"Ludlumesque" Spy Thriller, November Echo, Hits #1 Bestseller List
JAMES HOUSTON TURNER'S fact-to-fiction novel, November Echo, which chronicles how KGB colonel Aleksandr Talanov became a deep-cover spy for America, climbed to Amazon.com's #1 bestseller position for espionage thrillers.
The book was featured on a number of international websites, including Turner's Official Facebook page, which he says helped it achieve #1. "Ratings are a lot like riding the Kingda Ka rollercoaster,"
With the tagline, Every Spy Has A Beginning, Turner's latest adventure chronicles the incident that turned Talanov into a spy. Set in 1985 against actual events surrounding Biopreparat, the Soviet Union's top-secret biological weapons program, November Echo takes readers on an emotional ride to the Costa del Sol, Spain, when Talanov is given the assignment of tracking down a defecting scientist. But when the scientist and his family are murdered in front of his eyes, his impulsive decision to save the man's teenage daughter pits him against the deadliest and most vicious adversary he will ever encounter: his own people, the KGB. Turner's thrillers have already been compared by The Dallas Morning News to those of Robert Ludlum, with the title of his latest novel taken from Talanov's CIA codename, "November Echo."
Writing in NewsBlaze, author Liz Terek calls November Echo the "Best book of 2013, bar none," with The Mystery Tribune calling Talanov (from its review of Greco's Game) "One of the most memorable characters we've come to know."
What sets the book apart from other spy thrillers is fourteen year-old Noya Gorev, daughter of the defecting scientist Talanov was assigned to locate. "Noya definitely adds emotional depth to the book," Turner explains from his home in Austin, Texas, where he and his wife, Wendy, recently moved after living nearly twenty years in Adelaide, Australia. "When we meet her, she's as devoid of emotion as Talanov. But slowly the two characters begin to change one another."
The addition of Noya, which has broadened the book's mainstream adult appeal to include the young adult audience, was an indirect result of the "Team Talanov" writing project, which Turner created to allow teenage students an opportunity to profile and name their own book characters. The project was run nationwide, with three winners having book characters named after their creations, with credit being given for their work. In addition, each of the three top winners will have their characters featured in at least one upcoming Talanov thriller. "Reading those profiles and interacting with so many talented teenage writers fed into the creation of Noya," Turner says.
November Echo is a step back in time from the modern-day setting of Turner's Talanov thriller series, which features Talanov as a middle-aged former agent now working as a consultant for the CIA. November Echo explains how he became a spy, with readers having the added treat of several characters making reappearances in the modern-day series. "I knew I had to write a different story with a subject like this," Turner recalls, "and it all started with questions from readers, such as, 'What would turn a KGB colonel into a spy? Why would Talanov betray the KGB? What made him do it? How was he trained? What was he like as a boy?' November Echo, then, became Talanov's personal odyssey."
The Talanov thriller series began with the highly-acclaimed Department Thirteen, which was voted the "Best Thriller of 2011" by USA Book News, after which it won gold medals in the 2012 Independent Publisher "IPPY" Book Awards and the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The sequel to this award-winning bestseller was Greco's Game, which took its name from first recorded chess game in history, played in 1619 and famous for checkmate in only eight moves, which in turn becomes an assassination plot in modern-day Los Angeles in what former CIA Department Chief, Charles Faddis, describes as "the deadliest chess game ever played." According to Turner, these two thrillers are more plot-driven stories, whereas November Echo is more character-driven within the context of an action seqence that takes place, with flashbacks, in a single night. "We see Talanov pushed beyond his normal limits," Turner explains, "which leads him to make life-changing decisions that explain who he is today."
Turner goes on to explain what the book is not. "November Echo is not about biological weapons. It is about a Soviet scientist wanting to escape the horrors of having to engineer them. It is about the man who tracked him down -- Talanov -- and what happens when he is betrayed. It is a look into the soul of a man whose world collapses, and the teenage girl who inspired his rise. It's a story about loss, struggle and triumph, but triumph at a cost.
"I have personally studied a lot of history," he continues. "In the course of my education, I've memorized the names of countries, empires, leaders, battles and treaties. But much of it held little meaning because I never connected with the people -- the participants -- and what they went through. A benchmark experience for me was Saving Private Ryan. That film took me into the lives of the soldiers who fought to save Private Ryan. As such, it made World War II come alive for me in ways it never had. The film didn't try to accomplish everything. It didn't try to cover the sweep of World War II and what caused it. Its focus was clearly on the people who gave their lives saving one man. November Echo is such a story.
"And while I give you a taste of what a biological weapon can do to a person -- how it rots and devours a human body from the inside -- this was ultimately not my goal. My goal was bringing Talanov alive by recording the incident that caused him to become a deep-cover spy for America. We meet him as the cocky KGB colonel that he was. We see what happens when the proverbial rug is yanked from beneath his feet, and in a single moment, everything changes. We witness his clever plan to catch a defector and how his own plan was used against him. In the original draft of this book was a passage I had to cut because it interrupted the flow of the story. I will include it here because it explains how Talanov's own strengths were used against him.
"The deadliest lies are half-truths and the greatest stealth is openness. Do them well and your enemy will not see you coming. But victory over an enemy is sometimes lost in the final hour, when a hero rises to reverse the tide of defeat. Many tacticians think killing the hero solves the problem. It does not. The death of a hero can inspire victory. The key: dishearten the hero. Do it well and you poison the hero's resolve. Do it well and the hero kills himself.
"So, while November Echo is the story of Talanov's fall, it is ultimately the story of his rise. It is a vignette into his life that sets the stage for the man he becomes in a series of thrillers I hope readers enjoy."
November Echo is available both as an eBook and in print. Ordering information and customer reviews can be found HERE.
ISBN (eBook): 978-0958666428
ISBN: (trade paperback): 978-0958666435
Information on James and his signature hero can be found at www.talanov.info.
Page Updated Last on: Nov 12, 2013