About James

Winner of numerous awards, including “Best Thriller,” bestselling American author James Houston Turner is known for his Aleksandr Talanov series of spy novels. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that James was on a KGB watchlist for his Bible smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. “His act of heroism – he could have been executed for what he did – gave me the idea of a good-guy KGB agent who became a spy for America.” James has organized the transport of hundreds of thousands of pounds of Bibles and medical supplies, driven vehicles with secret compartments, interviewed death camp and gulag survivors, been shadowed by the KGB, organized secret midnight meetings with informants, located hidden mountain bunkers, and investigated legends of forgotten tunnels buried beneath the cobblestones and bricks of some of Central Europe’s most venerable cathedrals.

A native of Baldwin, Kansas, James Houston Turner attended high school in Kansas before graduating from Baker University with a bachelor’s degree. He then moved to Texas, where he earned his master’s degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). He has attended two National Prayer Breakfasts with the President of the United States and members of Congress, yet at other times found himself so poor he had to live on jars of peanut butter given to him by a church.

Tragedy struck in 1991 when James was diagnosed with cancer. “My Aussie wife, Wendy, and I were living in San Diego at the time,” he explains, “and when the doctor found out we had neither health insurance nor the estimated $200,000 needed for an operation, he said, ‘Sorry, buddy, can’t help you,’ and walked out of the room. We waited for a while to see if he was coming back, but he was gone. We cried all the way home, figuring I had been handed a death sentence because the kind of cancer I had was aggressive and deadly.”

With weeks to live, James stepped off a plane in Australia, where a team of surgeons opened his face up like a book, removed half of his mandible and a tumor the size of an orange, then fashioned a new jawbone out of hip bone and stapled him back together again. He found out years later that he was not expected to live eighteen months. But people around the world had been praying for him and he beat the odds.

“My experience with cancer was a defining moment. I believed in God but didn’t take Him seriously. Like the ‘Prodigal Son,’ I thought I had all the time in the world to figure things out. Then I hit ‘rock bottom’ with the shocking news that I had cancer, and I knew immediately that I needed to quit squandering my life. For the record, I do not believe God caused my cancer. That was on me because of all the bitterness and unforgiveness I had been carrying. I had to forgive and seek forgiveness. Little did I know this theme of forgiveness would form the backbone of the Square Pegs movie script I would eventually write and help produce. But I had to live it first before I could write about it.”

After his cancer experience, James went on to write his series of award-winning spy novels.

But instead of entering his “promised land” as a successful writer, things only got worse. James was thinking his life was finally on track. It wasn’t. He had more “desert wandering” in his future.

“Although my novels were winning awards,” he recalls, “sales in Australia were lean and we became hard-up for money. So I put my writing on hold and applied for a customer service job with a large company in Adelaide. I was turned down, not because I lacked skills, but because I was ‘too ugly’ (a reference to the ‘unsightly’ facial scars I carried from my successful battle against cancer). At the time it was a real kick in the guts. But it was also a blessing in disguise, for it motivated me to keep writing, which in turn led to me becoming a bestselling novelist and award-winning screenwriter who has now produced his first film. That’s often the way it is. Your darkest hour comes right before the dawn.”

James has shared his testimony across America and Australia on the subject of where God is when life kicks you in the guts.