On Tuesday, April 23rd at 7:30pm Warwick's will host Kirk Wallace Johnson as he discusses and signs his book, The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century. Kirk Wallace Johnson is the author of To Be a Friend Is Fatal and founder of the List Project. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. He is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the American Academy in Berlin, and the USC Annenberg Center. This event is free and open to the public. Reserved Seating is available when the book is pre-ordered from Warwick's for the event. Only books purchased from Warwick's will be signed. Please call the Warwick's Book Dept. (858) 454-0347 for details.
In The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, a high spirited true-crime adventure that spans centuries and crisscrosses the globe, Kirk Wallace Johnson draws on exhaustive research and hundreds of interviews to chronicle this stranger-than-fiction tale.
Johnson’s own entry into the story is just as unlikely as the crime itself. After working for USAID in Fallujah, he founded the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies, which aimed to help thousands of Iraqis imperiled because of their service to the U.S. military obtain visas to emigrate to the United States. But over the course of eight years, as Johnson pressured Washington to act on their behalf – an effort documented by NPR’s This American Life and CBS’s 60 Minutes – the list only grew, and the pressures felt enormous. Johnson’s only escape was fly-fishing. It was on one such trip in New Mexico, when, waist high in a river, he first heard the name Edwin Rist.
Immediately transfixed by the strange story, and incensed by the fact that Rist had gone unpunished for a crime that had blown a gaping hole in the scientific record – the stolen birds surely held answers to questions that researchers haven’t yet thought to pose – Johnson was soon reading everything he could about the case. His curiosity soon snowballed into a worldwide, years-long investigation that took him deep inside the feather underground, infiltrating the fly-tiers’ private forums and pinning down the network of the feather thief’s customers in the hopes of retrieving the missing bird skins and returning them to their rightful place.
A masterful work of narrative nonfiction, The Feather Thief is at once a gripping story of a museum heist and of one man’s relentless pursuit of justice, and an unexpected and profoundly insightful examination of the legacies of obsession, and our destructive impulse to harvest the beauty of nature.