Kokoris, Jim 1958-
Kokoris, Jim 1958-
Born 1958; married; wife's name Anne; children: John, Michael, Andrew. Ethnicity: "Greek." Education: University of Illinois, Champaign, B.A.
Advertising executive, 1982-90; Golin/Harris Communications, vice president, 1990—.
The Rich Part of Life (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Sister North (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor of humor pieces to various publications, including Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, and
Reader's Digest. Humor columnist for USA Weekend magazine.
The Rich Part of Life was optioned for film by Columbia Pictures.
While working as a marketing and public relations executive, Jim Kokoris put time aside to write his first novel before he turned forty-five, feeling that if he waited, he would run out of steam—and dreams. For his fortieth birthday, his wife gave him the unusual gift of a working visit at the celebrated Iowa Writers' Workshop Summer Festival in Iowa City. While there, Kokoris passed a draft of the novel among his colleagues. All were enthusiastic. He took that encouragement home with him, and five drafts and a year later, he had a novel, The Rich Part of Life.
Although there was a time when he had considered attending law school, Kokoris decided instead that he wanted to be a writer. "Right after college, I gave serious thought to going to California and writing for television. I always thought I would end up writing sitcoms. I visited California several times, but in the end never made the jump," he explains on his home page. "I wrote a lot in my profession however, marketing public relations, and for years that was enough. When I turned forty however, I realized that I wanted to try my hand at something completely different, lose myself in a whole new world. So rather than get a red Porsche, I spent my midlife crisis writing a novel."
Kokoris, a Greek American, spends a quarter of the year traveling for his work as a publicist. The Rich Part of Life was written in thirty-three states, on the floors of airports, in the back of taxi cabs, and between meetings with clients in rental cars. One of his characters, a vampire named Sylvanius, was inspired by a man he noticed in line at the Nashville airport.
The Rich Part of Life tells the story of an eccentric history professor who plays his deceased wife's lucky numbers and wins 190 million dollars in the lottery. Smelling fresh money for the taking, a cast of suspicious characters begins to appear at the professor's doorstep, including far-flung family members and an ex-spouse with a strange claim of paternity. The narrative, told from the point of view of the professor's twelve-year-old son, reveals Kokoris's "subtle sense of humor—as sweet as it is wicked," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Many debut novels tend to be autobiographical. "Like all writers, I guess there are bits and pieces of people I know in my characters," Kokoris notes on his Web site. "Certainly there is a little of my sons in the book. Their mother, my wife, is not a dead stripper though."
Eventually, Kokoris's agent placed the novel with a publisher. Not only was it his first novel, but it was also the first novel sold by his agent, Lynn C. Franklin, who normally handles works of nonfiction. The author also sold the movie rights to Columbia Pictures, to be produced, written, and directed by James Mangold. Many writers would flinch at someone else reenvisioning their story, but not Kokoris. "He paid good money," Kokoris told Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times, "so he can do what he wants."
Kokoris's second novel, Sister North, is the story of Sam Gamett, a shallow, handsome attorney who marries for money, then loses his wife when the marriage fails. His practice, in which he represents thieves and sex deviants, also suffers, and when a gun-wielding client appears in Sam's office, his young secretary is shot, after which the killer turns the gun on himself. Sam is bewildered as to why the young woman died in his stead and sinks deeper into his midlife crisis. He takes up residence in a sleazy motel, where he drinks beer and eats junk food, and turns to a television celebrity, a nun named Sister North, for answers. He drives to Appleton, Wisconsin, to meet her, but upon arriving finds that she is missing, and no one knows where she is.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor described Appleton as "a kind of open-air asylum for eccentrics on the order of John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces." While there, Sam dries out, experiences a tornado, and finds love before finally meeting Sister North. Booklist reviewer Carol Haggas described the novel as a "charmingly profound yet deviously humorous portrait of redemption and renewal."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2003, Carol Haggas, review of Sister North, p. 56.
Chicago Sun-Times, July 1, 2001, Neil Steinberg, "One Man's Life Story Gets a New Title: Novelist," interview with Jim Kokoris.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2003, review of Sister North, p. 981.
Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2001, Mark Rozzo, review of The Rich Part of Life, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, February 21, 2000, John F. Baker, "Movie First for First Novel," p. 14; April 16, 2001, review of The Rich Part of Life, p. 44; November 3, 2003, review of Sister North, p. 55.
Jim Kokoris Home Page,http://www.jimkokoris.com" (May 16, 2006).