"It languished for several months, but has now been released in print, and it's the object of most of my promotional attention," he said. "The story's primary character is hardly a hero. He's a Texan, a former congressman and a used car dealer, none of which are punishable offenses of course, and no such inference is attached. He does allow himself to take on the role of hit man for a white supremacist organization in South Africa. His travels around the country mirror my personal travel destination experiences, but where I was lawfully sport hunting game species he was fulfilling assassination contracts. The tools of his trade are a rifle and a knife I invented for the story, based on my authentic knowledge of both disciplines."
Jim has made his living at writing for nearly half a century. He started as an engineering writer/editor with the defense/aerospace industry and progressed to serving in various editorial positions with two West Coast magazine houses and all the while freelancing for several outdoors magazines. He took a hiatus from commercial publishing—about ten years and long enough to lose his contacts in the magazine world.
"Starting over, I decided it was time for the books I had on the back burner of my mind for some time," he told me.
Jim is currently working on two different projects, but the saga-novel Gemstone is foremost. I asked him to share a little background about it.
Mention the word, “safari,” in today’s society, and two points of view passionately emerge. Sport hunters see hunts for big and dangerous game while anti-hunters see the African creatures bagged only with camera. These two views of safari are not necessarily in opposition, and few on either side of the question know the full extent of safaris on the socio-economic structure of modern Africa. Hunting safaris by that name have been carried out in Africa since white man discovered the continent, and game has been taken by the native populations even longer, but without knowing that pursuing game for food and protection amounted to being “on safari.” Moving to the white sportsman’s side of the activity, safari operators of the early years, the “white hunters,” at best were fragmented and isolated adventurers, and so remained for a couple of hundred years. The start of major changes from a cottage adventure trade to an industry of global influence can be traced to the mid 1960s.His plots spring from a "what if" mental game, influenced by knowledge he's accumulated from travel or personal experience. In his first novel, The Outlander, his female character is an engineer with the electrical power company in South Africa. Jim modeled her on a female electronics engineer he had once worked with: blonde, pretty, and smart. In one of his current WIPs, his assassin-in-training is first an advertising salesman for a firearms magazine.
About that time a professional hunter in South Africa founded a safari company and is credited with bringing big game hunting to the common man, or that is to say, to the workaday sportsman. His organizational groundwork evolved into the related industries of game management, including capture and relocation of huntable species, game ranching, countrywide and eventually worldwide marketing and distribution of game meat and products, and perhaps most importantly, creation of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa.
Enter the fictional protagonist of Gemstone: The forward-looking prophecies of the real professional hunter and conservationist are transferred to Jim Stone, a young American in South Africa in the 1950s. Jim Stone, as Gemstone Safaris, becomes the visionary force that builds the modern-day safari industry in South Africa. In so doing, his influence throughout the Gemstone saga is reflected in the economic, social, racial and political facets of the country. Gemstone the novel, like South Africa, the country, is a work in progress. When the story is complete its content and timeline will parallel actual events in South Africa up to that corresponding point in history.
"I know several such salesmen and one stands out in my mind as I develop that character," he said. "I named him John Pennywitt because I recently found out I have a distant ancestor by the name, and his name was fabricated too, having changed it from the French to English these three hundred years ago on the occasion of his immigration to the new world."
Most often, Jim's plots come first and then he develops the characters to fill it out. However, in another WIP, the storyline itself was barely there when he titled the work Gemstone and named his protagonist the sound-alike, Jim Stone.
"The setting for the novel is South Africa, a country of diverse people and customs. My hero is expat American but he must interact with the multi-racial population of the country. His adult sidekick is Juju, named for a young Mashona boy I actually met on safari," he explained. "Jim Stone's mentor in the country is an English farmer, Milo Fields. 'Milo' is a common grain crop of South Africa. (I couldn't name him Corn Fields.) Yet another character representing the country is the restaurateur, Sal Adbahr. The spelling is devised to resemble East Indian but say it fast and it's 'salad bar.' One memorable Afrikaner I was exposed to in country was somewhat truculent, so my primary Boer character also is difficult to get along with."
For Jim, his titles need to bear some relation to the content, even if it's not apparent to the bookstore browser.
"That’s why books have subtitles and back cover blurbs and magazine articles have decks," he explained."My first novel, The Outlander, treats an American actually born in South Africa, but was removed at an early age and returned to the country of his birth in adulthood. He was indeed an outsider in his own world. Assassination Safari pretty well describes the plot and action of that story, the two words normally not associated with one another. Gemstone might be thought to be a story of jewelry until the browser reads the back blurb and notes the protagonist’s homonym name."
Jim has written sixteen titles in all, some in e-book format, but most in print. I asked him which was his favorite.
"My current favorite novel is Assassination Safari but I suspect Gemstone will move to the front, when I get moved to finish it. In nonfiction, it’s a tossup between my writing tutorial and my big-game hunting memoir, but I re-read my own safari experiences regularly."
About the Author: Jim Woods has published some four hundred articles in nationally distributed print magazines, contributed to various fact and fiction anthologies, and is the author of sixteen print and e-books with treatments ranging from writing tutorial to fictional political assassination. His current print and e-book release from Champagne Books, Cabbages and Kings, is a collection of eclectic short fiction.
Jim is a world traveler, so far having logged his presence in eighty countries. He also is a former Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with Petersen Publishing Company of Beverly Hills; and Senior Field Editor with Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego. He’s a former big-game hunter and has written extensively on African safari, both the hunting and camera varieties. He lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona.
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