Today we welcome James Houston Turner to the blog on his tour with Pump Up Your Book. He's here to talk about his thriller, "Greco's Game".
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FIVE THINGS YOU'D PROBABLY NEVER GUESS ABOUT FORMER IRON CURTAIN SMUGGLER AND BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE ALEKSANDR TALANOV THRILLER SERIES JAMES HOUSTON TURNER
(1) I think the best thrillers are built around a love story. What higher stakes are there than the threat of losing someone you love, or someone who loves you?
(2) I believe in happy endings because my life thus far has been one continual, long, happy ending. The reason is because I've stared death in the face more than once, although my sunny outlook hasn't come without cost. In 1991, I was diagnosed with cancer in my jaw, but having neither health insurance nor the $200k needed for an operation, was refused treatment in San Diego by a doctor who simply walked out of the room when he found out we had no insurance, leaving me alone in the examination chair. Being from Australia, my wife called "home" to see if help was available there. There was, and so with weeks to live, I flew with her to Adelaide, where for $17k, a team of surgeons opened my face up like a book and removed a tumor the size of an orange. They then made me a new jaw bone out of hip bone, grafted skin into my mouth where teeth used to be and stapled me back together. I was not expected to live 18 months. That was over 20 years ago. Later, when my writing career seemed to be going nowhere, I applied for a customer service job with a large company. I was refused, not because I lacked skills, but because I was too ugly, a reference to the facial scars I still carry from my cancer operation. And yet, sometimes the hard knocks of life are blessings in disguise, for if I had been hired, I may well not have persevered with my writing to become the published author I am today. So I have learned that adversity often produces untold blessings we cannot foresee.
(3) I love starting my day with a mug of great coffee. I get up before dawn, pad into the kitchen and grind those aromatic double-roasted Guatemalan beans while the water heats in our electric kettle. Then, while the coffee steeps in our French plunger, I heat the mugs with rest of the water, empty, then melt 1 Tb butter and 1 Tb coconut oil in the mug and fill with coffee before using a tiny blender to froth it to perfection. Nothing else is required. No sweetener. No milk. Nothing. I absolutely love this morning ritual.
(4) While Talanov's current drink of choice is a frosty shot of Chopin vodka, mine is the naked margarita. I call it the "naked margarita" not because you end up that way after drinking one, but because it is a straightforward, unadorned drink where you can actually taste the ingredients, unlike its flamboyant cousin, the frozen margarita, which contains masquerades of syrup and fruit. When it comes to the naked margarita, I rarely have more than one. The second one is never as good, anyway, and I'm not in it for the buzz, but the flavor. Here's how I make it: 50ml Don Julio tequila. 25ml Cointreau/triple sec. Juice of 1/2 lime. Ice. Oh, yeah.
(5) My favorite food to prepare for guests is the tamale pie. It's a double-crust pie with a "Picadillo" Mexican filling that combines meat with some sweet and some heat. It takes time to fix, which is why I like it, because I love cooking from scratch. Plus, something this "hands-on" is a welcome relief from the mental demands of writing eight hours a day, five days a week. Basically, it's minced lamb (my preference, although you can certainly use beef or pork), homemade frijoles (refried pinto beans), jalapenos, roasted almonds, chopped apple, sultanas/raisins, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, corn kernels and spices. Bake, then slice and serve as a main course topped with salsa (we make it fresh), avocado, and sour cream. What a medley of flavors that go extremely well with a nice salad and, yes, you guessed it: the naked margarita.
(6) As you can tell, counting was never my strong suit, but I had to leave you with this: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" (Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States). Amen to that, Mr. President.
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 prostitution and human trafficking ruled by the Russian mafia, this hooker made the big 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?
A former journalist in Los Angeles, James holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Baker University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). His 2011 “Too Ugly Tour” saw him drive 4500 miles across America promoting his books and speaking to thousands of students about not letting the hard knocks of life defeat you, which in his case included years of rejection, surviving cancer, and once being turned down for a customer service job because he was “too ugly” — a reference to the facial scars he still carries from his successful 1991 battle against cancer. He and his wife, Wendy, a former triathlon winner, live in Adelaide, South Australia.
You may visit him at www.jameshoustonturner.com
James loves hearing from readers and bloggers. To contact him directly, click here: http://www.jameshoustonturner.com/contact.htm
Follow James on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jhoustonturner
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To order a copy of Greco’s Game on Amazon, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Grecos-Game-ebook/dp/B008PFCRTY
To order a copy of Department Thirteen on Amazon, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Department-Thirteen-ebook/dp/B005QSSMYM/
To order a copy of The Identity Factor on Amazon, click here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Identity-Factor-ebook/dp/B004TO5JLI/
Follow Greco’s Game on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GrecosGame
Follow Talanov on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aleksandr.talanov
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