Dangerous Books for Boys
Gabriel Hunt interviewed by Alan Kelly.
Charles Ardai was kind enough to act as intermediary and passed a request along to intrepid adventurer Gabriel Hunt for me. He responded while finding a (rare) quiet moment. Not that it’s ever truly quiet in the Darbar Margh district of Kathmandu (where he tells me he is writing from) but at least no one is coming through the door at him with guns blazing.
In the following interview Hunt tells me how the Hunt organisation was founded following the disappearance of his parents, some of the writers he co-authors his books with, encountering feral Amazonian warrior women with doomsday devices (beneath the Arctic circle), tailing dangerous Shanghai warlords, unearthing ancient artefacts, resurrections and one or two women who almost got him killed. My Hunt for answers begins here.
3:AM: Hello Gabriel. Thank you for taking the time out of your extremely fast-paced and dangerous lifestyle to speak with me. Let’s get started, shall we? You are co-chairman (with your brother Michael) of the New-York based Hunt Foundation. When did you decide to start up this organisation and can you explain a little of what it is you do?
Gabriel Hunt: The Hunt Foundation was established in my parents’ wills – they were declared dead in 2001, a year after their ship went missing in the Mediterranean. As you might recall from the newspaper reports at the time, their bodies were never found. In any event, their wills specified that their estates be transferred to a foundation whose purpose would be to promote scholarship in the areas of history, cartography, geography, archaeology, and other fields connected to their lifelong passion: exploration. My brother and I were named co-chairmen of the Foundation, but in practice I don’t spend much time on administrative matters. My signature is needed on the occasional bit of paperwork, but it’s Michael who really runs the show. And I’m glad he does since he enjoys that sort of thing. If I had to do what he does, spending days behind his desk and on the telephone, I’d go out of my head. What the Foundation does is provide grants to various individuals and institutions to fund their research. Needless to say, the Foundation has also funded some of my more ambitious projects.
3:AM: You’ve told quite a few of your thrilling adventures to hardboiled and noir writers – Nicholas Kaufmann, Christa Faust, Charles Ardai, David J. Schow. Who approaches who, do these writers come to you?
GH: Don’t forget James Reasoner and Raymond Benson! Happily, when it comes to wrangling the authors, Charles takes care of everything – he’s the editor of the books and arranges for the various writers to come on board. And I have to say I’ve been thrilled with all of them. Each of them has brought his or her own personal approach to relating my adventures, and it’s been fun for me to see my experiences filtered through the lens they each bring to bear. Now, you might ask how I first met Charles – but if you read the book he penned for the series, Hunt: Through the Cradle of Fear, you’ll find out the answer. I’ll just say it happened underground in Istanbul.
3:AM: May I ask how you became the world’s most daring adventurer?
GH: Oh, I don’t know that I’m the most daring – that’s probably Bob Ballard, or maybe Richard Branson. It’s possible, though, that I might be the world’s most curious. I love going places no one’s been for thousands of years, or where no man has ever set foot. In order to do this, I have to be prepared to encounter danger – but it’s not as though I seek it out or am happy when it finds me. Over the years I’ve become fairly good at avoiding being shot or stabbed or blown to pieces in explosions, but only because I’ve had to. I wouldn’t still be here if I hadn’t. I don’t actively seek out those sorts of experiences – I’m not a thrillseeker. For better or worse, though, I do seem to find myself in thrilling situations with some regularity.
3:AM: How do you feel about being described as a latter-day Doc Savage?
GH: I consider that a great compliment. I grew up reading Clark’s adventures and loved every one of them. I only wish I’d had more opportunities to speak with him. But with one thing and another we only met on a handful of occasions, and he was already quite old by that time.
3:AM: How many employees do you have? Can you tell me a bit about some of the primary members of the Hunt Foundation and exactly what their roles entail?
GH: I don’t have any myself; but the Foundation employs quite a few people, ranging from the research assistants and household staff at the headquarters down on Sutton Place in New York to the pilots and drivers for the various vehicles we maintain around the world and our remote agents in the field, watching out for our interests in obscure corners of the globe. In total, I would guess there are 50 or 60 people at any given time whose paycheck bears the Hunt Foundation logo.
3:AM: Is there any author who you’d like to co-author one of your adventures with?
GH: Oh, certainly. I know Charles chatted with Stephen King about it once, and I think he would be fabulous to work with, though I’m not counting on it ever happening! There are also some authors who are less well known, academics who are experts in their fields but whose names wouldn’t mean anything to the general public. I’d love to co-author a book with Dr. Henry Jones, for instance – the man’s got to be close to 100 by now, but he’s still spry, he’s still got his emeritus chair at Marshall, and I don’t know anyone who knows more about archaeology and recovering obscure artifacts than that man does.
3:AM: Can you give me an adventure in a nutshell? Something you’ve not yet shared with the world…Go on, just between us boys…
GH: Not yet shared with the world? Well…there was this one time when I wound up in Shanghai, on the trail of a would-be Chinese warlord out to claim the power of an ancient ancestor of his by unearthing the ancestor’s skeleton. Now, this ancestor had supposedly been buried inside a terracotta statue that was hidden among an army of similar terracotta statues in an underground cavern…but no one knew where the cavern was or how to locate it. I found it – but only after barely escaping with my life from a gun battle on a casino ship and several ambushes in the twisty alleyways of Shanghai, not to mention an encounter with two beautiful women who almost got me killed. I’ve had many close calls in my life, but these were some of the closest. It’s the story I shared with David Schow, a terrific novelist and screenwriter (he wrote The Crow, among other pictures), and David turned it into a book called Hunt Among the Killers of Men. The book’s not out yet, but in a month or so it will be, if you’re curious to find out more.
3:AM: Is there any great danger, apocalyptic or other, we should be worried about? Can we always count on you, Gabriel?
GH: The funny thing about the sort of apocalyptic dangers I encounter is that you generally can’t anticipate them. I mean, you can anticipate global warming – but how are you supposed to anticipate a tribe of Amazon women living at the South Pole with a 60-year-old doomsday device in their possession? Some things you just have to deal with when you stumble upon them. But yes, you can certainly count on me. If I come across something that threatens the world, I assure you I’ll do my damnedest to prevent the worst from happening.
3:AM: You won Peaburg Prize for photography, another of your many passions. What kind of things do you photograph?
GH: Sometimes I unearth objects or artifacts that I’m able to bring back with me – but other times I find things that need to stay where they are, and in that case I at least like to bring back photographs. They gave me the prize for my series on the lost temples of Sri Lanka, which hadn’t been seen by human eyes in well over 800 years when I found and photographed them.
3:AM: Thank you, Gabriel. Where are you planning on going after you finish answering my questions?
GH: I’d say Disneyland, but somehow I doubt you’d believe me.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Alan Kelly is the author of Let Me Die a Woman, published by Pulp Press. If he looks hungover, he probably is.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, June 10th, 2010.