James Mapes looks familiar. He seems like the kind of gentleman you could sit in a classy saloon and talk with.

He’s lived what he calls “a great life” — that of actor and showman and best-selling author and business speaker.

He describes himself as “an evangelist of the imagination.”

He’s a people person, by his own definition. His latest project is a two-CD set that looks to help calm pre-operative patients and get those people on the road to a quick recovery. Simplistically called Patient Pre-op/Post-op Healing Therapy, the CDs are meant to reduce the stress and anxiety that surgery can bring.

“You’ve got to harness me,” he said with a laugh as he talks in his Westport home.

Mr. Mapes runs the James Mapes Organization, based in Wilton. For more than 30 years, he has studied human behavior.

Originally from Illinois, he graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1969 with a master’s degree in theater. He then struggled as an actor, director and set designer, working with pianist Roger Williams, as well as actress and Cannondale businesswoman June Havoc.

He found he was fascinated by magic and, eventually, hypnosis, which initially scared him off.

“But I never forgot it,” he said.

Soon he was doing 170 hypnosis shows a year, which grew into a rotation of performances and seminars and TV appearances.

In the meantime, he continued to occasionally act, appearing in well-known movies such as The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Taxi Driver, and two of the Star Trek movies in the early 1990s.

In 1982, he founded Quantum Leap Thinking, after being told by his manager he needed to get into business because “it’s where the money is.”

“I hate business,” Mr. Mapes said.

The move was a success, with more appearances worldwide and, eventually, a book: Quantum Leap Thinking: An Owner’s Guide to the Mind, in 1996. He continued on this path, and continuing to act until a trip to the doctor after filming a movie in Scotland, The Wicker Tree.

“I was the only American actor in the cast,” he said. “It was physically exhausting. I played a tap-dancing, mandolin-playing, guitar-drumming Jimmy Swaggart.”

“We worked 16 hours a day, and stayed in a castle. It was a dream for my wife and I.”

In between, he also achieved a dream: reaching Broadway and presenting A Whirlwind Tour of the Mind at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan in 2007. He also presented his one-man show, Journey Into the Imagination.

Two weeks to live

Returning home in August 2009, Mr. Mapes found himself depressed. He told his wife, movie critic Susan Granger, that he would visit his doctor. That doctor told him to walk across the street and visit his cardiologist.

“Two minutes to 6, my cell phone rang,” he said. “It was my cardiologist. He said, ‘I know you’re a tough nut, so I’m going to say this so that you’re going to hear it. You have less than two weeks to live. You have an aortic aneurysm.’

“During the next few days, I made a decision. I had been working with people preparing for surgery for over 30 years. I didn’t take money or advertise. I decided if I had to go through this, I’m going to be my own experiment. I’m going to come out of this with a program that is going to make a huge difference.”

Out of that experience came his current project, a 76-minute interactive workshop for pre-surgery patients. Patients listen to it for 20 minutes twice a day before surgery. Following surgery, patients continue to listen to it until healed.

Mr. Mapes feels that while there may be similar products on the market, he feels quite confident his is one of a kind.

“There are a lot of meditation things, but nothing quite like this,” he said.

Patients, generally, feel out of control before and after surgery, he said. He studied and participated in grand rounds, mostly at Bridgeport Hospital, as well as receiving support from Yale-New Haven Hospital, which allowed him to gain an understanding as he put the CD together.

The program, Mr. Mapes said, will reduce anxiety, diminish post-surgery complications, reduce and eliminate pain following the procedure, improve sleep both before and after surgery, and help recovery.

“When you go in relaxed, your surgery is going to go better,” he said. “You can manage your pain, so you can get off narcotics sooner, and you can heal 25% faster. It’s not fluff. It’s basic neuroscience.

“I’ve used it for brain, hip, back, cancer, for anything.”

Statistics provided by Mr. Mapes indicate more than 50 million Americans have surgery.

From a statement for Patient Pre-op/Post-op Healing Therapy: “Studies — in the United States and around the world — present solid medical research showing that those individuals who pro-actively prepare for surgery, reduce negative stress and fear, improve immune function, manage pain, and recover more quickly.”

Now he’s beginning the process of marketing the product. Just another piece of the fascinating world that is the life of James Mapes.