||Cliff's Edge Books
Remarkable true story a journey from the glitz and glamorous world of showbiz to the dark and dangerous world of international child trafficking.
Barnes & Noble.com
James M Turner
As one of the UK's premier session musicians James M Turner led a life most only dream about, playing Saxophone with some of the UK's best selling artists and travelling the globe performing to legions of adoring fans. So, as he stood on stage at Wembley Stadium, raised his Sax and 70,000 people screamed into the night air, he could have been forgiven for thinking that his life would always be this way.
A few short years later however he would find himself deep in The Golden Triangle, fighting for his sanity and survival as he attempts to infiltrate and capture those engaged in the tearful trade of Human Trafficking.
'Beyond The Comfort Zone' is the story of one man's extraordinary journey, from the stages of the world to the Jungles of South East Asia.
September 2004, no-man’s land on the Thai – Burmese border. Temperature 105 degrees, Humidity 95%.
I stood on the bridge, looking over the rail to the chocolate brown water below, trying to gauge the drop to the river. Beads of sweat ran down my cheeks, gathered at my chin and fell the forty or so feet through the turgid air to become one with the swollen torrent running beneath me.
Behind me, to the tourists at least, everything looked as it should. Life on the bridge was in full swing, a steady two way procession, the ebb and flow of border life. Fruit sellers peddled their wares, hawkers sold postcards, grinning at bemused Americans dressed in appropriately garish shorts and T-shirts. Chatter from half a dozen languages mixed with the stop-start whine of ten thousand freshly hatched crickets from the jungle nearby. Meanwhile, trucks belching black smoke, laden with chickens, people, cases of Johnny Walker or piled high with Pineapples and Watermelons made their way to and fro across the no-man’s land of some hundred and fifty yards between the two border checkpoints. The closeness of the surrounding hills made sure that not a breath of wind disturbed a claustrophobic blanket of heat and dust.
To me however things were looking far from hunky dory! Without raising my head, I looked to my right. Through the railings on the Thai side at 2 o’clock, I saw a young Thai couple. She posed for a holiday snap, her back to the railings. Meanwhile, her partner pretended to take some holiday shots for the folks back home in Bangkok, his telephoto lens pointing over his girlfriends shoulder and aimed squarely at my head. Finger never moving from the shutter button he cranked out a dozen or more photo’s of yours truly. “Well, that’s f*ckin’ marvellous” I said to myself as I looked back to the River below. I licked the salt from my lips.
Turning slowly, putting my back to the camera, I looked around me, acting as nonchalant as my pounding heart would allow. Fifty yards ahead and to the left our contact was melting into the crowd on the bridge. Looking back, he briefly paused to test the ripeness of some mangoes before he spun away, quickened his stride, and disappeared into the sea of brown faces. Moments earlier myself and my partner Franco had just tried to negotiate with him the price for eight pre-teen girls, to be sold to a Mamasan from a Bangkok brothel.
Franco now stood rooted to the spot some ten paces in front of me. Circling the two of us, having just dismounted from two shiny blacked out SUV’s, were five Burmese secret police. They wore checked shirts left outside their pants, clean white vests, chinos and wrap-around sunglasses. They were easy to spot, and my mouth had gone dry the moment they stepped from the vehicles. They casually made their way through the crowd, smiling ever so slightly, cutting off all avenues of escape. Franco leaned on the flaky concrete rail at the side of the bridge. We were in deep shit. He knew it. I knew it. The words of the briefing the night before played over and over in my head. “If something goes wrong, anything. If something doesn’t feel right. Get out and get out quick – we won’t be able to come in after you”. F**k! F**k! F**K! What the f**k was I thinking? I should be on a stage somewhere earning pot loads of cash and grinning at screaming girls! I should not be out here sweating my balls off, contemplating jumping into a f**king god knows how deep river, probably getting shot in the process. Or worse, disappearing into the Burmese prison system and left to rot.
I tightened my grip on the rail, flakes of white paint falling to the river below. Although I was a better than average swimmer I didn’t fancy my chances. Even if I survived the fall, I still had over fifty yards to swim before I would find cover when the river eventually bent around to the right. If they decided to shoot, even the worst marksman in the world would surely hit me before the bend. Then there was the river itself. Deep into rainy season, what was a thin ribbon of water was now a raging spinning maelstrom, hurtling beneath the bridge at several miles an hour. Not far downstream things got a lot worse, as it joined the mighty Mekong. At this time of year it would be two miles across and travelling even faster. I’d seen the Mekong in flood, and remembered its awe inspiring effect on me at the time, tumbling fallen trees in its current like matchsticks. I imagined my bloated, bullet ridden body turning its death roll in the branches of a floating tree. F*ck that! I decided against the jump.
A Shantaram for south east Asia
Last year I went to Thailand on holiday and one of the things that really riled me was the proliferation of old white men with their Thai “girlfriends”.
I am far from a prude and consider myself extremely worldly but this blatant flaunting of the sex trade seemed seedy and perverse.
If this is what was being paraded in the streets, I thought, what was happening behind closed doors?
Who knew James M Turner's autobiography would shed such light on the 'behind the scenes' of that country?
Beyond the Comfort Zone
In his autobiography, Beyond The Comfort Zone, James M Turner writes about his journey from being one of the highest paid session musicians in the UK to surviving in The Golden Triangle of South East Asia.
As a musician he toured with ‘Bros’ and ‘Take That’ and lived the rock n roll lifestyle but after a painful divorce he decided to take time out and moved to Thailand.
While living in Chang Mai and studying Thai he met up with an ex-Israeli, Franco, and together they worked to bust-up an illegal Child Trafficking ring working across the Burmese/ Thai borders.
His exceptional journey is the making of a Hollywood blockbuster and at times I had to remind myself that it’s a true story.
For an untrained novelist, the book is really well written and Turner’s dialogue leaps off the page.
His very British sense of humour had me in stitches. He is amazingly honest and does not shy away from his excesses and, at times, loutish behaviour.
His descriptions of places put me right in there with him among the Tuk-Tuks and street vendors. Turner also loves food and he had my mouth watering for fish ball soup.
Pad Thai anyone?
In short: Shantaram for South East Asia
The Hidden Literary Talents of James M Turner
The chances are, that while the name James M Turner may not be familiar to you, his music may well be. As one of the UK’s top session musicians, he’s travelled the world, playing Saxophone in front of millions, for stars like Take That and Bros. Music was his career, and his passion, but at some point he decided to take some time out, and his life took an almighty, and potentially dangerous turn.
James M Turner became a man on a mission, a man who wanted to infiltrate the world of child trafficking, and capture those responsible for, what is in essence a tearful trade. He has now recorded all his experiences in a book, called ‘Beyond The Comfort Zone’, which tells his incredible story, from the stage, to the jungles of S.E Asia. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ve read some sample chapters, and can promise this is one book that will grip you from start to finish. If you’re looking for a unique read, full of interest, intrigue, danger, and high emotion, then this is the book for you.
Epic journey of Manchester musician James M Turner
There’s an old Chinese curse which goes, 'May you live in interesting times'. If someone hexed James M Turner, it certainly worked.
Turner is currently in the movie business, involved in a film production company, G Productions, based on the Universal lot in Los Angeles. This is a far cry from the days during the eighties when he was one of many struggling musicians on the Manchester music scene.
Thanks to X Factor the phrase ‘amazing journey’ is now bandied around every time some teenage shop assistant gets their Simon Cowell sanctioned fifteen minutes of fame.
Turner’s autobiography, ‘Beyond the Comfort Zone’, is the opposite of that. It documents what genuinely has been an ‘amazing journey’ from a stint in one of the world’s biggest pop groups through to life threatening experiences battling human trafficking in South East Asia.
In 2002, wearying of the music business, Turner re-located to Thailand. What had seemed like a move to live a more relaxed lifestyle turned out differently when he became aware of the child trafficking industry between Burma and Thailand. He decided to do something about it.
‘Beyond the Comfort Zone’ documents the incredible story of how Turner literally risked his life to help the fight against this loathsome trade.
I caught up with Turner on one of his visits to his old stomping grounds in Manchester and we chatted in the relaxed surroundings of The Kitchen at the Circle in the Barton Arcade - just about as far as possible as one can imagine from the jungles of South East Asia.
I asked what had possessed him to leave what many people would perceive as a dream existence in the music business to move to Thailand.
“I’d just had enough of the music business,” he said. “I was producing a singer from Liverpool, who would routinely turn up at my studio two or three days late and I suddenly realised that I’d had enough of that world.”
Turner’s book reads more like a novel than an autobiography. I asked if he himself had felt he was living in the pages of an unrealistic adventure story.
“It had the effect of detaching me from, not only my normal life, but also from my feelings,” says Turner. “I had to face up to the fact that my usual rules of behaviour no longer applied and I might well have to kill to survive.”
While it’s very easy for Westerners to be appalled by the fact that parents in South East Asia sell their children into a life of exploitation, James is very careful to point out that you need to look at the alternatives.
Families are often faced with threats from the drugs trade or with being conscripted into an army that is constantly at war. It’s an unknowable existence for many of us, way beyond the pressures we experience, and admirably recounted in Turner’s book.
‘Beyond the Comfort Zone’ is a remarkable story
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