Kirk Johnson

Fly Fisher/Author

Kirk Wallace Johnson is the author of The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, and To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind. He is also the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies.

His writing has appeared in The New Yorkerthe New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Policyamong others.

Prior to the List Project, Johnson served in Iraq with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Baghdad and then Fallujah as the Agency’s first coordinator for reconstruction in the war-torn city.


Listen to Kirk Johnson's Show...

The Feather Thief

Kirk Johnson is the author of the true-crime adventure “The Feather Thief”. Intrigued by the theft of hundreds of rare bird specimens from the Tring museum in England, Kirk journeys into the underground world of fanatical fly tiers and plume peddlers looking for the truth behind why the theft took place and what happened to all the birds that were stolen. Join us and hear the story that has drawn so many readers to this great book.

Just a few of the questions asked and answered during the interview:

  • How did the heist go down?
  • Who was Alfred Russel Wallace and what did he have to do with the heist?
  • How did Edwin Rist get involved tying classic salmon flies?
  • What was the value of the stolen birds?
  • How were the stolen birds and feathers sold?
  • Were the buyers of the stolen goods complicit?
  • Did Rist have an accomplice?
  • Was the heist planned?
  • How did the judge rule when Rist when to court?
  • Did Rist show any remorse about what he had done?
  • Were the stolen birds ever recovered?

He is a Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and the recipient of fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin, Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Wurlitzer Foundation.  Prior to his work in Iraq, he conducted research on political Islamism as a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt.  Johnson received his BA from the University of Chicago in 2002.

Born in West Chicago, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and daughter.

His third bookThe Fishermen and the Dragon: Two Dreams at War off the Texas Coast, will by published by Viking Press in 2021.


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