By Ian Walkley
J.B. Turner’s debut novel HARD ROAD is the first in a series of hard-hitting US thrillers featuring the extraordinary partnership between female FBI Assistant Director, Martha Meyerstein, and US Government covert assassin, Jon Reznick. Commissioning editor, Emlyn Rees, says of HARD ROAD: “This is an extremely well-researched and authentic series. A perfect page-turning blend of politics, corruption and thrills.”
J.B. began his writing career as a journalist. His news stories and feature articles have appeared in the DAILY MAIL, DAILY TELEGRAPH, DAILY EXPRESS, THE SCOTSMAN and THE HERALD. He worked as a freelance journalist for several years before he began work on his first novel. J.B. Turner is married and has two young children.
In HARD ROAD, we meet Jon Reznick who, since his wife died on 9/11, has worked hard to keep his shadowy world hidden from his eleven-year-old daughter. But when he is ordered by his handler to kill a man in an exclusive Washington DC hotel, he discovers the target is really a government scientist working on a secretive military project.
Reznick is quickly ensnared in an extraordinary web of murder, extortion and double-crosses – as he fights not only for his survival, but his daughter’s as well. But Jon isn’t just up against the clandestine group who want the scientist eliminated. FBI chief Martha Meyerstein wants Reznick captured as well. And soon both Reznick and Meyerstein find themselves in the middle of a terrifying plot by a foreign government to bring the United States to its knees.
J.B., your series protagonist, Jon Reznick, seems to be a competent killer with a soft heart when it comes to his daughter. Can you tell us a little more about Reznick’s character?
I wanted to portray a man who could kill, but was not intrinsically bad. I wanted to portray a man who didn’t buckle or bend. I wanted to write about a man who was unbowed and did things his way. Reznick has compartmentalized his life. His daughter is at a private boarding school, whilst he operates in a shadowy world of assassination and disappearances. His wife died on 9/11 and he is haunted by her death. He leads a solitary life, but his ordered existence is threatened when his shadowy world he operates in encroaches on his personal life, threatening the only person he loves, his daughter.
Assistant FBI Director Martha Meyerstein is a source of conflict, out to capture Reznick. You hint that this relationship could be a developing one in the series. Can you tell us any more about this?
Here are two people from very different worlds, but who strike up a symbiotic partnership. An assassin and an FBI Assistant Director, working together. What starts as conflict, develops as the story grows into mutual respect. But each still with their own agenda. With regards how their relationship develops…you’ll just have to wait and see!
And without giving us a spoiler, who are some of the other characters that throw up obstacles in Reznick’s path?
In the shadowy world he operates in, Reznick starts to doubt who he can really trust. His handler who he has worked with for years, his ex-Delta buddies and government agencies – from that list, who is for him and who is against? Reznick has to negotiate a high-risk path of double crosses, deceit and danger as he is pushed to the edge.
Where is the novel set, and why did you choose those settings?
Miami, New York and Washington DC. When I write, I think cinematically. I see the story in my head. And what more cinematic settings than the art deco district of South Beach, the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan and DC with all its amazing monuments at night, not to mention its Metro, which I used as the climax of the book.
J.B., you’ve had many years experience as a journalist. What made you decide to write fiction, instead of perhaps a non-fiction book?
With fiction, you are no longer constrained with writing about facts. The imagination is king. You want an outlandish character? You can create an outlandish character. You conceive of a compelling storyline, you can write about it. You have the absolute freedom to create a world of your own making. And it’s a thrilling to see a story develop from a simple idea, to a complex narrative.
What is the most enjoyable thing for you in writing fiction?
Having the time and space to write the kind of books I want to read. And the realisation that this is exactly what I love doing and will be doing, God willing, for the rest of my life.
Who are some of your favourite authors and why?
James Ellroy, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Henry James and George Orwell. For me, James Ellroy is a master of powerhouse crime writing. Part conspiracy, part thriller and is reeking of attitude. It’s stripped down, lean and tough writing of the highest standard.
PURPLE CANE ROAD by James Lee Burke is a masterpiece, dripping with atmosphere. Bayou cops, low-life pimps, corruption, the underbelly of life, it’s all there. Remarkable writer.
I like everything Michael Connelly has written. He’s great. Henry James is another writer I very much admire. WASHINGTON SQUARE is a wonderful example of elegant prose, showing us a bygone age in intricate detail. And George Orwell with 1984, ANIMAL FARM, is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
Your novel is thoroughly researched and realistic—what was it drove you to write a realistic scenario rather than a James Bond type story?
I’m a fan of Ian Fleming. In my writing I’m more inclined towards a gritty character rather than a suave and sophisticated character. Reznick would never order a Martini cocktail even if it was shaken, not stirred. He’s a blue-collar guy who likes the simple things in life. So therefore I wanted my protagonist not to be jet-setting around the world, but living as an American, in America, and no one any the wiser.
How do you feel writing some of the more graphic scenes?
A combination of research and the darker side of my imagination. I think a writer shouldn’t be afraid to let their characters go to the edge, and sometimes beyond. A reader needs to feel the fear and thrill as a character is chased or is in pursuit toward their goal.
Has contact with the intelligence community in your work as a journalist helped or hindered your ability to write about spies?
It’s only helped me. The FBI were incredibly helpful, ensuring authenticity in procedures.
JK Rowling plotted out the seven novels of Harry Potter. Have you developed a number of outlines for future novels in the series?
I’ve written the follow up already, and I am sketching out an outline for the third and fourth book in the Jon Reznick thriller series.
Do you plan much, or allow the writer in you to develop the plot as you move the story forward?
It’s a bit of both. I have an outline, sometimes a few pages, which guides me to my final destination, but often the storyline and the characters want to go in a different direction. And that’s just fine. I think it’s important that the writer goes with where the story is taking him, and not stick rigidly to a pre-conceived plan.
What are some of your other passions apart from writing?
Reading (obviously), music, films and my family.
For the benefit of other emerging writers and aspiring writers, what would you say are some of the most important things to do to assist them to get published?
Read widely, write daily and never give up. Don’t be afraid to take on board constructive criticism from family and friends, but most of all, believe in yourself. You must take rejection. Every writer endures this as they try to land an agent or a book deal. But a writer must dig in and show real resolve, even if it takes years, which usually it does. Best of luck to all aspiring writers!
J. B. Turner has been a journalist whose articles have appeared in UK newspapers including DAILY MAIL, DAILY TELEGRAPH, DAILY EXPRESS, THE SCOTSMAN and THE HERALD He worked as a freelance journalist for several years before he began work on his first novel. J. B. Turner is married and has two young children.
To learn more about J.B., please visit his website.