Wednesday, October 30, 2013

James Houston Turner Throws Terrific Thriller in November Echo - How and When Talanov Became A Spy! BRH Favorite Book of 2013!

"So the smiles he gave people stopping by his table were not genuine, not that anyone cared. For one thing, people did not stick around long enough to notice it was a façade. And he knew the reason. In spite of his popularity, he was still KGB.     "In the wake of Noya's death -- which was over six months ago -- he'd become even more cynical and bitter toward the KGB and what it represented. And it took everything within him not to let his feelings be known.
"But he hadn't, and during these months, working undercover as November Echo, he had supplied La Tâche with the names of numerous Soviet moles operating within the United States government and related private sectors. He also supplied him with information on Soviet weapons programs and ongoing intelligence operations.
"He remembered La Tâche asking him once how he could betray his country. He replied that he wasn't betraying his country, only the disease infecting it.  "People should not have to live in fear of their government," Talanov said. "That's why I'm doing what I'm doing.
"This isn't about Russia. This isn't about America. It's about the Noyas of the world. And don't for a second think I won't hold you every bit as accountable as I hold myself and those I'm taking down.
"Does this answer your question?"    
"Talanov remembered how loud the silence was on the phone.
"Then we understand one another," Talanov said, hanging up.

    November Echo
. By James Houston Turner

Kravenko had been simple and clear:
 slip quietly into Spain and intercept
Dr. Yefim Gorev, a scientist from the
 Soviet Union's weaponized anthrax facility
 at Sverdlovsk, in the foothills of the
 Ural Mountains eight hundred miles
 east of Moscow. But slipping quietly
into Spain was not what they were doing.
 They were doing the exact opposite.
And therein lay the problem.  
Which would not be a problem if he
delivered the goods -- in this case,
Gorev -- and which would be a problem
 if he did not.     Silencing Kravenko's
advisors had not been easy.
 Their argument: that Gorev had
disappeared with his family in
 Leningrad. It therefore made no sense
 for him to cross all of Europe in a risky
 flight to Spain. Helsinki was the
logical choice. Or London. Or some
 northern European city where sanctuary
 was obtainable at any of the American
 Consulates or military bases.
     Talanov's counter-argument had been
 a chain of solid but circumstantial
 evidence pointing to Spain. Back and
 forth they argued, with neither side
 giving an inch. It was a stalemate:
a twenty-eight-year-old KGB colonel
 against five old-school gray-haired
 conservatives in cheap suits and
polyester ties. Having come up through
 the army together, the five advisors
 viewed everyone with disdain and
 suspicion, especially progressives
 like Talanov and Gorbachev. The
 result was a group of individuals as
 antiquated and unimaginative
as the clothes they wore.
It's not often that I feel a need to go backward in time with a series character...others have written prequels which never seemed to be too much different than another book... but when Turner's fans ask for more information on how Talanov came to be a spy, James Turner gave us much more than information. This is a solid piece of thriller action that is unstoppable from cover to cover. 

The story may even have become my favorite, perhaps because it first shows the United States reps working directly with Talanov.  I think, more, though, there was a focus given on the internal thoughts and feelings of Talanov. And when fans look at the attractive young man he was at 28, after reading this novel, we now know how and why he became the intense ice-man hero that so many of us have come to love in such a short time.

Let me give you another example, out of context...
"Talanov remembered wanting to cry that day. But he did not. Instead, he shoved her memory away just as he shoved his dǎoshī away. The one person he cared about most had been ripped away from him by the only other person he cared about -- his dǎoshī -- who had turned on him like the weather of Khan Tengri, which lures you onto its slopes with its majestic, friendly red afternoon glow, only to trap and kill you. 
"For a while, he tried hating her. It was no use. How can you hate someone who makes you so happy? He just hated the ache that he felt now that she was gone. He hated the ache he felt when he remembered her shy smile and laughing eyes, or that tangle of silky black hair falling in straggly wisps around her face. He hated wanting so desperately to find her but knowing he couldn't. And before leaving the monastery, he vowed never to let anyone make him feel so unhappy and lost again.
"And in that moment, ledyanoĭ chelovek -- the "ice man" -- was born.     Yes, it took every bit of strength that he had not to let them see him cry. And he didn't, nor had he cried since -- ever -- not once.     Until now.     Standing alone on the bow of the freighter, 

So that readers can consider this novel in relation to real activities which actually occurred, I am including an item in the front of the novel, which is very important to correlating the story with what happens in November Echo, which I normally wouldn't do, but will help everybody understand why this novel is so important to me, to others...
1972 -- The Biological Weapons Convention becomes the first multinational treaty prohibiting the production and use of an entire category of weapons. The United States and Soviet Union are among the original twenty-two signatories of this treaty. In compliance, the United States destroys its military stockpiles. The Soviet Union claims to destroy its stockpiles but in fact responds by creating Biopreparat, the largest biological weapons program in history. Over the next few years, forty-seven top-secret installations are built across Russia.

1979 -- "Anthrax 836" spores are accidentally released from military Compound 19 in Sverdlovsk, USSR. Nearly one hundred people die within days although thousands are believed to have perished. Sverdlovsk and the surrounding area is quarantined by the Soviet military. Decontamination trucks arrive. Reports of the incident surface in the West, and the Soviet Union is accused of violating the Biological Weapons Convention. The Soviet Union vigorously denies the accusations by insisting the outbreak was caused by tainted meat. All medical records relevant to the incident are immediately destroyed.

1982 -- Spain joins NATO and announces plans to join the European Economic Community, resulting in violent demonstrations and protests. 1983 -- U.S. President Reagan announces plans for his Strategic Defense Initiative (“ Star Wars”) missile defense system in space. Pershing II missiles are deployed in West Germany. Korean Airliner KAL 007 is shot down by the Soviet Air Force; all crew and passengers are killed. The Soviet leadership is convinced that KAL 007 had been an American intelligence mission. Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union escalate to an all-time high. The Balashikha sabotage and terrorism complex near Moscow is now in full operation.

1985 -- Thousands are now demonstrating across Spain against NATO and the American presence. Violence is everywhere. The Soviet Union's manufacture of biological weapons.

"Sofia responded with an exasperated sigh.
 "Yes, I made the reservation."  
"Which name did you use?"
     "The one you told me to use. But I still
 do not understand what we are doing.
"We are here to catch a defector and you
have me booking a suite in the name of a
ballerina."     "Anna Pavlova is not just
 a ballerina."
    "Stop it, Sasha. What is going on?
 How do we plan to catch Gorev?"
     "Talanov smiled. "Patience, my dear."
     The assignment given to them last Tuesday
 in the office of KGB Deputy Chairman
 Walter Kravenko had been simple and clear:
 slip quietly into Spain and intercept
Dr. Yefim Gorev, a scientist from the
 Soviet Union's weaponized anthrax
 facility at Sverdlovsk, in the foothills of the
 Ural Mountains eight hundred miles east
of Moscow. But slipping quietly into Spain
 was not what they were doing.
They were doing the exact opposite.
And therein lay the problem.  
Talanov had been sent to find and bring back a family that had disappeared, assumed to be defecting. But what Talanov had not counted on was being given a partner... You see, everybody knew he was the best, and he normally worked on his own with his own plan of action in responding to his assignments--which he always successfully completed. In fact, already had his plan worked out, assuming he'd be on his way shortly...  Until he met Sofia Dubinina, a beautiful woman who he'd never met before and also not worked with! Who was she?

Nevertheless, Talanov went full speed on his plan to get to Spain. He gave instructions to Sofia, and she immediately started with "whys..." No, Talanov didn't trust her, but he was prepared to work with her as long as she followed his instructions. That was apparently not going to happen easily...

His idea, quite simply, was not to slip gently anywhere. He wanted everybody, from every country involved, to know he was in Spain. Sofia seemed to think they might be told to get back home and abort the assignment. That she did not want to have happen... So she quickly fell into place as Talanov's companion, allowed him to dress her in fine clothes, take her to the best restaurants and clubs... In fact, Talanov made sure he had the money for handling this job as he wanted it, simply by doing another thing that he did well... He had Sofia meet him in Spain and on his way, he's already won a substantial amount of money that he carried with him in a small case... And as soon as he was in Spain, they were often seen together, using cash only, with the casino bosses quickly falling to meet Talanov's demands...and constantly winning...

But Talanov knew one thing nobody else did. Where the safe house was where Dr. Gorev would be waiting to meet...

Dr. Gorev had brought his parents, his wife and his daughter. None of them were willing to feel secure until they were safely on their way. Gorev had brought samples of what he'd been forced to work on--Anthrax! Even while the Soviet Union had been one of the countries signing the 1972 agreement to destroy all biological weapons, they had been establishing locations throughout the country for making and testing such weapons. Gorev had been one of the major scientists working to ensure the best possible use of Anthrax and had steadily refined and tested--on prisoners--until he could so longer stand it. He wanted out and asylum for his family!

He had thought Spain would be the best location for meeting, but by the time arrangements were made, the streets on which they would have routinely traveled were now filled with protestors!

Everybody involved--the U.S. who would be meeting the doctor and his family--as well as those searching for Gorev's to either return or kill them, were now forced to also deal with the police who were out in full numbers, dealing with the thousands of protestors who had come into the city...

For readers, we are right in the middle of car chases, gang fights, protestors fighting the police, as well as the need for the United States representatives to successfully meet and get Gorev, et. al., out of Spain!

And one explosive surprise sends Talanov into so much turmoil, frustration, and anger that we also revisit with him as he remembers when he was still free to feel--when he was not the ice man that they now called him... What was it? A teenager, named Noyabŕ, Noya, Dr. Gorev's daughter who, upon meeting them and for most of the time, displayed no emotions, only hopelessness, that anything would ever work out...

And it was beginning to look like she was right, especially when she stood and watched as her grandparents were murdered...first...

OMG, I don't know how some authors do it, but James Houston Turner certainly has the skill to wrap readers around his fingers, tied up in every word, emotionally, mentally, and sometimes even physically involved as the action gets so tense that we don't realize that, after all, it's just a book, fiction... Yet, he does it! And he shows true facts upon which his fictional thrills are based. Some could even be true...but reading about it or even seeing it in the news just does not bring us the most important thing...context... Turner brings us right into the streets as he faces gang members with knives or even into the house--that house that was supposed to have been safe...

But there is no safety to be found...

Talanov Rules! He's my hero! But Turner? I think even Talanov worries about him...Read November Echo by James Houston Turner!

"Let me understand this, Turner...You want me to do WHAT?!!!"


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 leaked word out of Moscow back in the 1980s that James was on a KGB watchlist for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain.
James Houston Turner's debut 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 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
A cancer survivor and 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 living in South Australia for nearly twenty years, he and his wife, Wendy, a former triathlon winner, now live in Austin, Texas. Visit his website at

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