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'Bond. James Bond.' A tale of two men, stolen identity, and a love of Maine

Bond. James Bond. The name of the most famous spy in literature was "stolen" from a well-known ornithologist who summered in Maine and loved Mount Desert Island.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine —  
The latest James Bond movie 'No Time to Die' hits theaters this weekend. It is the 27th film in one of the longest movie franchises in Hollywood history which means whether you're 18 or in your 80s, you’ve probably seen a Bond film or two. 

While people the world over may know the name James Bond, few know its roots and its connection to Maine. 

"Bond, James Bond," - the name is simple, elegant, and perfectly fitting for the British secret agent that Ian Fleming would bring to life in his novels. Fleming once said, "007 is a blunt instrument and I wanted a blunt name."

The ex-naval intelligence officer turned bestselling author wrote his 007 novels at his legendary retreat in the Caribbean named Goldeneye. It was there that Jim Wright writes that the "story of the most notorious case of identity theft in history" took place. 

The story goes that Fleming, who loved birds himself, was searching for a name befitting his titular character when his eyes caught sight of the book 'Birds of the West Indies' by ornithologist James Bond. 

"He said, 'that is a great name for my secret agent.' So he simply stole it,' explains Jim Wright, the author of 'The Real James Bond.'

The real James Bond was a well-known ornithologist who discovered new species of birds in the West Indies and spent his life traveling between the Caribbean, his hometown of Philadelphia, and Maine. 

Long before Fleming became a bestselling author, the real James Bond wrote Birds of the West Indies based on his many expeditions to the Caribbean in the 1920s and 30s where he carved out a name for himself in the bird world, according to Jim Wright. 

Bond was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family that summered in Maine and lived in a mansion. Bond's older sister died one summer while in Maine and his father never fully recovered. Later his mother died and when his father remarried, Bond moved to England where he attended boarding school. 

Eventually, Bond returns to Philadelphia, with most of his wealth siphoned to his step-mother, he has fallen out of the posh society in which he was raised. 

He dislikes his job but he loves birds so Bond begins working for the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences without getting paid, according to Wright.  

"(Bond) just loved what he did. People thought he was a bum sometimes even though he was this former rich guy and then he came into some money later and became a man about town again. He had sort of a wild life," explains Wright.  

Bond and Fleming had a lot in common. Both were authors, both were educated in England, both loved birds and both men tried to get to the Caribbean every chance they could - Fleming to his Goldeneye retreat and Bond on less glamourous trips, sailing as a passenger on cargo ships or mail vessels, to explore the birds of the islands.

Clues about the identity of the real James bond and the passion for birds Fleming shared with him can be found scattered in his novels, according to Wright.  

"If Fleming wants to have a villain seem really evil, Fleming has the guy kill a bird, sometimes with the machine gun just to show how evil he is. (In contrast) James Bond would never kill a bird," Wright explains. 

In British lingo, a birdwatcher is another name for a spy, another clue to the true James Bond. In the 2002 movie, 'Die Another Day,' there's another nod to the famous ornithologist when Bond played by Pierce Brosnan, is carrying binoculars and says he's an ornithologist, "Just here for the birds." 

Wright writes in his book that the real James Bond didn't know Fleming had borrowed his name until he and his wife started getting late-night calls from breathless females saying, "can I speak to James?"

Flemings books rose in popularity after John F. Kennedy became president and a list of his favorite books, including 'From Russia to Love' was listed in Life Magazine. Wright said a friend of the bonds read an interview in which Ian Fleming admitted to stealing James Bond's name and informed the Bonds. 

Wright said Marry Bond, Bond's wife, read the 007 novels and bragged that her husband was even more handsome than Sean Connery but Bond himself didn't read the novels that had his namesake and found the comparison to the womanizing, gun-toting spy a nuisance. 

Fleming and Bond only met once. In 1964, the Bonds dropped in on Fleming unexpectedly at his home in Jamaica. Wright said Fleming was nervous at first because he thought Bond was there to sue him. But Bond said he wasn't

"Bond says, "Listen, I could care less about your books. I don't read them and I am not going to sue you," recalls Wright. Fleming is set at ease and the Bonds and Fleming along with another couple pass a wonderful afternoon together. As a parting gift, Fleming signs a copy of ‘You Only Live Twice’ writing: "To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity. Ian Fleming. (A great day!)"

Later, Mary Bond donated the book to the Free Library of Philadelphia until a friend mentioned it might be worth quite a bit of money. Mary was on the board of the library and so asked to borrow the book. She turned around and sold it at auction for $32,000. Wright said, years later it was resold at another auction for $80,000 to a private collector who didn't know about the history of the book until Wright's book came out.

Something Wright was surprised to learn about James Bond was his affinity for "Maine and Maine birds. 

"It was astonishing to me to find out that he went every single summer since he was almost a baby all the way until he died 1989," Wright said. 

Bond co-authored a book with his uncle called, 'Birds of Mount Desert Island Acadia National Park Maine.' Wright calls it the most endearing thing Bond ever penned. 

The guidebook is a love letter of sorts to MDI and Wright said it was written for a small-town audience with specific instructions of which house to go to in order to find certain birds. 

"The field guides today are wonderful and packed with information but they're pretty clinical and this one touches the heart as much as the brain," Wright said. Wright has spent time in Maine doing research for his book and will be talking to the Camden Public Library and the MidCoast Audubon Thursday, December 16, at 7 p.m.

Mary Bond had a home on Pretty Marsh on Mount Desert Island where she and James summered after they were married. In the 1970s Bond was stricken with cancer and went to his Maine home to recover. According to Mary Bond, the healing effects of living on the marsh restored to Bond who would go on to live for another decade until 1989. 

The real James Bond and the fictitious spy were both tall, good-looking men who traveled the world, but the comparison probably stops there. One was a fantasy and the other was just a man who loved Caribbean birds and Maine. 

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