James Munves

The Author


Born in 1922 in New York City. In 1928 family moved to Cedarhurst, on Long Island’s southern shore, where first noticed birds other than the English Sparrows that throve on the horse manure on Manhattan’s streets. Attended Loomis School, received degree in English from Brown University in 1943, where edited humor magazine, Sir Brown. Served in armored infantry, Fourth Armored Division, in France, wounded 1 December 1944 and invalided home. Worked as a Talk of the Town reporter for The New Yorker Magazine, followed by brief stints as A.J. Liebling’s leg man for articles on Time Magazine, and in CBS news department. Thereafter contributed articles and short stories to various magazines and newspapers and composed some non-fiction books for young readers, including Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, The FBI and the CIA, Secret Agents and American Democracy, and A Short Illustrated History of the United States. Favorites among my stories are The Social Life of the Smooth-billed Ani, which appeared in Confrontation; Bogota, and Daughters, in the New Yorker, and Gone Tomorrow, in the San Francisco Examiner.

In 1970, my marriage failing and youngest of three daughters having left home for private school, I went to Colombia . Saving graces of earlier existence were times alone in woods, field and shore with birds and binoculars. Observing Colombia’s avifauna, the richest in the world, was an avenue into the country’s geography and biology. I roamed the country alone, from Santa Marta in the north to Caqueta in the south, Andes, llanos, and Barranquilla’s Isla de Salamanca, before settling in Bogota where I came under the wing of Padre Antonio Olivares at the wonderfully neglected ornithology department of the Universidad Nacional. Eventually, with the help of a lady in the British Embassy I found a cabin on a finca in Santandercito in the Eastern Andes, where I composed a study of effects of deforestation on a bird population in the semi-tropical-temperate border zone.

With my new wife, Barbara Parsons, (the lady from the British Embassy), returned to Manhattan in 1973, resuming the old free-lance grind while Barbara bravely toiled as an office temp, enduring major culture shock. Following publication of a tenth anniversary account of the Kent State shootings in collaboration with attorney Joseph Kelner, who represented the victims in a federal civil suit (The Kent State Coverup, Harper & Row), and its transformation into a television special, satisfaction of a mortgage on our home, and Barbara's success with downtown Manhattan real estate, life took a turn for the better.

One day in 1993, while cleaning our basement, I found a box holding two copies of an untitled, poorly typed (pre-computer) manuscript. I recognized bird observations from Colombia but did not recollect having written such a book. Along with extensive marginal notes in red pencil, the second copy of the ms. contained a manila envelope post-marked Arizona. In the envelope was a letter from Steve Hilty, an ornithologist I had known in Colombia. He had sent these comments, while returning the red-penciled ms. in 1981. I had never read them. How had I forgotten? In February 1981, my mother had suffered a stroke that left her hemiplegic and my father bewildered. For the next three years, in a generationjal reversal, I minded my parents. By the time my mother died,the bird manuscript, and, likely, other events of those years, had passed from memory.

By May of 1998, the nearly lost ms. had become Andes Rising.

Selected Works

A Short Illustrated History of the United States from 1776 to 1964
How the American people lived and worked, struggled for justice, and achieved world power
Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence.
changes in different drafts of declaration, draft by draft
The Kent State Coverup
about the shootings at Kent State University, May 1970
Andes Rising
Missing nuclear physicist, exotic bird lore, puzzles of evolution, in a new heart of darkness.