2024 Peace Corps Writers Historical Book Award Winner!


“Look Here, Sir, What a Curious Bird”—
Searching for Ali, Alfred Russel Wallace’s Faithful Companion

by Paul Sochaczewski Boeneo Island 1969-71)



For some 50 years, Paul Sochaczewski (Boeneo Island 1969-71) has been on the trail of famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace and his little-known assistant Ali.

The result of this quest is an imaginative “enhanced biography” of an illiterate 19th-century teenager from Boerneo who helped Wallace become one of history’s most successful explorers of the natural world.

This deliciously speculative book, filled with humor and touching scenes of imagined conversations, takes a hard look at “slippery truth,” and, perhaps most important, asks the question: “Is there someone in your life who has quietly helped you, perhaps without adequate recognition, on your journey?”


In this innovative approach to biography, you’ll discover:

  • New clues that expand our knowledge of Ali’s background and career.
  • Why writing the history of a 19th-century teenage boy from Boerneo is so challenging.
  • Details about how Ali collected some 5,000 of Wallace’s 8,050 bird specimens.
  • Imagined conversations that explore emotions and perceptions of Wallace and Ali.
  • How each of us has an “Ali” who has helped us along the way.


“Look Here, Sir, What a Curious Bird” – Searching for Ali, Alfred Russel Wallace’s Faithful Companion
Paul Spencer (Wachtel) Sochaczewski (Boeneo Island 1969-71)
Explorer’s Eye Press
274 pages
$17.95 (paperback), $8.95 (Kindle)

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