Book Review by Tony Martins
CALL ME HUNTER is a “debut” novel by Jim Shockey, a man who is not unfamiliar to consumers of outdoors media and award-winning television productions. For the past 30+ years, he has traveled the world experiencing and documenting a mind-boggling array of cultural diversity with adventures in hunting and wildlife conservation, while promoting a “field-to-table” lifestyle that has grown exponentially during this period. In the Preface, Shockey says: “This is my story. I mean that figuratively… but also literally.” Fans of the author and his “Hunting Adventures” will recognize the names of people and objects, a favorite saying or two, and locations and events in the book – but likely not the murder confessed in the first two lines!
Readers expecting a hunting story could be disappointed. Shockey expertly provided dozens of these in two previous volumes: Ultimate Big Game Adventures (©2003) and Ultimate Big Game Adventures – Part II (©2004). Loaded with photos, both are excellent reading; recounting hunting experiences across North America and around the world. There is no hunting in CALL ME HUNTER per se. Nevertheless, the hunter/outfitter/adventurer – who also happens to be a recognized expert in tribal and folk art – found ways to cleverly work products from some of his leading sponsors into the manuscript, by name! Hunting is however, an important theme for the two protagonists that is referenced in a positive light – unusual in a novel, particularly in today’s world. (More on this, later.)
Categorized as a fictional, abstract “thriller” by the publisher, googling fact-checkers may soon start to question its fictionality, as Shockey relates specific details and spins his intricate and enthralling tale. By cleverly emulsifying provable facts with an astounding array of details, his intention for the blend is to catch the reader like “quicksand” – struggle and you will likely sink deeper into the story’s hold. Attempting to decipher and predict where the story is heading as many will do, will typically lead down a trail that turns cold, even when excellent tracking skills are applied, and then… surprise! If the fact that I had trouble putting the 400-page novel down once I started reading is any indication, the author likely has achieved this lofty goal.
The Plot: A clandestine, well-connected, and unbelievably powerful 250-year-old syndicate searches the world for its greatest art treasures. Our World operatives possess innate abilities to sense exquisite beauty and thus, recognize the most valuable works of art. These operatives are trained to acquire their targets, doing so with callous regard for the method – theft, bribery, forgery, and even murder… whatever it takes. When a masterpiece is acquired, it is secretly sold to the highest bidder – an opportunity offered to only the wealthiest of the world’s private art collectors – and subsequently disappears. Old World profits handsomely… collecting billions.
The title character, Hunter, is involved in this scheme – deeply and intricately. His story and the evolution of his involvement is revealed in an unusual manner for a novel, through both first and second person narratives, switching from one to the other throughout the book. This style leaves a few loose ends, which are eventually and neatly tied together for the reader. As Hunter grows with maturity, so does his disenchantment with Old World and its methods – particularly the unrepentant brutality, which has invaded his soul. When the life of his daughter is threatened, he is compelled to act, prompting a cross-continent, investigative and ultimately life or death journey to destiny.
Success for this refreshingly original and remarkably authentic work could open doors, particularly in the realm of fictional literature, where distortion of reality with an agenda is common, and hunters are considered vermin. It is highly unusual when hunting is characterized in favorable light. Thus, with groundwork laid – albeit it lightly treaded – the door is open for a sequel to CALL ME HUNTER, which is likely dependent on the level of commercial success for this novel. Honestly, I can think of no better person than Jim Shockey, one of the world’s most influential hunters, outdoorsmen and conservationists, to spearhead efforts to change wrongful, ignorant, prejudicial thinking about hunters, and further the provable science that hunting is conservation. Hopefully, this idea will come to fruition, in the form of another entertaining, enthralling, and insightful piece of literary work.
Due to the unusual writing style, with alternating first and second person perspectives, two different narrators will be used for the audiobook version. At the time of this writing, plans call for the author himself to narrate the second person dialogue. After all, he says in the Preface: “This is my story.”
CALL ME HUNTER, a novel by Jim Shockey
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Scheduled Release: October 17, 2023
Available for preorder from: Simon & Schuster, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM!, Bookshop.org