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What the Real James Bond Looked Like

Handsome James Bond bond00010 One of my goals in writing "The Real James Bond" was to correct many of the common misperceptions about the real James Bond (like the factoid that Bond gave Fleming to use his name), and to improve upon the usual images used for him in the media.

Then there's the shot that ran with Bond's discovery of the last Eskimo Curlew (below left), which ran in newspapers nationwide.

It shows Bond, in his mid-sixties, as a tweedy, bespectacled, eyeglass-wearing professorial type.

The Wikipedia photo for Bond (lower right)  -- taken when he was in his seventies and having health problems  -- made him look an old-style undertaker. 

The Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia has a terrific photo of the handsome Bond that I used for my book.  I share it here as well. (Thank you, Free Library!)

The two photos below were used for postage-stamp likenesses of Bond, which I included in my book.

Photo at right below: Jerry Freilich/ CC


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

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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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When Bond Met Fleming: Feb. 5, 1964

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On Feb. 5  56 years ago, James and Mary Bond left their room at the Mona Hotel (once the Mona Great House) outside Kingston in Jamaica and drove over the Blue Mountains to drop in unexpectedly -- but not uninvited -- at GoldeBond meets Fleming PFL DSCN9866-001neye, the winter home of Ian Fleming.

Things were a bit tense at first, as Fleming feared that Bond was going to try to sue him for identity theft. Fleming even challenged Bond about a bird identification to see if Bond was for real.

Bond passed, and they soon got along famously.

Although much has been written about that day, one mystery remains.

I write about the meeting -- and the mystery --  in "The Real James Bond," published by Schiffer Books.

The top photo, of the Fleming Villa at GoldenEye, is courtesy of Island Outpost.

The photo above right, the only known image of their meeting, was taken by Mary Bond and is used here courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The photo below, of the Mona Hotel, was also taken by Mary Bond and is used here courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia as well.

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'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!)