Birds of the West Indies Feed

Fleming's Copy of 'Birds of the West Indies'

Bond. BOTWI Cover 1936 7.5 in (1)When Ian Fleming stole the real James Bond's name from the cover (or title page) of Birds of the West Indies in early 1952, which edition was he looking at, the 1936 first edition or the 1947 second edition?

It's a subject of debate, with many Fleming experts siding with the 1947 edition. At this point, there's likely no definitive answer,  just theories.

But according to the noted ornithologist himself, the copy in question was the original 1936 edition, as he recounted to  Philadelphia Bulletin columnist Pete Martin in an interview published in October 1964.

Bond and his wife Mary had visited Goldeneye on Feb. 5 that year,  and (sadly) Fleming had died on Aug. 12.

Bond said that Fleming had (at least) two editions of Birds of the West Indies at his home in Jamaica. 

First, Bond said that Fleming "had the first edition -- the one that Bond quote ofn Fleming's 1936 editioncame out in 1936." [Pictured here].

Bond also said: "When we saw [Fleming], he had by then bought the latest edition of Birds of the West Indies.

In a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Fleming that was filmed the day that the real James Bond visited, Fleming's copy of Birds of the West Indies from the early 1960s is shown. (See below.)

My new illustrated biography, The Real James Bond, devotes an entire chapter to the day that Bond and Fleming met, and another chapter on the many versions of Birds of the West Indies that were published over the years.

One big question regarding that day remains: Whatever happened to Fleming's 1936 edition of Birds of the West Indies?

It is not in the Lilly Library's archive of Fleming's books at Indiana University. (I checked.)

You can read about James Bond's licenses to kill here.

You can read more about the day Fleming and Bond met here.

CBC BotWI Fleming interview


James Bond's Licenses to Kill

JB collecting permits FLP IMG_0378
When James Bond visited the West Indies, he needed island governments' permission to collect birds for science. 

The Free Library of Philadelphia's Rare Book Department has a fascinating collection of Bond's permits (including the ones pictured above).

They are part of the library's Mary Wickham Bond archive, and they will be on display when I present my "Real James Bond" talk there. 

My talk, part of the library's "Hands-on History" series, had been scheduled for this Saturday, April 11, but will be rescheduled, likely for later this year. (Fingers crossed.)

The Free Library's Rare Book Department is an incredible place, and I can't wait to give my talk there.

Below, James Bond's license to kill in Jamaica in December 1949. Ian Fleming began writing Casino Royale there in early 1952.

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A Pileated Make an Appearance

_MG_9641I hadn't seen a Pileated Woodpecker all year. Now -- thanks to some friends -- I saw one twice in one day.

This one was next to my backyard. Whenever I see one, I think that it's the closest I'll ever come to seeing an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

The real James Bond admired them so much that he put one on the back cover of the 1947 edition of "The Birds of the West Indies" (below left), even if the chances of seeing one were remote at best. Earl Poole did the illustration.

If you'd like to learn how to pronounce "Pileated," read this.


'Real James Bond': 1st Extensive Interview


James Bond Radio -- InterviewBack in August, when Schiffer Books announced a publication date for "The Real James Bond," writer Matthew Chernov contacted me immediately about an interview.

I said, "Sure -- but closer to when the book arrives."

Well, time flies, and here we are.

This online interview is the first in-depth look at the book, and hopefully worth waiting for.

You can read it here.

The book arrives in four weeks -- on Friday, Feb. 28. You can order a copy from Schiffer now by clicking the book's dustjacket in the top right-hand corner.

(The photo of me is by Kevin Watson. Thanks, Kevin!)


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.


Save the Date: Book Launch, March 3

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I am pleased to announce that the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia will host the official book launch for "The Real James Bond" on Tuesday evening, March 3.

I'll do a talk, a Q&A, and book signing.Bond1936 7.5 in

Bond worked for the Academy from 1926 into the 1980s. The Academy also published the first edition of his "Birds of the West Indies" in 1936.

A copy of the landmark book will be among the Bond items and other rarities on display. Exciting details to follow.

The Academy event will be the first of several book talks in March, April and May, including two major birding festivals.

Watch this space for more information.


The Real James Bond and 007

Die Another Day Birds of the West Indies
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In the 2002 007 film "Die Another Day," James Bond the secret agent posed as James Bond the ornithologist and even held a copy of one of the later editions of Bond's landmark field guide -- with Bond's name obliterated.

There's a classic scene between Pierce Brosnan's binoculars-toting, mojito-drinking James Bond (below) and Halle Berry's bikini-clad Jinx Johnson. In the scene,  set in Cuba, Bond says he's an ornithologist and professes he's there "for the birds."

As a result, the book has become a bit of a collector's item, although the book is often misrepresented in on-line sales.

The actual one is the 1990 Collins U.K. edition, pictured above left.

Much more about the real James Bond, Ian Fleming and 007 are in my upcoming book.

Brosnan as ornitholoigist in die another day


More About the Birdman

RealJamesBond_CVR(1)The cover of my upcoming book has generated a bit of speculation.

Is the bird's head that of:

a. A Cuban Green Woodpecker.

b. A Flameback Woodpecker from Asia

c. Another species of woodpecker, going undercover.

I decided to ask Molly Shields, who should know -- she designed the cover for Schiffer Publishing.

Molly says: "I had fun working on this cover! I got the image from a Cuban stamp...  a Cuban Green Woodpecker, Xiphidiopicus percussus."

More about the Cuban Green Woodpecker here. (The photo in the link is by Michael J. Good of the Caribbean Conservation Trust,  the leader on my Cuba trip three years ago.)

Below: Earl Poole's drawing of the Cuban Green Woodpecker from Bond's Birds of the West Indies (1936 first edition).

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