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December 2019

Ian Fleming and the Domino Effect

Common Yelllowthroat Watson                                                                                                                          Photo by Kevin Watson

As we mourn the passing of Christine Auger, the French actress who played a femme fatale in "Thunderball," it's worth noting that her character, Domino, was named for a ... bird.

Matthew Parker, author of "Goldeneye," pointed out in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio that "when you go back to [Ian Fleming's]  books, you start seeing Jamaica everywhere ... Two of his heroines are even named after rare birds found in Jamaica: Solitaire and Domino."

The Domino Bird in question is known in the states as the Common Yellowthroat. The bird was nicknamed the Domino because the black feathers around its eyes resemble the domino mask so popular with comic-book heroes and carnival-goers.

Real James Bond and Red Herrings

As I learned in researching my book, there are more real James Bonds than you can shake a Martini at.

The latest squib is from Mike Ives of The New York Times, who included an item in the Morning Briefing on Wednesday to coincide with the release of the first 007 "No Time to Die" trailer. He wrote:

"As in any good spy story, there’s a twist: Last year, the BBC reported that newly released records showed an intelligence officer named James Bond had served under Fleming in a secret elite unit that led a guerrilla war against Hitler.

"That Bond, a metal worker from Wales, had taken his spy past to the grave, his family said — and they suspected Fleming had used the bird-watching Bond as a 'classic red herring,' to keep his identity a secret."

Nice theory, but it sounds fishy. You can read the definitive story of the real Real James Bond in my new book next February. 

Both Ian Fleming and the real James Bond, by the way, had an interest in fish and knew plenty about red herrings.

Bond collected dozens of fish for the Academy of Natural Sciences, including two false herrings  (Harengula clupeola) in Grenada and St. Lucia.

You can look up the two nocturnal predators Bond collected for the Academy on Vertnet here. You can learn more about false herrings here.  (False herring photo from VertNet.)

James Bond Trading Cards

The real James Bond was a world-renowned 1-4Bond Bubble gum cardornithologist and author whose fame was totally eclipsed by 007.

As I write in The Real James Bond, it must have been particularly galling for the lifelong Philadelphian to learn that the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Corp. was selling packs of James Bond trading cards featuring his namesake.

Last I checked, a five-cent pack from 1965 was listed on eBay for $287.

I have seen the wrapper alone sell for $99 on eBay.

I grew up in Havertown, where the chewing gum company was based. I can still remember what the air smelled like when I was near.'

The company also made Swell bubble gum, El Bubble Gum cigars, Cry Baby extra sour bubble gum, Gold Rocks Nugget Bubble Gum and Joe Blo giant size bubble gum.

I wish I'd bought at a case of James Bond card packs back then.

The site of the chewing-gum factory is now home to a YMCA.

If you have any memories of the old Havertown chewing-gum factory, email me at