Jim Shockey: Worldwide adventurer adds ‘thriller writer’ to his long list of accomplishments (“1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast)

Jim Shockey: Worldwide adventurer adds ‘thriller writer’ to his long list of accomplishments (“1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast)
Updated: Oct. 18, 2023 at 5:30 AM EDT
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Jim Shockey, the world-renowned wildlife adventurer and outfitter, is on the "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast to talk about his debut thriller "Call Me Hunter".

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Zhivago is dead. I hunted him down and I killed him.

That’s the gripping first line from Jim Shockey’s debut thriller, Call Me Hunter. A novel, he says, that was more than 50 years in the making. Shockey, the world-renowned adventurer, hunter, guide, outfitter, host/producer of several outdoor-themed television shows and founder of the Hand of Man Museum in his native Canada, says he started writing the book 30 years ago.

“When I was ten, I knew I’d be a novelist,” Shockey said. “I knew I’d have a museum and I set a course through the next half century to accomplish those goals. I started the museum with my first seashells and pretty rocks, and I started writing my first novel when I was ten. It was horrible. I had no story to tell and I realized pretty quickly that you can collect for a museum, but you cannot be a novelist. For me, I knew I needed to live life first, hone the craft, the skills. I wrote a thousand articles before I wrote it (the novel). So, I needed to do that. And, I tried, I picked it up, I wrote the first lines in 1993. ‘Zhivago is dead. I hunted him down, and I killed him’, and the first page, actually. I sat there thinking, ‘Okay, it’s time to write!’ But it wasn’t. I hadn’t lived. I needed another 30 years. I needed to have a story to tell. So, I lived my life, essentially, to do what you’re holding in your hand, (the novel) is the result of a life lived.”

Shockey’s thriller involves a centuries-old clandestine group called Our World, which seeks out gifted children to identify and procure the most valuable pieces of art by whatever means necessary, including murder, to be sold in secret auctions to the wealthiest collectors. Hunter is one of the children who gets recruited into Our World. But he later turns on the organization and seeks to eliminate the brutal killer Zhivago, who is also a genius at recognizing masterpieces, before he can reach Hunter’s daughter. Shockey leans on his experience in collecting folk and tribal art, and winds his knowledge through the story, creating an association that preys on the uninformed.

“It’s a bit of a metaphor for the world,” Shockey says. “The organization is Our World, right? I think that anything that’s good gets abused by people that are greedy. It doesn’t matter what they’re greedy for, greedy for money, greedy for their art. They’re enabled by people in the art world that are so obsessed with collecting that it becomes almost inhuman. They’ve lost their humanity. Their desire to own that piece is so great, and that’s what fuels this organization, Our World. That’s kind of like the world right now, and that’s what it’s meant to be. Yes, the art world has an underworld, of course, it does. I think financially fake art is in the billions and billions of dollars. It’s next to gun running and drugs. So, one hundred percent, there’s an underbelly to the art world.”

Shockey’s introductory line serves more than one purpose. It begins the novel and also opens a document sent to Nyala, one of the book’s main characters, in which Hunter’s story begins to unfold, ultimately leading her on an adventure to uncover his identity. It arrives suspiciously at her home in, of all places, Pinehurst, North Carolina.

“My wife and I own a house in Pinehurst at the Country Club of North Carolina, CCNC,” Shockey said when I asked why, with his history of traveling the world on wildlife adventures, he set a novel with international settings in the famous golfing community not far from Wilmington. “Everything in the novel had to be true. Good writing is honest writing and so it’s very honest. When I’m talking about the carp slurping the grass cuttings on the surface of the lake and the wood ducks, that’s why it’s set there. It’s honest.”

That’s one truth from Shockey’s life intertwined in the pages of Call Me Hunter. There are many others, including a lunch gathering that features several familiar faces from 70s and 80s television, and an experience on a movie set with a high-profile actor and a rock star. Listen for those stories in my podcast interview. Shockey calls the novel “an autobiographical, abstract thriller”, and he wants readers to determine where reality ends with the real-life hunter and fiction begins with his character, Hunter.

“I love the double and triple entendre, right? I mean, you can call me Hunter,” Shockey says with a smile. “My favorite book when I was growing up, I was ten years old, grade five, reading J.A. Hunter’s Hunter. It’s not about hunting, it has nothing to do with hunting, although hunting for treasures and going around the world, looking for natural history objects, it’s so autobiographical. There’s many, many parts of Hunter, the character and Tsau-Z, the Man of Sores and Icarus that are autobiographical. As I say, I’d love somebody to go and dig it up. Dig all you want, and you’ll find photos, a document and kind of giggle about it. They say, ‘Is it autobiographical?’ I say, ‘Well, you know, I’d say 80 percent of it is truth, and the 20 percent that would put anybody in jail, that’s the fiction part.’”

Shockey’s fans will be happy to learn that Hunter’s story is not over. Readers will be left with several unfinished storylines in Call Me Hunter that the award-winning television host and producer plans to resolve.

“I envisioned this to be a three-book series originally because it’s my story, so I know how long the story is and I know what’s involved with telling that story,” Shockey says about follow-ups to his debut. “In fact, the first iteration was the one that I left with a cliffhanger ending that Emily (Bestler, his editor) said, ‘No, you’ve got to finish this off’. So, I wrote the first four chapters of the second book, the sequel, and tacked them on to the back end of the first one, Call Me Hunter, just to wrap it up a little better. She said, ‘Look, if you’re Stephen King, you can leave a cliffhanger. If you are (James) Patterson, you can leave a cliffhanger, and everybody will accept it and buy it. She said, ‘You’re a first-time novelist debut, don’t even think about it’. So, there’s unanswered questions, and I left it exactly like the story is.”

Call Me Hunter is now available, and Jim Shockey has already launched a book tour to promote it. I hope you enjoy the podcast interview with him as much as I did. I also want to pass along my condolences to Jim and his family on the recent passing of his wife, Louise. Jim was nice enough to join me for the interview a short time after her death. I will always be grateful for that gesture.

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