Dr John Turman

Dr. John TurmanIn 1948, a typhoon nearly drowned Baby John when it knocked out the engines of the ship transporting his mother and him to Japan to live with Captain Turman in Sendai.  When the Korean War broke out, General Douglas McArthur patted Baby John on the head and sent him and the other American dependents back to the US.  After his father fought in the Korean War, he had several assignments all over the US.  From 1957 to1960, Lieutenant Colonel Turman was stationed in Germany where John’s parents hauled him all around Europe sight-seeing.  The only German words he learned were swear words.

John earned his undergraduate degree with a major in German at Washington and Lee University before being sucked into the army in 1969.  In Germany, Captain Turman commanded an overt intelligence collection office on the West German-Czechoslovakian border.  In 1979, John completed a Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Austin after winning lots of Texas tennis tournaments in Open Men’s and Mixed Doubles.  Thanks go to his accomplished female partners, Amy Wilkins and Nancy Clarke, who carried him through a lot of tournament wins.

While he lived in Texas, John also wrote a fantasy novel, Saxon and the Sorceress, the only self-published fantasy novel listed in Roger Schlobin’s The Literature Of Fantasy, A Comprehensive, Annotated Bibliography of Modern Fantasy Fiction.  Instead of traveling to Thailand where he’d heard the most beautiful women in the world lived, John used his savings to print a thousand copies of Saxon.  John got good reviews from authors Lisa Tuttle, Andre Norton, and Peter O’Donnell.  (C. J. Cherryh also had some nice things to say about Saxon, but John can’t find the letter.)  He eventually sold seven hundred fifty books.  John received a request for Saxon from England and although he doesn’t have the first dollar he ever earned, he does have the first pound note he received for a copy of Saxon.  When he could not find a job teaching, he went to work for a telecommunications company until he could retire in 2002.  Then he turned back to his first love, writing.

John’s father was born in Hexagon Hall, South Atlanta in 1908; his grandmother was born in the same house in 1868.  Her father, Confederate Colonel John Miller Clarke Reed, built Hexagon Hall after General Sherman’s troops burned down his ten year old Big House in 1864.  (The stone monument beside which John is standing in Oakland Cemetery, South Atlanta, was erected for Colonel Reed. Many of his descendants lie buried in the same plot.)

The remarkable details of the Georgia Gold Rush, the expulsion of Cherokees from Georgia, and the Civil War come from letters John’s father passed on to him in several dusty, old footlockers.

Starting in 2003, John traveled around the South researching his ancestors’ campaigns in Pensacola, Florida, Laurel Hill, West Virginia, and various places in Georgia.  John is still trying to find out how Lieutenant Colonel Simon Turman, a distant relative, was killed in the 1864 Battle of Resaca.

John is the group leader for the volunteers in the Critical Care unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  The group coordinates with the loved ones of people undergoing heart surgery,the surgeons, and the nurses in the Cardio-Vascular Critical Care unit.  He finds this good for his own heart.

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As a number of the author’s friends have pointed out, Miller Townson shares a lot of similar characteristics with the author. John admits that there is some truth in that. However, Miller is stronger, meaner, a better shot, and much more successful with women. Also, John’s blue owl is not an oracle softie and does not speak to him.

However, the author and Miller share a number of  life experiences. Below are some photos and stories that both have in common. The images, of course, are of John since Miller is a fictional character.

Child, Mom, and two of the three Japanese maids Captain Turman employed playing at the edge of the Sea of Japan.

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Child and Mom in front of the Alamo in 1950. The author spent 19 years in Texas (Austin and San Antonio). As of 2013, he has lived 11 years in Atlanta. His ancestors in Georgia go back to the Revolutionary War (Major Francis Boykin, Milledgeville) so he is fascinated to have such deep Georgia roots. At this time, he has one figurative foot in each of those two states, a big stretch.

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The author’s father staged this picture while traveling through Louisiana in 1951. John’s current and very successful Atlanta African-American next door neighbor, who grew up as one of 12 children of a Louisiana share cropper, recently told John that in the photo he is carrying the sack all wrong to maximize the amount of cotton he can collect in a day. Although this incident is not in the novels, it does lead to an incident in California where Miller invites a second grade black classmate (the two of them kick the ball straighter and farther than anyone else in their class) to play with him at his house. Miller’s parents are horrified. And yes, young John would badly need a hat to pick cotton all day.

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The author and Miller learn to shoot as soon as they are old enough to aim a weapon. Here is the author (6ish) learning to shoot his grandfather’s Winchester 32-20. The weapon was inaccurate, but not at this range. Grandfather Samuel Boykin Turman sat on the front porch of Hexagon Hall cradling this weapon during the 1906 race riot. Not sure what advice the author’s mother is giving him since she had never fired a rifle.

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I’ve always tried to achieve awards one day at a time, keep working and then achieve “the next step. Below is a picture of me as a Cub Scout with my Wolf, Bear, and Lion badges. Had a smug smile on my face.

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Until I became a Boy Scout and had to start all over again. I think the boy looks determined though.

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I was a pitcher for the Kelley Jayhawks’ Little League team. We didn’t have that good a record but I was picked to be an all star for the area (Stuttgart) team. This picture was taken near July 4th of maybe 1959 on the Jayhawker field. The firecracker I am lighting was a “40 pfenniger” – a ten cent firecracker with wax on the top so the person lighting it could get way back before it exploded. Not quite as powerful as a cherry bomb but it would have blown one or two of my fingers off if it had exploded prematurely.

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 The concept of pushing forward a little bit each day has served me well. I went from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout . . . a little bit at a time. To this day (and I’m old enough to qualify for Medicare), earning Eagle Scout is one of the accomplishments that means the most to me.

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I’m proud of becoming an Eagle Scout.  However, all of our lives have many interwoven threads. Because I was an army brat, I moved often. By the time the picture below was taken (I’m about 15), I had moved 19 times. My parents decided to retire in Coral Gables, Florida in a really, really good school district.  They struggled to pay for their house on Alhambra Circle, but I got a great high school education which led to an undergraduate degree at Washington and Lee and a Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Austin. That’s the good side. The flip side of that move was that I went to Ponce de Leon Jr High School and Coral Gables High School with kids who had known each other since kindergarten and had affluent parents who were members of country clubs my parents couldn’t afford.

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