Monday, May 4, 2020



One and a half billion dollars vanishes out of a numbered account into a cyberspace maze. But the thief who stole it lies dead on the tracks of Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway, his access codes having perished with him.

If this were simply a matter of missing money, the United States would not be concerned. But a Hong Kong crime boss named Dragon Head wants the money to fund an army of hackers, one of whom has already penetrated America’s GPS network. The result: a midair collision that kills more than a thousand people.

With national security at stake, the Director of National Intelligence becomes very interested in the whereabouts of that money. He wants the funds to remain lost. But Dragon Head wants them found. And Colonel Aleksandr Talanov is caught in the middle.

Both sides think Talanov knows where the money is. But Talanov doesn’t have a clue. So both sides threaten to kill his closest friends unless he locates and surrenders the money. It’s an impossible situation when impossible is not an option, because whatever choice Talanov makes, someone will die.

Book Details:

Title: Dragon Head

Author: James Houston Turner 

Genre: action thriller; suspense thriller

Series: Talanov thriller series

Publisher: Regis Books (an imprint of Ruby Rock Films LLC), (May 1, 2020)

Print length: 490 page

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours



A few of your favorite things:
(1) On a shelf in my office is a geode, which is a round rock that contains a cavity lined with crystals. It reminds me that many of us can be plain and ordinary on the outside, but unique and beautiful on the inside.
(2) On my office wall hangs a framed portion of a fragmented page from an 1800s family Bible. Beneath it are two coins I purchased nearly fifty years ago from an antiquities dealer in New York. The coins are what are commonly known as “widow’s mites” and were the smallest denomination of coin minted Judea at the time of Christ. In fact, one of the coins is stamped with the seal of Pontius Pilate. Those two coins, together with the verse about the widow’s mites (from Luke 21:1-4) reminds me that it’s not the size of the gift that matters, but the love and sacrifice behind it.
(3) On another shelf in my office is a small wooden figurine given to me by a survivor of a Soviet gulag, where he was exiled simply for being a Christian. His job was to cut trees in the Siberian wilderness, and to pass the endless days of tedium, he carved scraps of wood into small figurines, one of which he took with him upon his eventual release. He wanted me to have it as a gesture of thanks for a shipment of Bibles, food, cash, and medical supplies we had brought to him and his church.

Things you love about writing: Being awakened in the middle of the night with story tweaks.**

Things you hate about writing:
Being awakened in the middle of the night with story tweaks.**
**Yes, I both love and hate that same feature of writing, because on one hand, I am awake when I should be asleep, but am tired and need to sleep when I should be awake and alert! And yet when a story is this “alive” that it awakens me in the depths of the night, it’s a good thing. A really good thing! My challenge is capturing that “life” and translating it onto the page.

Easiest thing about being a writer: I find the old adage to be true: writing a book is the easy part. Being a visual person, I need to see the scenes in my mind before I can write them, so having an active imagination really helps. I need to “inhabit” the story in some way, either as the narrator or through the eyes of a character (or characters), then somehow capture what I see on paper. And, yes, this is the easy part.

Hardest thing about being a writer: not getting to connect personally with readers, which is why I love blog tours like this so much. It helps us connect on some shared common ground – books – but also beyond the book. To some, an author is simply a commodity – a person who furnishes a product – although blog tours afford opportunity for us to connect on more of a personal level. With so much emphasis today on reading challenges, where the goal is often to get through a book as fast as possible and onto the next one, there is frequently no time (or interest) in connecting. Blog tours help rectify that.

Things you never want to run out of: organic espresso beans. We start each day with freshly ground espresso beans, which I dump into a French plunger, brew, then dump into the blender with heaps of butter and cream, a few drops of organic stevia drops, then whiz to a frothy delight.

Things you wish you’d never bought:
That drink with ice in a bar in Mexico.

Favorite foods: I’m pretty much omnivorus, so most anything is fine with me, although my wife and I are “keto” folks, so we tend toward higher fat and lower carbs. For the record: my wife can perform magic with almond flour, and as I sit here in my “office” – i.e., in an easy chair facing our open-plan kitchen – I am watching her make organic strawberry cupcakes, while to her left are some jars of her sugar-free caramel sauce. So pretty much anything she makes is my favorite.

Things that make you want to throw up:
chicken intestines. And, yes, I have eaten them – once, years ago at a children’s camp behind the old Iron Curtain – where food was scarce, but some local farmers had donated some chickens as food for the kids and camp workers. On the last day, after we had eaten all the good parts, we had the intestines, stuffed with something-or-other and then smothered in a sweet-and-sour sauce. I didn’t want to kids to think I was a spoiled American, so I made a huge deal about how much I liked the dish. After listening to me go on and on, three of them scooted their plates over to me, adding how there was no way they were going to eat that stuff. Talk about deflating an inflated ego! Yes, I learned my lesson. But I’ve not eaten chicken intestines since that day.

Favorite beverage: Aside from water – and I drink water all day long – a homemade frozen margarita, usually made with frozen peaches off our tree.

Something that gives you a pickle face:
Green tea. I’ve never liked the stuff.

Favorite smell: Apart from bread baking or bacon frying (hopefully at the same time), I would say the fragrance of pink jasmine. The reason: years ago, after my cancer operation (where doctors in Australia opened my face up like a book and removed half of my jaw in order to excise a tumor the size of my fist), my wife and I stayed in a home where a giant tangle of jasmine had spilled across the top of a brush fence outside our bedroom window. Everything was so bizarre with my rebuilt face. Nerves had been rearranged. I had a new jawbone carved out of hip bone. I could not even touch that part of my face because it felt so delicate and sensitive. So I would lie awake at night, afraid to fall asleep for fear of choking. In the early morning, however, before dawn, the fragrance of pink jasmine would drift in the window, and I would relax and finally fall asleep. So to this day, that fragrance reminds me that I will get through whatever frightening times are confronting me. And it was frightening, because unknown to me at the time was a diagnosis that I would probably not live eighteen months. That was in 1991, which means I just passed the twenty-nine-year mark.

Something you’re really good at: making lasagna, picadillo, frijoles, and apple pie (although not all at the same time). Even though my very first book was a potato cookbook (The Spud Book, St. Martin’s Press, New York), my wife leaves me in the dust when it comes to cooking. She is phenomenal, and loves cooking everything from scratch. However, I like cooking for her as much as she loves cooking for me, and even though she’s a lot better at it, I still like doing my part. My offering, however, is much like the kid who scrawls a drawing and then gives it to you as a present. That drawing may not qualify as fine art, but the love that went into it makes it beautiful. That’s how it is with my paltry offerings.

Something you’re really bad at:

Something you wish you could do: produce a film. I’ve written several screenplays, two of which are now under option, but I would like to take the helm one day as a producer of something I’ve also written.

Something you like to do:
Tinker in my workshop. I like building stuff. I also like to photograph food. I took the food photos for my wife’s cookbook, The Recipe Gal Cookbook, and I usually take photos of the great food we eat. I like the challenge of trying to compose and capture a great mouth-watering image.

People you consider as heroes: years ago, when I was a journalist at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, I interviewed several young women who were victims of human trafficking. Those heroic young women were rich with grace and determination to not live as victims, but victors. I didn’t know it at the time, but their lives would one day inspire the character of Larisa in my novel, Greco’s Game, which has now been optioned for a film.

Last best thing you ate: my wife operates her own keto baked goods business at our local farmers market, and makes gluten-free baguettes out of almond flour. That bread is the best I have ever eaten, and we had some last night. #ohyeah

Last thing you regret eating:
too many of my wife’s keto sugar-free chocolate chip cookies. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted GREAT, which was why I ate too many of them. Even worse: I ate them after dinner,  and because I’m sensitive to too much chocolate, they kept me wide awake into the wee hours of the night. #neveragain #haha

Things you always put in your books: (1) food scenes. Food brings people together, and I like that. (2) Something about God. Personally, I don’t respond well to preaching, so I don’t preach to others in my books. However, I am a person of faith, and I because faith has helped me overcome a lot of challenges, it plays an important part in my writing. What opened my eyes to this was the grit and durability of faith that I witnessed in Christians behind the old Iron Curtain, when I used to smuggle medical supplies, food, cash, clothing, and Bibles. They were people as tough as granite, yet tender and affectionate. People who never complained and radiated warmth and grace in the face of horrible conditions. That is the kind of faith I admire, and that is the kind of faith I write about.

Things you never put in your books: To me, almost everything is fair game.

Favorite places you’ve been: my wife and I lived in Australia for twenty years (my wife hails from South Australia), so I would have to say Adelaide is one of my favorite places on earth, especially the Central Market (their permanent farmers market), located in the heart of the city. Several chapters of my novel, Department Thirteen, are set in Adelaide and the Central Market. Located between the beach and a range of hills thick with orchards, vineyards, and forests of eucalyptus, Adelaide has a small-town vibe with big-city features. We loved it.

Places you never want to go to again:
under anesthesia again for eleven hours, which is how long my 1991 cancer operation took.

Things that make you happy: gardening. I find so many lessons for life in nature. Example: two years ago, our peach tree produced one peach (with the mockingbirds eating half of it). That winter, I pruned our tree, and the following spring a small miracle occurred when our tree produced over 300 peaches. What a difference a good pruning can make. Fruitless branches, or branches growing in the wrong direction, sap the energy of the tree and interfere with what the tree was designed to do, which is produce peaches. I find it’s the same in my own life. Distractions, like fruitless branches, interfere in my fruitfulness.

Biggest lie you’ve ever told: my last novel. Example: one of my novels, The Identity Factor, (due to be republished later in 2020) is set partly in Cairo. A longtime resident of Cairo who had read the book approached me at a book signing and asked when I was there. I told him I had never been. He was incensed that I had set a book in a location that I had not visited. I responded by saying, “That’s what research is all about, and it’s my job to use that research and spin a yarn so vividly and accurately that you are transported into the story and its setting.” He thought about that for a moment, then chuckled and finally said, “Well you a did your job. I lived in Cairo for twenty years, and I felt like I was there again.” I may not always succeed to this degree, but the times that I do make it all worthwhile.

Best thing you’ve ever done: marry my wife.

Biggest mistake:
not telling my dad that I loved him. At the time, I was like many teenagers: self-centered; self-absorbed. Thinking I had all the time in the world to waste. Then my dad suddenly died. I carried the guilt of not telling him how I felt for years until I finally found the strength and grace to forgive myself. Sometimes, it is far easier to forgive someone else than yourself. This is what I’m talking about when I say I include some little mention about faith in my books. Not church stuff, but real, where-the-rubber-meets-the-road kind of stuff.

Craziest thing you’ve ever done: I once tried out for the Dallas Cowboys football team. I did not play football in college, but was in graduate school with one of their star players, who invited me to try out since I had a pretty good punting leg. I did not make the team, but was given a football in admiration of my efforts. I still have the football.

Other books in the Talanov thriller series:

November Echo
Department Thirteen
Greco’s Game


Wu Chee Ming looked anxiously behind him. Where were they? Who were they? When would they strike? An attack in a crowded street like this would be over in seconds. A silenced pistol. A knife. A needle. Death would be quick and the assassin would vanish. One face in an ocean of faces.
He was not even sure they were onto him. In fact, they probably weren’t. He had taken extreme care over the last few months to make sure his movements went undetected.
One does not seek what one does not see.
It was a proverb that guided his every move.
And yet, in spite of his meticulous planning, he had to proceed as if they had noticed, which was why he had chosen Lan Kwai Fong, a small, bustling tourist district in the heart of Hong Kong, to make his escape. The narrow streets of Lan Kwai Fong were perfect for what he was planning. Flashing neon. Music. Thousands of people surging in and out of nightclubs and restaurants. The perfect place to disappear.
The perfect place to be killed.
The proverb, however, held the secret to his survival; namely, that the best place to hide is often in plain sight. That people usually do not notice what is right in front of them. Hence, his choice to pass through Lan Kwai Fong each night on his way home from work, so his being here tonight would not attract any undue attention.
Suddenly, an elbow caught him in the chest and knocked him into a group of Chinese girls texting one another. They were holding their phones so close their eyes glistened with light from the tiny screens.
“Kàn tā!” one of them barked.
Wu Chee Ming pushed on.
Ahead, the street bent ninety degrees and sloped downhill for a short block before meeting D’Aguilar Street. Wu Chee Ming turned at the corner and threaded his way uphill along another street filled with partygoers. Within minutes, he reached a short flight of steps that branched away from the street. Taking the steps two at a time, he reached the top and began running along a darkened walkway that angled between a pair of highrise office towers. Before long, the sounds and smells of Lan Kwai Fong had receded into the distance.
Wu Chee Ming knew he would miss those sounds and smells. But at least he would be alive to remember them. He glanced behind but saw no one.
One does not seek what one does not see.
His survival hinged on the truth of that proverb, and yet if he truly believed it, why was he running? Why was he not relaxed in the knowledge that he was but another face in an ocean of faces?
Under normal conditions, Hong Kong was the perfect city in which to vanish. But these were not normal conditions. He was running from a crime boss who knew every inch of the island. A crime boss with eyes and ears everywhere. A crime boss so skilled in the art of death that some people considered it an honor to die by his hand. Dexter Moran was his name, although no one dared address him that way. To everyone in Hong Kong and the New Territories, he was known as Dragon Head, and he was the supreme leader of the Shí bèi organized crime society, which was based in the Zhongzhen Martial Arts Academy.
The name “Dragon Head” was actually a title that had been seized by Moran in the same manner a lion becomes the alpha male of his pride: by defeating or killing his rivals. And not just known rivals, but anyone suspected of being a threat. Which was why Wu Chee Ming had chosen to run. He wanted to make sure he was not among them.
Ahead, beside a tree, was an old bicycle. Wu Chee Ming had purchased it from a repair shop with instructions that it be placed beside the tree this afternoon. It had a basket above the front fender and a tiny dome bell on the handlebar. Lifting the bike onto the path, Wu Chee Ming walked it to an intersecting walkway, where he turned left, jumped on, and began pedaling. In less than a minute he emerged onto a busy street.
Like New York, Hong Kong was a city that never slept. Even at this late hour, cars filled the streets and the sidewalks were gorged with people. A few dings on his bell caused pedestrians to stop long enough for him to bicycle across the sidewalk and into the bicycle lane, where he turned left and began pedaling with the flow of traffic. He kept pace for two blocks, then cut across to the other side of the street, where he began pedaling with the flow of traffic in the other direction. He bicycled past noodle bars, restaurants, and retail outlets offering everything from designer clothing to electronics, phone cards, and cosmetics. Before long, he turned down a side street and raced to the next corner, where he turned right and raced to the next corner, where he turned again. The zigzag pattern took him away from the neon madness of the tourist district and into Hong Kong’s shadowed side streets.
Within twenty minutes, Wu Chee Ming had made his way to a four-story apartment building in a rundown part of Wan Chai. Unlike the glamour and polish of the financial precinct where he worked, this part of town was stained with the gloom of poverty. There were no gleaming office towers of tinted glass. No stepped terraces with architectural flourishes. The buildings were rectangular and squat. Rust and soot were the predominant colors.
Leaning his bicycle against a metal roller door, Wu Chee Ming entered a darkened stairwell and dashed up a flight of steps. There were no lights in the stairwell because Wu Chee Ming had broken the bulbs. No one must remember his face to anyone asking questions. And there would be questions, and Dragon Head would be asking them. By that time, however, he would be long gone, which meant Dragon Head would have no choice but to hunt down the only other person who could give him answers. That person was former KGB colonel Aleksandr Talanov. Talanov, of course, would have no answers because he would not know what had happened. Torture would be employed, and Dragon Head would be merciless, but Talanov would not be able to reveal what he did not know. Yes, Talanov was a walking dead man, while he, Wu Chee Ming, was about to become a ghost.
Excerpt from Dragon Head by James Houston Turner.  Copyright 2020 by James Houston Turner. Reproduced with permission from James Houston Turner. All rights reserved.


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, won a gold medal from USA Book News for “Best Thriller,” after which it won gold medals in the Independent Publisher (“IPPY”) Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards. A cancer survivor of more than twenty-eight 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.

Connect with James:
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