All about 'The Real James Bond'

RealJamesBond_CVR(1)Want to learn more about The Real James Bond or order your own copy?

In the U.S., You can order a signed copy from me here.

You can order a hard-cover copy online here.  (This website helps raise money for independent bookshops.)

You can watch my short Zoom talk for the U.K.'s Birdfair here.

U.K. Birdfair-goers should be able to order a copy through WILD Sounds & Books here.

You can order a Real James Bond eBook for Kindle here

You can order a Real James Bond eBook on Apple here.

You can read my interview with BirdWatching magazine here.

You can read a nifty writeup in The Wall Street Journal here.

You can subscribe to this blog by supplying your email address under "Subscribe" in the column at right.

Sure is a lot you can do!

The Artist Behind 'Goldfincher'

The first time I saw the above illustration by the wonderful artist Anna Raff, I knew it was precisely the image I needed to illustrate a "bonus" section of  The Real James Bond -- a 007 ornithological parody written by Kenneth Parkes for an American Ornithological Society (then the AOU) annual conference.

The name of the parody?

"Goldfincher," of course.

You can learn more about Anna Raff here.

You can learn more about her illustrations and books here.

(Thanks, Anna!)

Philly Buildings, Bird Deaths & James Bond

The Philadelphia Inquirer posted an article online about more than 1,500 migrating birds killed in Philadelphia one night last week when they flew into skyscrapers. (You can read it here.) James Bond ANSP Archives Coll. 457

When I heard the news, I thought back to an old front-page clipping  I read from The Inquirer from September 1948, a similar tragedy struck Philadelphia (and New York City).

The first expert that The Inquirer interview back then? James Bond.

You can read the story below.

Bond (pictured at right), curator of birds of the Americas for the Academy of Natural Sciences, is quoted at the end of the first part of the story and the beginning of the jump.

Continue reading "Philly Buildings, Bird Deaths & James Bond" »

The Real James Bond's Licenses to Kill

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The 25th 007 movie No Time to Die has been moved back again, to next April, which makes one wonder if the name should be changed to No Time to Release.

Nonetheless, today (October 5) is Global James Bond Day, so dedicated because today is the anniversary of the first Bond movie's release in 1962.

In James Bond's honor, I present... the real James Bond's licenses to kill. 

The real Bond had far more of them than 007 since he needed to collect birds on so many Caribbean islands for so many years.

The Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia has quite a few in its archives, even if the rarest one -- signed by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo -- never made it to their collection.

I did a ton of research in the Mary and James Bond archives while writing the book, and I was scheduled to do a talk at the Free Library last April and show some of the cool Bondiana in their archives,

Alas, the Coronavirus interceded. Maybe someday.

The Free Library is a terrific place, and a podcast featuring the real James Bond and a most unusual 007 for the library's Rare Book Department is in the works.


An Interview with Raphael Corkhill

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I was so pleased with the way Raphael Corkhill narrated the Audible version of The Real James Bond that I just had to learn more about him and his narrations.

(One of the highlights of the audiobook, by the way, is Raphael's narration of a Jame Bond ornithological parody called "Goldfincher." Raphael called the parody "hilarious," and he made even more so.

(I wish I had written the parody but the culprit was Bond's pal, the late Kenneth Parkes of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg. Kudos to the American Ornithological Society for letting me use it.)

You can read more about the British-born and Princeton-educated Raphael here.

How long have you been narrating audiobooks?

I got into audiobooks almost immediately after I finished drama school, about nine years ago.

Audiobook narration was among my first jobs as a professional actor, and narration has been a mainstay of my career ever since. It’s a blessing and pleasure to be able to learn so much about a wide range of topics and help bring the subject, story and characters to life for listeners.

What has been the biggest challenge with narrating them? RC 6

One of the trickiest skills to develop is “reading ahead”: while I’m narrating, my eyes are actually scanning roughly eight words further on so I can anticipate what I’m saying next.

This really helps with smoothness, fluency, accuracy and expression, but it’s a little like rubbing your stomach while patting your head!

Accents are a matter of practice. I have a background as a musician and having a keen ear helps as well.

What was the biggest challenge with doing The Real James Bond?

Narrating “The Real James Bond” was actually a lot smoother than some of the other books I’ve done! The quality of writing was superb, and it felt very natural to read.

Pronouncing all the specialist ornithological terminology with 100% accuracy was definitely a priority for me. I have no doubt that listeners would get very irritated if I mispronounced something, and the last thing I want is for listeners to get distracted. So plenty of practice saying “meliphaga flavirictus crockettorum” like a seasoned ornithologist!

Are you a birder? (You were in "The Goldfinch," after all)

[Laughs] The Goldfinch was a wonderful experience and the project was certainly full of special creatures. No bird-watching experience myself, I’m afraid, but my uncle is a birder - he lives in South Wales and I gather there are some lovely opportunities for bird-watching along the Gower Peninsula.

How about a spy? RJB Audible listing

This was a fascinating aspect of The Real James Bond. I had no idea that spycraft and bird-watching went hand-in-hand but upon reflection it made total sense, from the skills required to the convenient cover story. Whenever I meet a birdwatcher in the future I’ll definitely be on high alert. Wait, maybe my uncle…

I reckon I’d make a superb spy… on film. In real life, however, I imagine that there are certain unteachable abilities and instincts that spies possess and which intelligence organizations look for. Spies prefer the shadows but I’m all about the limelight!

What are some of your favorite roles as an actor?

Darkly ambiguous characters are the roles I most love to play. I’m fascinated by people who choose to reject the paths laid out for them by family, society, culture etc. and opt instead to strike out on their own. This often leads to moral dilemmas and questionable decisions, but who among us hasn’t struggled between the pressure to conform and the desire for independence?

If I can get the audience to understand or even secretly root for the “bad guy,” then it makes for an even more thrilling story. In fact, if I had to choose between playing 007 and a Bond villain… I might well go for the latter!

What do you have cooking these days?

I recently co-produced and starred in a short film called “The German King” that qualified for Oscar consideration and has received awards and critical attention on the festival circuit. I

t’s based on a true story about an African king who rebelled against oppressive German colonial rule on the eve of World War I -- the king was actually raised in Germany and turned against the man he once considered his brother, Kaiser Wilhelm II. I play Kaiser Wilhelm and we’re currently raising funds for a full-length version of the film.

I’m also playing the lead role in an independent film about a boxer who lives a secret life as a drag queen. So two rather different films and characters but both extremely powerful and juicy roles.

Anything you’d like to add?

I grew up and remain a big fan of James Bond 007. But it was a joy to learn more about the inspiration behind his name. Jim Bond contributed an impressive amount to his field during his life, but I was very much drawn to his personal history. I can’t imagine it was easy losing his mother then being ripped away from America and sent off to Harrow. I couldn’t help but sense sadness surrounding his childhood, which makes his achievements all the more admirable.

Here’s to hoping more fans of 007 get to know James Bond’s namesake and the valuable work that Jim Bond performed as an ornithologist.

You Can Still See My Zoom Talk for Birdfair

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Although Britain's first-ever virtual Birdfair is over, my short talk "The real James Bond and Caribbean Conservation" is available to all for several more weeks. (There's no registration, and there are lots of cool talks to watch.)


Does Your Group Need a Speaker?

When things get back to normal, I'm eager to give illustrated talks about "The Real James Bond" in person again. Until then, I am doing talks via Zoom.

I can discuss such Bond-related topics as Bond's adventures in the Caribbean, his life-long summers on Mount Desert Island, Birds of the West Indies, and -- of course -- Ian Fleming and 007.

I also like to talk a bit about the real-life ornithologist spies that Bond knew.

I speak to all sorts of groups -- museums, libraries, birding clubs, museums, and more. 

The launch event for my book was at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. I was a keynote (Zoom) speaker at NJ Audubon's Cape May Spring Weekend in May.

My free Zoom talk about the real James Bond and Caribbean conservation is presently on view in the author's forum at the U.K.'s Birdfair.

I have presentations scheduled through the early summer of 2021, including a Zoom talk for two major Chicago birding groups in October and a talk in person (I hope) about Bond and his birds for the Linnean Society at the American Museum of Natural History in February.

I will speak at the Acadia Birding Festival and other Mount Desert Island venues next June.

Email me about topics and fees, and maybe we can schedule something.

Proceeds from all talks go to The Nature Conservancy's Caribbean Initiative in the real James Bond's honor.

My Zoom Talk for Britain's Birdfair!

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I am pleased to announce that I am presenting a short talk for Britain's first-ever virtual Birdfair, which runs from through Sunday, Aug. 23.

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 8.01.43 AMMy talk, "The real James Bond and Caribbean Conservation," is one of the headliner talks for today, the first day of Authors Forums, and is available now to Birdfair registrants for three months thereafter.

The main webpage for the fair is:

Continue reading "My Zoom Talk for Britain's Birdfair!" »

Hurricane Hummingbirds

My column for The Record today is about hummingbirds and hurricanes -- with the observations of  Victor M. Ortega-Jimenez, who did his post-doctoral research on the effects of precipitation on hummingbird flight.

(He also took the photo above at the Berkeley Flight Lab in California. Thanks, Dr. Ortega-Jimenez!)

These birds migrate from as afar away as the West Indies -- why shouldn't they be able to handle a hurricane?

You can download a .pdf of the column here:

Download TheRecord J Wright_20200820_LF02_1

You can read more about his bird-flight research here.