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  • Ken Perrotte

Jim Shockey's Gripping Debut Novel 'Call Me Hunter' an Enigmatic Plunge into Hidden World

Book Review: 'Call Me Hunter' an 'abstract thriller that like cubism, distorts reality.' Shockey shares insights into the book's decades-long evolution. It's a page turner!
Book Cover "Call Me Hunter"

Jim Shockey, arguably the most visible hunting personality on the planet, steps beyond the bounds of his traditional world of big game adventures chronicled in print and television and releases this month his first novel, a riveting, often disturbing dive into the deep end of the international art pool.


I received an advance copy of the 400-page “Call Me Hunter,” published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books, (ISBN13: 9781668010358) and available Oct. 17, 2023, not knowing what to expect. Perhaps, given the title, some sort of adventure novel set in a hunting scenario. Bad guess! Instead, Shockey has woven a complex story that pulls from many facets of his own life, including his younger years, his stint as a Canadian national water polo team member, travels to exotic places, and his longstanding fascination with folk and exotic art. His “Hand of Man Museum of Natural History, Cultural Arts & Conservation” in Maple Bay, British Columbia, features many items he collected over a lifetime.


Jim Shockey head shot

In a sort of, “I dare you to dig further,” fashion, he declares, “This is my story – literally and figuratively,” noting that the title character is modeled on himself “layer upon layer upon layer.” He challenges readers to look up facts and circumstances outlined in the book, saying it’s filled with clues and that readers can dig into Google or other search tools to either prove or try to disprove certain facts. A cursory check of some facts showed many actual events stitched into the narrative.


The book begins with a murder confession, the termination of a depraved monster named Zhivago, something that later will have readers nodding approval. The central plot involves the development of a young savant, with a superhuman knack for sniffing out classic, rare and valuable art. He is drafted, without option, into a centuries-old, secretive society called “Our World” – a criminal syndicate really – that plunders the globe to ensure its members, who pay fortunes at annual secret auctions, have access to rare, exquisite art. Once sold, the art disappears, although well-crafted forgeries are sometimes left in its place. There is no act too despicable for those charged with finding that art.


Eventually, though, a crack forms as our protagonist grows disillusioned with the organization and its methods. Despite merciless conditioning, Hunter (then known as Icarus) revolts. The pace quickens and loose connections tighten as the book races toward a confrontation related to the Our World deadly infatuation with finding and possessing the single greatest work of art in the world, something directly threatening Hunter’s family.


“Call Me Hunter” carries readers back and forth across decades, with each chapter integrating more succinctly with a lengthy, explanatory and sometimes incriminating narrative Hunter has provided to a young journalist. It took me about 40-50 pages to begin getting into the rhythm of the book. Shockey told me that isn’t an unusual experience. “’Call Me Hunter’ is not a linear story,” he said. “It requires attention to the details, such as time and space.

Shockey with police protection on exotic hunting trip

Shockey: Abstract Thriller ‘Distorts Reality’

Shockey calls the novel an “abstract thriller, that like cubism, distorts reality.” It probably isn’t a “beach read,” he said. Neither is it a “book someone might read for a few minutes every evening before bed, although they certainly could, but then might only pick up on the first or maybe second degree of the layering.”


Shockey shared that the process for what would become this book began when he was just 10 years old, noting he “shelved the project” because he lacked the skills and didn’t yet have a story to tell.


“I penned the first lines, ‘Zhivago is dead. I hunted him down and I killed him,’ back in about 1993. I’d honed the craft of writing, but still hadn’t ‘lived’ enough life yet to have a story to tell,” he explained.


I asked about the timing -- how he figured it was time to sit down and write the book, wondering if the COVID shutdowns might have provided such a window. After all, for decades he seemed like a perpetual motion machine with little downtime. “The short answer is, No,’” he said. I did not need COVID to help with the discipline it takes to sit and write. It was simply time…


“In 2016, I determined that my last international trip would be to Mozambique, in October of 2019. I had expeditions booked out that far,” he said. “One month after that trip, in November of 2019, I sat down and continued to tell the story I’d started over 50 years before.”


Shockey: I do not need to storyboard my own story

Asked if he worked from a storyboard or something similar, given the complexity and juxtaposition of places and times, Shockey said, “I simply sat down and began typing out my story. I do not need to storyboard my own story…I also never wrote up an outline.”


The main character development in the book is extensive. Some characters, although frequently appearing, such as the journalist’s best friend, are a little less explored, sort of like (to date myself) an Ed McMahon “second banana” to Johnny Carson. Still, there’s enough to get a good perspective on their relationships.


I loved how various messages related to conservation and hunting and eating wild game are interspersed in the book, sometimes countering the pervasive fiction and distortion of anti-hunting proponents. Maybe nonhunters who read the novel will gain some insight in that regard.


The novel was originally sent to 10 publishers of “literature” and not “commercial fiction,” Shockey said. These publishers Googled Shockey and roundly figured a hunting celebrity didn’t have the chops to write “august prose and complicated plotlines required for a work of literature.”


“Next lifetime, I want to be reincarnated as a down and out professor of English Lit, suffering from a lifetime of woes, failed relationships and depression. That way, maybe they’ll consider me qualified enough to at least read my manuscript!” Shockey said.

shockey looking out airplane window

The book’s publication comes at a sad time for the Shockey family. Louise Shockey, Jim’s wife of 39 years died in September 2023 from lung cancer, a battle the family shared with fans and friends over the last couple of years. He dedicates the book to her, and she appears in its pages. I’ll leave it to you to figure out where.


Still, Shockey says the forthcoming book launch and the travel related to it might be exactly what he needs at this difficult time. “I honestly can’t say what is the best way for me to go forward,” he said. “Hopefully my instincts are correct, and the tour and associated efforts will be the correct course of action.”


Shockey: ‘Our World’ is Real

My wife Maria also read the book. As it races to the end, it was increasingly harder to put it down. The book’s ending screams, “Sequel.” While it carries the reader to a relative conclusion of one journey, further danger from Our World looms ahead.


Shockey said he wants readers to “consider the core values of Our World. Pride. Greed. Wrath. Envy. Lust. Gluttony.” He hopes readers recoil at the thought there could be such powerful organization, with those values. “Then,” he said, “I want readers to open their eyes and look around the world we live in, figuratively speaking. If they do, they can only come to one conclusion about the existence of Our World. It is not only plausible, it’s real.”


The last four chapters of “Call Me Hunter” are actually what would have been the first four chapters of the sequel, Shockey said. He has a two-book deal, but says that regardless of the contractual obligation, “My intention is to write. I haven’t finished telling my story.”


Jim Shockey's "Call Me Hunter" is available for preorder from: Simon & Schuster, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, and Bookshop.org. $27.99 hardcover.

Shockey in Yukon wilderness


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