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes,” and “Super Boys,” began the way he always does with new book projects – by first embarking on intensive research to uncover what he calls, “the really good stuff that no one has ever written about or published on before.”

Part of Ricca’s research involved searching for firsthand accounts of the expedition. He tracked down England’s current Earl of Morley, heir of expedition leader Montagu Parker, to see what information had been maintained over the decades. “I’m a kid from Cleveland and I had no idea how to address an Earl,” Ricca said with a chuckle. “I wrote these handwritten letters that started with, ‘My Dear Lord,’”

While waiting for a response from the Earl, Ricca uncovered several firsthand accounts of the expedition. All were written in other languages and none of them agreed.

The Ark of the Covenant by James Tissot, c.1896-1902. Illustration courtesy of Brad Ricca.

“I thought, there goes my book,” Ricca said. “But then I realized that that’s actually kind of perfect for a book about the Ark of the Covenant. You can show different versions of what happened and then let the reader decide.”

Eventually, the Earl did respond, producing a rich mix of paperwork from the expedition that included letters, lists and reports. Collectively, this documentation provided a compelling firsthand account of what took place on the expedition back in 1909. Still, Ricca came away with more questions than answers.

“True Raiders” leaves readers pondering many of the same questions that Ricca did. “I always like readers to question things,” Ricca said. “Especially with this book. There are no easy answers to what happened on this expedition.”


Brad Ricca's author talk with the Ruth Keeler Memorial Library will take place Thursday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m., via Zoom. Click here to register.

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