"Ludlumesque" Spy Thriller NOVEMBER ECHO Wins Double Gold in 2014 International Book Awards
"I wish I could claim credit for that awesome cover," Turner says. "It was the creative brilliance of Frauke Spanuth, of Croco Designs. Frauke is truly a graphic arts genius."
Talanov the fictional character is based on the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow through a network of underground contacts that Turner was on a KGB watchlist for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. Turner says that act of heroism is what gave him the idea of a good-guy Russian agent who became a spy for America.
Set against Biopreparat, the top-secret biological weapons program of the former Soviet Union, November Echo takes readers back to the moment Talanov became a spy. "We meet him as the cocky KGB colonel that he was," Turner explains. "We enter his world of James Bond extravagance so typical of the eighties. 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. It's 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."
Success has not come easily for Turner, who introduced Talanov to the world in 1999. That novel -- The Second Thirteen -- languished in Australia until it was picked up by a U.S. publisher in 2010, where it was retitled and rereleased as Department Thirteen. The book went on to win three gold medals.
"It had been rejected again and again by agents and editors," Turner recalls. "They said readers would not be interested in a middle-aged former KGB agent. That kind of elitist thinking about what the public would and would not like is what caused the publishing landscape to change. The marketplace determines that and most of those so-called 'experts' are now out of work. And guess who's still going strong: Talanov."
So what is Talanov's appeal? For one thing, Turner writes what he knows and what he's lived as a smuggler behind the old Iron Curtain. Driving vehicles with secret compartments, he has crossed dozens of borders transporting cash, clothing, Bibles, coffee, and tons of medical supplies to needy hospitals in Eastern Europe. He has interviewed gulag and death camp survivors. He has organized midnight meetings with informants. These and other experiences have enabled him to bring Talanov's world to life because he's actually lived it himself. But the story does not end there.
Turner has also survived cancer in an operation that saw a tumor the size of his fist removed from his jaw. The operation, performed in Australia when he had but weeks to live, left him with slurred speech and a disfigured face. "I have scars on almost every part of my body," he explains, one of which dates back to a karate test with Jim Harrison, a man Bruce Lee called one of the most dangerous men in the world.
"Harrison pounded me from one side of the mat to the other. Down I would go and Harrison would make me get up, only to punch me down again ... repeatedly. I don't know how long that went on but it seemed like an eternity. At the end of my test, both eyes were black and blue. One was bleeding. The other was swollen shut. My nose was bleeding. So was my mouth. I could barely stand. Harrison approached and asked if that was the worst beating I'd ever had. I said yes. He replied, 'And I didn't let you quit. No matter what life throws at you, don't ever quit.' He then clasped me on the shoulder and told me he had given me a scar above one eye to remind me of this moment. I still wear that scar today.
"So when Talanov gets beaten up, I've been there. When he bleeds, I've been there. When he anguishes over the loss of loved ones, I've been there. When he's betrayed, I've been there. When he feels his age, I am there. The emotions of those experiences -- as well as the exhilarations of love and triumph -- are what I call upon to give Talanov realism and depth."
United Kingdom reviewer Daniel Cann agrees. "I find the idea of a hero in his fifties far more compelling than a superhuman, indestructible, twenty-something, programmed agent. Clearly, Talanov is not your typical fifty year-old, as he has the conditioning of someone much younger. It is his brainpower and experience as much as his physical ruggedness that makes him so effective."
Other reviewers and critics echo these thoughts. Liz Terek (NewsBlaze) says Talanov is "unlike any spy hero you've encountered before." Kat Toland (IndieReader) called November Echo "exceptional,"
"When I earned my master's degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake)," Turner says, "I had to defend my thesis to a committee of academic colleagues, all of whom were PhDs. The process is called 'peer review' and this idea of peer review is where competitions like the International Book Awards (IBA) are especially significant. Each and every submission must pass the peer review of industry professionals who critique and evaluate a book's quality compared not only according to their own high standards, but with the quality of other books. Readers deserve quality, and awards like the IBA let readers know which books have passed the test.
"So I'm especially proud of these IBA gold medals. If I'm asking my readers to invest time and money in one of my books, they deserve to know it's the best it can be."
ABOUT NOVEMBER ECHO
Every spy has a beginning, and for Colonel Aleksandr Talanov of the KGB, that moment occurs one summery night in 1985 on the Costa del Sol, at the height of Cold War tensions between the Americans and Soviets.
As a signatory to the Biological Weapons Treaty of 1972, the United States had already destroyed its military stockpiles of weaponized pathogens. The Soviet Union, however, responded differently to the signing of that treaty. They created a network of forty-seven top-secret facilities spread across Russia. Called Biopreparat, it was the largest biological weapons program in history.
So when a scientist from one of those facilities decides to defect, Talanov has the assigned task of bringing him back. But after tracking the scientist and his family to Spain, Talanov is betrayed and the scientist and his family are murdered.
The only survivor is their teenage daughter, Noya -- short for Noyabŕ -- in English, "November" -- and what happens in an impulsive moment changes the course of Talanov's life by placing him in a desperate race to save Noya from the deadliest and most vicious adversary he will ever encounter: the KGB.
To purchase a copy of this award-winning bestseller or read a full list of reviews, go to Amazon.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Houston Turner is the bestselling author of the Aleksandr Talanov thriller series, as well as numerous other books and articles. His debut Talanov thriller, Department Thirteen, 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. Originally from Kansas and a former journalist in Los Angeles, he holds a bachelor's degree from Baker University and a master's degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). After twenty years in Australia, he and his wife, Wendy, live in Austin, Texas.
You may visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/