The best thing about reading is having the opportunity to go on adventures you know you’ll never get around to taking. “Big Jim” by David Lucero is a good case in point. Through his novel, I was able to travel back in time and halfway around the world to experience the thrills and danger of a big game hunt, from the prospective of an unlikely duo who earn a living through safaris and their work for governments intent on balancing the needs and safety of man and beast. It is full of colorful imagery and even a few famous people of that era, giving the story an extra garnish of reality.
Here is David Lucero’s story behind the story:
“Big Jim” is my 3rd published novel, and I had most fun with this one due to the extensive research required. I know that sounds like choosing a favorite child, but after reading my explanation perhaps you’ll understand my reasons.
My inspiration for this book came from some of my favorite movies about Africa. Films like Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), Mogambo (1953), The MacComber Affair (1948), and King Solomon’s Mines (1951) all left lasting impressions with me, so much that a picture safari in Africa is on my Bucket List. The safari scenes were amazing, filled with romance, danger, and intrigue.
A challenging question from readers is, “How can you write a story about a place or subject you’ve never visited or done?”
It’s a good question, and the answer has always been better. “Writing is about imagination, not necessarily one’s experiences.”
Imagine if George Lucas never wrote STAR WARS because he’d never traveled into space. We’d have missed out on a number of terrific movies and follow-up novels. With this in mind, I used my imagination and decided to write a story about an African safari filled with romance, danger, and suspense.
I revisited the films mentioned above to get the feel for what I searched for in my story. I read JAWS when I decided to have my main character face off with a mystical creature summoned by a witch doctor angry with local villagers who doubted his black magic. I felt that particular book would help me get the feel for a man-against-beast theme. I was not disappointed by the late Peter Benchley’s novel.
I read books by real-life professional hunters like Peter Hathaway Capstick (Death in the Long Grass), Brian Herne (White Hungers: The Golden Age of African Safaris), Robert Ruark (Horn of the Hunter), Ernest Hemingway (Green Hills of Africa), and many more. In fact, I read 12 books in all during my research for this story. All provided a wealth of information which made my story, characters, and period authentic. My biggest challenge was creating a theme which depicted an adventurous safari, one that did not focus on hunting, but rather the beauty and wonder of Africa. I don’t hunt and have no interest in doing so, but I have always been intrigued by the hunter’s role in leading a safari into the wild.
To keep the theme romantic, I chose the year 1953, which was when the craze for going on safaris was at its height. In fact, many of the people mentioned in my book were real-life hunters, hotel workers, safari company owners and such. My characters interact with them quite a lot and I challenge readers to google their names for fun and to learn more about them.
I had a great time adding famous actors and singers in my story who were there during this period, but you’ll have to read the book to find out who they are—no spoiler alerts from me about them! Learning how many hunters risk losing licenses over hunting accidents provided the idea for having my main character placed on probation when such an incident occurs.
This also allowed me to introduce a female reporter working for a magazine which wanted photographs and a story about African safaris. Having her hire my main character who needed the publicity in light of all the fierce competition, provided me the opportunity I needed to keep my story focused on the wonders of an African safari versus the brutality of hunting. You see, the female reporter needed to learn things about Africa for her story, and my hunters explained what she needed to know. This added something to my book which I did not originally intend, which was to provide something of an education for readers about safaris, wildlife, and the land itself.
I also learned what the Hunters Code is, and I now have renewed respect for them. I have not been a person who favors hunting and my book in no way focuses on that aspect of safaris, though it was necessary for me to add hunting scenes to keep my story authentic. Their code I learned about during my research opened my eyes to why they hunt and the respect they have for the animals they kill, or in some cases, are themselves killed by the animals they track.
I hope you enjoyed this look behind the story of ‘Big Jim.’ My book(s) are available in paperback, kindle, and kindleunlimited. I appreciate any and all reviews on Amazon.com and Goodreads.com, and my website www.lucerobooks.com
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Keep on reading, and I’ll keep on writing!