Marcia Franklin talks with author Kirk Wallace Johnson about his book The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century. The book details Johnson’s investigation into a major theft of 300 rare bird skins from a British museum in 2009 by a 20-year-old American, Edward Rist. Rist then illegally sold the feathers into the arcane world of Victorian salmon fly-tyers.
Johnson discusses why he felt it was important to write the book, and how the crime and other heists like it damage the field of natural history. He also shares his thoughts on the “feather thief,” whom he interviewed. The founder of The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, Johnson worked in Fallujah, Iraq, for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He wrote a book about his experiences called “To Be a Friend Is Fatal.” His third book, “The Fisherman and the Dragon: Two Dreams at War off the Texas Coast,” was published in 2022. He was in Boise to speak at The Rediscovered Bookshop.
Originally aired: 01/03/2020