Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Blog Tour: Greco's Game by @rubyrockfilms #interview #thriller

Thriller / Suspense / Action / Romance
Date Published: November 1, 2017
Publisher: Regis Books

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Colonel Aleksandr Talanov – the “ice man” – is married to a woman he wishes he could love. But he can’t, and it’s an ugly consequence of his training with the KGB. Even so, no one should have to experience what Talanov experiences: the brutal murder of his wife in front of his eyes.

Wracked with guilt and suspected of plotting her death, Talanov spirals downward on a path of self-destruction. He should have been killed, not her. He was the one whose violent past would not leave them alone. Months tick by and Talanov hits rock bottom on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he meets a hooker named Larisa, who drugs and robs him.

But in the seedy world of human trafficking ruled by the Russian mafia, Larisa made the mistake of stealing the ice man’s wallet. In it was Talanov’s sole possession of value: his wedding photo. Talanov tracks Larisa down to get that photo because it reminds him of everything that should have been but never was, and never would be because an assassin’s bullet had mistakenly killed his wife. Or was it a mistake?

The answer lies in Greco’s Game, a chess match played in 1619 that is famous for its queen sacrifice and checkmate in only eight moves. In an unusual alliance, Talanov and Larisa team up to begin unraveling the mystery of what Talanov’s old KGB chess instructor regarded as the most brilliant example of how to trap and kill an opponent. The question is: who was the target?

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Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That individuals matter. Talanov sticks up for the proverbial “little guy,” which in Greco’s Game is an eleven year-old girl who is kidnapped by a crime lord in a trap engineered to lure Talanov to Hong Kong. In fact, fighting for the individual almost becomes an obsession for Talanov because he came from a corrupt, totalitarian communist empire, the old Soviet Union, which occupied all of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II and drained their economies for well over forty years ... in the name of “redistributing the wealth,” which, in practice, meant stealing it from Eastern Europe and giving it to the Soviet elite. Thus, when Talanov sees the same corrupt practices going on in Washington, he is understandably outraged.

I saw the effects of this firsthand because for years I used to smuggle humanitarian supplies to needy people living in Soviet-occupied countries. I have stood in bread lines for hours for a single loaf of bread. I have interviewed survivors of death camps and gulags, and studied the ways of the KGB, which stripped people of their individual rights and sent them to prison for trivial and fabricated crimes. In Greco’s Game, we find Talanov having to defy the United States Intelligence Community in order to save that eleven year-old girl. It’s who he is, and the main reason for that is because it’s who I am. This trait is personal to me because I remember the doctor who confirmed that I did indeed have cancer (in my jaw), after which he said, “No health insurance? Sorry, buddy, can’t help you,” whereupon he walked out of the room, leaving me alone in the examination chair. That was in San Diego, in 1991. Had I chosen to have an operation, it would have cost me over $200,000 cash. So my wife and I flew to Australia, where for $17,000, a team of surgeons opened my face up like a book and removed a tumor the size of an orange, along with half of my mandible and teeth. They then made a new jaw bone from hip bone, stole vessels and arteries from both arms, rebuilt my face, plugged everything in and hit the switch. And to everyone’s surprise, I lived. I had been given eighteen months to live. It has now been over twenty-five years. The system did not care, and that doctor, as part of that system, did not care. It was entirely about the money, and a ridiculous amount at that. This is one reason the individual is so important to Talanov. That individual – me – is someone who would not now be alive had I not been important, as an individual, to someone else.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Balancing promotion with writing, because I absolutely love both. All of us writers know we can have the best book in the world, but if nobody knows it’s out there, it will go nowhere fast. We have to promote, which I sometimes find tedious and frustrating, because so much of it is reduced to social media blips. I am old-fashioned in that I love meeting readers and interacting with them, and not just interacting about me and my books, but about the lives and interests of others.

A publicist once called me both her dream client – because I loved meeting people so much – and her nightmare client – because I loved meeting people so much (i.e., spending too much time with people and not enough time on social media). I just like hanging out with you guys too much!

As for the writing part of the equation, I believe a writer should honor his or her readers with a story that’s the very best it can be. That’s why I spend a lot of time editing. If I’m asking you to shell out money and time for one of my books, you deserve a book that’s worth your time and expense. I won’t be able to please everyone; I know that. But for my part, you will always receive my very best.

How many books have you written and which is your favorite?
To date, including my upcoming new Talanov thriller, Dragon Head, I’ve written a total of eight books (The Second Thirteen, published in Australia in 1999, was retitled and republished as Department Thirteen). I also took most of the photos in my wife’s sugar-free, gluten-free cookbook, The Recipe Gal Cookbook (2017). And I definitely got to taste-test all of her recipes!!!

As for my favorite book, not to sound corny, but my current project is always my favorite, which right now allows me to keep developing Talanov as a powerful presence in Washington and internationally. I think the unfolding political events of today, with all the forces at work to compromise and undermine this nation’s strength – many of which were initiated by the KGB – is a fascinating medium for Talanov. Remember, at one time Talanov was instrumental in the design and implementation of those efforts. Now, he is one of our primary assets in exposing and stopping them, which of course pits him against many of his former colleagues, which is what we encounter in Greco’ Game.

If you had the chance to cast your main character from Hollywood today, who would you pick and why?
I am in negotiations with a film production company in Hollywood, who has asked me not to comment on this. The reason is that certain actors are actually being considered for the role of Talanov. As soon as I know more, I will post news on my Official Facebook page. So I hope you will stop by and join that community. I will also post updates on my James Houston Turner website.

When did you begin writing?
When I was ten. I had a number of teachers who knew how to channel the daydreams of this little fat kid. Elementary school was therefore where I learned my love of writing through my love of research. I also fell in love with this big, wonderful, exciting world of ours thanks to a multi-band radio I found in a dumpster behind Smith’s Electrical, in my old hometown in eastern Kansas. I took it home, repaired it, shot an aerial up over a high branch in the walnut tree, which I’d strung from the elm tree up to my bedroom window on the second floor of our house. I would tune in to the world and listened to languages I could not understand. That is when I began to write, inspired by my teachers, that old radio, and the yarns spun by my dad and granddad.

How long did it take to complete your first book?
Thirty-five years. I kid you not . Okay, maybe a little, but not really, because my inspiration for Talanov – the actual KGB agent who leaked word out of Moscow that I was on a watch list for my smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain – occurred thirty-five years before I actually began to write his unfolding story, which had to simmer as a nascent idea on the back burner of my imagination until it finally morphed into a book, which then took me two years to write. Whew!

Did you have an author who inspired you to become a writer?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I loved Sherlock Holmes as a boy, and I have the annotated double-edition of his complete works. Those stories and Doyle’s turns of phrase whetted my appetite for linguistic expression and how descriptions can create a vivid image in ones imagination. I can still see and feel those equinoctial storms pounding the windows on Baker Street.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Reading the completed, edited manuscript back to myself out loud. This is the proverbial icing on the cake for me, because I get to enunciate words and add drama (as well as catch cadence errors and typos).

Describe your latest book in 4 words.
Talanov breaks all the rules.

Can you share a little bit about your current work or what is in the future for your writing?
I recently took time away from my novels to write several screenplays. Those screenplays opened some important doors for me, but writing them retarded my growth as a novel writer. I’m glad I wrote those scripts, and I learned a lot about story structure, but my foray into screenwriting cost me dearly in terms of my novels. One thing I did learn is that I’m not a screenwriter. “Do what you do best,” one film producer told me, “which is write novels. Leave the screenwriting to me.” Hence, this is what I am now doing. It wasn’t wasted time by any means, because my setbacks have been good teachers. The hard knocks of life – i.e., consequences – usually are. So I am now back to full-time novel writing, and I hope you enjoy the Talanov Express as it pulls out of the station picks up speed. I want to thank the great team at RABT for allowing me to join you on this exciting tour. I hope you enjoy the ride!

About the Author

James Houston Turner is the bestselling author of the Aleksandr Talanov thriller series, as well as numerous other books and articles. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that James was on a KGB watch-list for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. James Houston Turner’s debut thriller, Department Thirteen, was voted “Best Thriller” by USA Book News, after which it won gold medals in the Independent Publisher (“IPPY”) Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards. His novel, Greco’s Game, has just been optioned for film. A cancer survivor of more than twenty-five years, 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, author of The Recipe Gal Cookbook, now live in Austin, Texas.

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