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Years ago, at a low point in my writing career, I was on the verge of quitting because no publisher was interested in what I was writing. And so, because we needed money, 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 carried — and still carry — from my successful 1991 battle against cancer. This company said they did not want someone looking like me working with the public (yes, I was actually told this). At the time, it was a kick in the guts. But it also was a blessing in disguise, for if I had been hired, I would not have persevered with my writing to become the published author I am today. So I decided to dedicate my speaking tours to that moment.


My object is not to get up on stage and just talk about me. My object is to focus on the dreams and goals of my audience. It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to achieve it. Why? Because there are thousands of other people with the same or similar dreams.

For instance, there are over 1000 books published every single day. How does a writer succeed in the face of all that competition? How does anyone overcome those kinds of challenges, as well as life’s “kicks in the guts?” I answer that with a few personal anecdotes — which for me includes surviving cancer, the KGB, and a discouragingly high number of literary agents and editors — and what it’s taken for me to beat the odds.

I then turn the situation around and ask, ‘What will it take for you to succeed? What will you do when life kicks you in the guts? When it says you’re too ugly, too fat, too poor, too dumb, too young, too old, too skinny, too … whatever? What will you do? Remain a victim? Turn bitter? Quit? Or will you let the experience make you smarter, stronger and more determined? We cannot control what life throws at us. We can control our response. I then provide some practical and humorous tips.


My speeches are free. I ask only that I be allowed to mention my latest book and that you publicize my speech in advance so that interested readers can purchase copies if they so desire. Book sales are what fund this service to schools and social groups.


After twenty years in Australia, my wife, Wendy (a former triathlon winner), and I now live in Austin, Texas.


By way of the contact page on this website. Please include your phone number.


James Houston Turner is the #1 bestselling author of James Houston Turnerthe Aleksandr Talanov thriller series about a former KGB colonel whose past will not leave him alone. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by an actual Soviet 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.

Says James: “His act of heroism — he could have been exiled to Siberia, or shot — is what gave me the idea of a good-guy KGB agent who became a spy for America. This heroism and determinism to do what is right continues for Talanov today, who works as a consultant for the CIA. It’s a recipe for adventure, humor, loss, and triumph in an increasingly cold and dangerous world.”

Driving vehicles with secret compartments, James has crossed dozens of borders, interviewed gulag and death camp survivors, located hidden mountain bunkers and organized midnight meetings with informants. He has also worked as a journalist among the homeless of downtown Los Angeles at the famed Union Rescue Mission. His first commercial writing success came with the publication of his acclaimed cookbook, The Spud Book (St Martin’s Press, New York), which saw him tour the United States cooking potatoes for television audiences and their celebrity hosts, including Regis Philbin and Pat Boone. 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 donated to him by a church. Once given eighteen months to live, James is a cancer survivor of more than twenty years. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Baker University and a master’s degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake).

His debut Talanov 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 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 2013-14 saw his bestselling espionage thriller, November Echo, hit #1, being called “The best book of 2013,” by Liz Terek (NewsBlaze), who went on to call Talanov unlike any spy hero readers have encountered before. Future projects include his highly-anticipated Talanov thriller, Dragon Head, which is being adapted for film and features three teenage orphans named by the winning teenage writers who took part in his nationwide “Team Talanov” writing competition. Advance Review Copies will be available in Autumn, 2014.

James has spoken to thousands of people on three continents about not letting the hard knocks of life defeat you.


At the bottom of this page are some links to reference letters from teachers and administrators. Immediately below are samples of the hundreds of emails and cards I’ve received from students. You will note the mention of “SASS” by some of the students, which is an acronym for Sticktoitiveness, Attitude (i.e., an “I can” attitude), Study, and Savvy (working not just hard, but smart). SASS is what helped me succeed and is the backbone of my message.