Thursday, November 16, 2017

Virtual Book Tour: Greco's Game by James Houston Turner @rubyrockfilms @RABTBookTours

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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Interview with James Houston Turner 

What inspired you to write Greco’s Game?

In some ways, Greco’s Game was a story that chose me. I was a journalist in downtown Los Angeles at a rescue mission early in my writing career. I landed that job because of my success with The Spud Book, which was a potato cookbook I wrote and self-published, which was then picked up by St. Martin’s Press in New York. While working at the mission, I had the privilege of interviewing several heroic women who had been the victims of human trafficking. Their stories both inspired and shocked me, because they were not aggressive, bitter women, but women full of tenacity and strength in spite of their damaged and sometimes fragile souls. Why they chose to sit and share their stories with me with such warmth and grace, I will never know. But they did, and I can still see many of their smiles. Almost without exception, they were women who refused to let their pasts define their futures. Those women inspired this book, and a composite of their quiet, strong, understated personalities is what led me to create Larisa, the lead female in Greco’s Game.
Tell us about the characters in Greco’s Game.
 Apart from Larisa, Greco’s Game features action hero Aleksandr Talanov, who was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that I was on a KGB watch list for my smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. His act of heroism – he could have been shot for what he did – gave me the idea of a good-guy KGB agent – a Russian – who became a spy for America during the Cold War. However, I did not want my books to be set in the gritty, grainy “noir” world of spies and espionage. So I used that segment of history as a backdrop for a series of modern-day thrillers featuring good-guy Talanov, whose past will not leave him alone as he seeks to leave his past behind and live a normal life in the bright sunshine of today, which of course never quite happens. That’s because many of his old buddies from the KGB are now in organized crime – like trafficking – and Talanov becomes the ideal candidate to stop them because of his morals and experience of once having worked with them.
Talanov’s side-kick in Greco’s Game is CIA department head, Bill Wilcox, who recruited Talanov away from the Russians back in 1985, at the height of the Cold War tensions between the Americans and the Soviets. My novel, November Echo, tells that story. In Greco’s Game, I use Wilcox for both comic relief and a window into the shadowed and often dirty world of the CIA, where we both admire and despise the tactics employed against America’s enemies, both real and imagined.
What kind of book is Greco’s Game?
If I had to describe the book’s genre, it would be an action-thriller-romance, with a hint of espionage and a twist of suspense. And all of it shaken, not stirred!
Do you have any favorite quotes from Greco’s Game?
The old adage, “never anger a writer because you may end up in his/her book” is true. An alpha male I know – a real bully – once hurled this insult at someone I know: “You are such a little girl.” The person he was insulting happened to possess a gentle personality, so this was the bully’s way of gruffly dismissing the other guy. Unknown to the bully, the gentle guy was an experienced martial arts fighter, who could have easily taken the bully out with a few quick blows. But that was not the gentle guy’s personality. His personality was to show respect and kindness to others unless there was no other choice. So I created a similar bully in Greco’s Game, who insults our hero, Talanov, using those same words, to which Talanov replies, “Considering most of the women I know are twice the man you are, I’ll take that as a compliment.” That response still makes me smile because it reflects what I think of bullies and what true strength really is.
What’s next for Talanov?
Talanov’s next adventure is Dragon Head, which is slated for release in early 2018. As it opens, we find Talanov consulting for the CIA when he decides to go visit his oldest and best friend, Zak, who is operating a community center in San Francisco. It is there that we meet three Chinese orphans, whom Zak wants to adopt. The youngest of the three – eleven year-old Su Yin – is then kidnapped by a Chinese crime lord named “Dragon Head,” who threatens to kill her unless Talanov flies to Hong Kong for reasons that are not entirely clear. Without question it’s a trap, but what other choice does he have? If he refuses, Su Yin will die. The CIA then enter the picture by ordering Talanov not to go to Hong Kong, citing reasons of national security. Talanov tells them Dragon Head will kill Su Yin unless he complies. The CIA says national security takes precedence over the life of an unimportant girl. Unimportant to everyone but Talanov, that is, and it comes as no surprise what choice our lone wolf hero makes. Trouble is, the other two kids have stowed away on board Talanov’s airplane, making the lone wolf suddenly vulnerable with two additional “cubs” he must now care, and all while executing a rescue against an enemy hell-bent on revenge. Dragon Head is an action thriller of heartwarming moments amid the high cost of friendship and loyalty set in the neon frenzy of Hong Kong.
Tell us about yourself.

Aside from the trivia listed on my IMDb page (, I am basically a morning person who loves getting up before dawn to jump right into my writing. But that’s after a high-octane mug of “butter coffee” in lieu of breakfast, which is made with lots of butter, coconut oil, and MCT oil, plus a carafe of espresso made from beans we grind ourselves and then brew in a French press and then whip into a creamy mixture in a blender. #ohyeah! My wife and I then take turns bouncing on a mini-trampoline (aka “rebounder”) for 25-45 minutes before I cross the carpet to my home office, which is in the same room with the kitchen, and is comprised of a table and chair set up by a window that looks out to the east, where I get to watch the sun come up every day. Do I ever get writer’s block? I get asked that a lot, and the simple answer is no. I seldom get writer’s block because I outline my stories and follow that outline, which means I seldom if ever get lost or “blocked,” and when I do (which rarely occurs but occasionally does, especially if I’ve had more than two days away from my writing), I simply re-read what I have written, which gets me back in the rhythm of the story. I do, however, face the threat of serious distraction several days a week. That’s because my wife, Wendy, author of The Recipe Gal Cookbook (a sugar-free, gluten-free recipe book) is constantly tweaking her recipes and experimenting with new ones, which fills the house with wonderfully distracting aromas of fresh breads, cookies, roasts, stews, casseroles, crackers, and sauces. She cooks from scratch and of course needs the services of an expert “taste tester,” which is where yours truly comes in. Distracting? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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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Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting

James Houston Turner said...

Thank you for hosting me, Nancy. I really appreciate your author spotlight on me and my book. Thank you so very much. Cheers from Austin, ~Jim

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