‘Less Than One Millimeter Thick – Colorblind’ by Dennis Kleinman

I was fortunate that Dennis Kleinman agreed to perform the narration for The Zebra Affaire. Still, more gratifying is this thoughtful and personal article, Less Than One Millimeter Thick – Colorblind, Dennis wrote after he concluded his stellar narration.

~ Mark Fine

The original post can be read on Dennis Kleinman’s A World Voice blog here.

 

The Zebra Affaire Audiobook - colorblindIn 2017 I was contacted by Mark Fine, the author of The Zebra Affaire, originating from South Africa like myself, who in seeking out a narrator/producer for his highly acclaimed novel, had listened to some audiobook samplesof mine and wanted to know if I would be interested in narrating and producing the audiobook version of his historical romantic novel. The Zebra Affaire is beautifully written and tells the story of a young Afrikaner girl, Elsa Marais, who meets a young black man Samuel Marunda, a migrant worker from Malawi who had come to South Africa to work in the mines in Johannesburg. The story is set in the heart of the apartheid years, 1976, around the time of the Soweto Riots, where black youth began protesting the fact that they were being taught in Afrikaans, which was seen as the “language” of apartheid. In the story, the couple meet when Samuel is involved in a car accident and badly hurt, and Elsa assists him and the story opens up from there. Mark captures the essence and feeling of the country at that time in his creative and expressive penmanship. The narration of the book was an incredible experience because it gave me the freedom to work in accents that had been such an integral part of my youth. But what the book did, was brought back many feelings of my youth in South Africa, as well as the reason for leaving the country.

apartheid - black and whiteDuring those apartheid years, due to the strict laws governing ‘separate development’ which is the actual meaning of the word “Apartheid”, it was illegal for whites and blacks to eat in the same restaurants, to live in the same suburbs, and certainly to engage in any sexual activity, let alone fall in love with one another. Yet, one cannot really enforce any laws about love and I know that although this book was fiction, it certainly is a window into many lives that struggled through that time in South Africa. The statute books called sexual intercourse between people of different skin color, The Immorality Act, which was punishable by jail and even worse, especially for black men, the possibility of death for ‘rape’. All laws pertaining to the control of the apartheid system were brutal, vicious and abhorrent.

I was lucky to grow up in a family with liberal parents who were part of the early anti-apartheid movement and this allowed me to express my own understanding and sense of what I recognized was right and wrong about the society into which I was born. From as early as 8th grade, I knew deep inside that I would not live in South Africa beyond my very early twenties. There were many factors that influenced my decision, but the following event was certainly very high on the list.

One of my very close friends at the time was a medical student at the University of Cape Town, and during his second year, the anatomy year, he asked me one day if I was interested in coming to the lab to meet ‘Max’, the cadaver he was working on. Having an adventurous spirit, I immediately said yes, and the next day I accompanied him to the medical lab where all the bodies were laid out. I did feel slightly apprehensive about entering the lab, quite a daunting sight! I was introduced to ‘Max’ who was white – his skin, however, was the color of cardboard and my friend explained to me what I was seeing. Each cadaver was in the same stage of dissection as the students learned about the human body.

anatomy labLying next to ‘Max’ was a black man who sadly must have died in an act of violence as half of his face was ‘dented’ if you will. He was obviously at the same stage of dissection as his neighbor Max. As I studied the two cadavers, side by side, something very profound overcame me as, looking into the body, everything was obviously the same, and other than typical different characteristics between races, the only difference that hit me, and hit me hard, was the skin tone, and how thin that pigmented layer of color was. It was less than one millimeter thick. LESS THAN ONE MILLIMETER THICK!!

And it hit me as if someone punched me in the face, that the ruling regime of the country that I lived in, based their entire edict of horrific dehumanizing laws that resulted in such sadness, death, and destruction on the fact that less than one millimeter of the human body’s largest organ, the skin – was black.

This experience has never left me and was brought back to me even more as I narrated Mark Fine’s powerful story, The Zebra Affaire.


Treat yourself to an audiobook and enjoy listening to Dennis Kleinman’s masterful performance as he narrates The Zebra Affaire.

Listen to a sample here.

Download “The Zebra Affaire” from Audible with 30-day free trial.

Click this link for the Special FREE Offer. You Save $19.95 (100%)  After the trial, your paid membership will begin at $14.95 per month. With your membership, you will receive one credit every month, good for any audiobook on Audible. A credit card will be required.

https://www.aworldvoice.com/2018/07/02/less-than-one-millimeter-thick/

 

 

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Conversation with writer Mark Fine by Fiona Mcvie of “Authors Interviews”

Hello and welcome to Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

Thanks for inviting me, Fiona

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name.

Mark Fine, though I wish I had a few more syllables in my name. I envy your four: Fi/ona Mc/vie.

 Fiona: Where are you from?

Born in the City of Gold—Johannesburg, in faraway South Africa. I now live in sight of Catalina Island, south of Los Angeles.

 Fiona: A little about yourself (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I’m a veteran of the record industry; worked with wonderful artists like Sheryl Crow, Boys II Men, Bon Jovi, and Bryan Adams. It was tremendous being around such creative artists, on a daily basis, and help them achieve their creative aspirations.

Unfortunately, my late wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I quit my music gig to care for her, and raise our two boys. Frankly, I surprised myself at how well I took to becoming ‘Mr. Mom’.  In reflection, the most rewarding mission of my life. My sons have really prospered. The elder is a real rocket scientist at SpaceX. The younger is conquering it at business school. Both grateful and proud. Thankfully, romantically speaking, life has afforded me a second chancewith a wonderful soulmate.

 Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

I just released the audiobook for The Zebra Affaire on Audible.com.  For someone who spent a major part of his career in the recording studio, it’s odd it took me this long to co-produce this recording. Almost 10 hours—unabridged. Truthfully, I needed a voice actor with South African roots to do the narration. When I chanced upon the talentedDennis Kleinman, everything then changed; I had no excuse to not move forward with the audio project.

Dennis is familiar with the dialects and colloquialisms that make The Zebra Affaire so authentic. And for the listener—through my words and Dennis’s voice—Elsa and Stanwell’s struggle to preserve their forbidden love against extraordinary odds (the full force of the apartheid regime), is vividly brought to life in this audiobook. HEAR an excerpt of Dennis Kleinman’s compelling narration HERE. Briefly, let me set the scene. These are the events leading to Elsa and Stanwell’s fateful first meeting. She being white, and he being black, their relationship proved to be cruely complicated in segregated South Africa. Enjoy the Listen!

Every author should treat themselves to the tremendous experience of hearing their book read back to them by a gifted narrator. Dennis Kleinman certainly did that for me. The way he seamlessly transitions from character to character, by adding his personal vocabulary as an actor to my plot, is extraordinary. An outstanding performance!

This week, I also published a small folio of short stories. It’s titled Two Short Shorts: Short Stories of Strangers in Strange Lands.Two Short Shorts Cover Though the book cover is an ancient picture of me, as a little tyke, wearing embarrassingly short shorts, it is not at all biographical.  However, it is a commentary on being a ‘square peg in a round hole’ which I personally find relatable.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

It’s a natural evolution of my ‘Mr Mom’ role. My sons were growing up andmoving off to college. I expected becoming an empty nester would be hazardous to my well-being, so a new sense of purpose was needed. Coming from the music world, I saw writing as a natural evolution. However, my intent was to write songs. Failed miserably! Instead, I wrote an 86,000 word novel. My, I do admire those songwriters. The ability to compress such massive ideas—filled with emotion and rhythm—into three minutes of lyrical rhyme is a gift that I wish I had. Still, I am going to keep trying…

 Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The moment someone else read my words; and that these same words resonated with them, challenged them, made them weep, made them angry, and compelled the reader care for the characters I had created.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

My paternal grandmother ran a library. Hence, I always admired the printed page. The next step was deciding which story to tell. It took time and distance—from the country of my birth—to better understand the complicated social dynamics there. It is not simply a black and white story. But I could see patterns begin to repeat themselves here in the United States and elsewhere, so I felt The Zebra Affaire could serve as a cautionary tale.

 Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

“The Zebra Affaire” speaks of a forbidden romance across the color divide in a malicious, racist society. Elsa and Stanwell’s affair was not only socially unacceptable, but it was illegal—with seven yearsimprisonment as a consequence of being discovered by the authorities. However, stepping away from bigoted manmade laws, whether black or white—we are all truly equal—as are the black and white stripes of a zebra.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

I’m a patient writer. Research is a key element. It may elongate the writing process, however, the knowledge I gain is well worth it. Better still: I’m the vehicle that transfers that same knowledge to my readers—but in a far more entertaining way. It is satisfying, when I meet with a book clubs, to find The Zebra Affaire has past the Google test. Nowadays, it’s so easy to be fact checked that I do my best to be a diligent researcher.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The canvas on which I paint the lives of my characters is totally realistic. I guess 1976 South Africa isn’t quite long ago enough to be categorized as Historical Fiction, but setting the apparent ‘youth’ of the period aside, the book has all the bones, and authenticity, of historical fiction. As I was raised during those torrid times, there are certainly echoes of my personal experiences throughout the novel.

Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

No doubt. The grand finale in Zebra is a safari sequence. I used that as an excuse to go on safari; a field trip to the magnificent, Londolozi game reserve.  With camera and pen, I documented the setting and behavior of animals, humans, location and weather, in order to bring a heightened sense of immediacy to my writing. I’m a big believer of exploring our full senses in storytelling. I needed to hear the chuff of a lion, smell the char of a brushfire, feel the grit of the parched earth, taste the organic nature of a rustic meal, and see the splendor of an African night sky—unspoiled by big city light pollution—to better articulate these pure moments for my reader.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

I did. Not that it was my intent. As a remedy for writer’s block; rather than walking away in frustration, I chose to change my creative focus. Rather than struggle to get twenty-six letters to march in cogent order, I pivoted to pictures, graphics, fonts, and layouts. I taught myself Photoshop, thanks to YouTube, and almost organically designed the cover as the book’s manuscript was shaped.

 Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes. The only up-front way to fairly evaluate the world around us, specifically people, is on the basis of merit. As guiding criteria, merit, is inherently colorblind, nor is it swayed by creed, race, gender, tribe, religion, etc. Also, merit is contextual. You do not apply the same metric to both subsistent farmer and billionaire. From personal experience, frankly, merit was the only sane way to navigate through the arcana and social distortion of the unfathomable, cruel apartheid laws.

Merit sweeps away the emotion of ideology, the prejudice of fear, and the foolishness of ignorance. In an imperfect world, merit is the purest way I have found to deal with folks on a person-to-person basis, without preconceived biases. That said; merit expects everyone to contribute to the greater good, to the best of their individual ability. To some that may seem harsh; to me it is both fair and dignified.

 Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Similar to the record biz, with its vibrant Indie Scene, I feel the publishing world has a comparable pool of extraordinary emerging talent. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Horton-Newton (The View from the Sixth Floor), Julie Mayerson Brown (The Long Dance Home), Geoff Nelder (Aria: Left Luggage), Eric Gates (Outsourced), Jack Kregas (Choice Cruise Lines), Jean Gill (Song at Dawn).

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Perfection, and the pursuit of it, is so costly—both in emotions and treasure—that I have learned to let go. Nevertheless, I do regard my books as living documents. The process of producing the audiobook was most informative; I found I had to tweak some of the dialog sequences to make them more natural for the narrator to articulate.

 Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Stanwell should be played by Boris Kodjoe. Margot Robbie would be my definite to embody Elsa. However, I am interested in hearing suggestions from our readers. Hey, let us know in the comments section below.

Boris Kodjoe Stanwell look

Boris Kodjoe as Stanwell?

margot-robbie-Elsa Look

Margot Robbie as Elsa?

Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

Write your ending first. It may seem counter-intuitive; however, consider it to be like a lawyer’s closing argument. Everything that happens before leads up to that dramatic wrap-up at the end of a court case.  Switching to another metaphor, by knowing your destination, you increase your odds of getting there in one piece.  Your early draft of the book’s conclusion is like a sign post  guiding the way. Of course, go back and review your closing, tweak, then repeat; especially as your writing muscles develop, the further you get into your WIP (work in progress).

Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

I am deep into my next novel; it is an interesting collaboration. If songwriters can collaborate, why not authors? Again, the focus will be on Sub-Saharan Africa, though it will be a decade later than the 1976 setting of The Zebra Affaire. Our working title is “The Spy in the Hyena Den”.

 Fiona: What book are you reading now?

Alan Furst, “The Spies of Warsaw”

 Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Herman Wouk, “Winds of War” is the first significant book I read.

 Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Animals. I weep for the countless rhino and elephant slaughtered for their ivory and horn. Tragic waste; these magnificent creatures killed for mere trinkets and problems better solved with a certain blue pill.  Yet, watching baby elephants trying to learn to use their rubbery trunks for the first time is the funniest thing, ever.

 Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

Winston Churchill. Supreme writer, orator, statesman, and blessed with an extraordinary gift of foresight.

 Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Philanthropy. Especially wildlife conservation and breast cancer research.

 Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

‘So Little Time (So Much to Do)’: the title of a 1938 Louis Armstrong song.

 Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

Fiona, so kind of you to offer. I can be reached at www.markfinebooks.com and www.finebooks.coand my Twitter handle is @MarkFine_author

Blog: Mark Fine | RUMINATIONS https://markfineauthor.wordpress.com/


The Zebra Affaire [130 Amazon Reviews]

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/ZEBRA-AFFAIRE-Apartheid-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B011PXSEWG/

Audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/The-Zebra-Affaire-Audiobook/B076C1CVNS/

Download “THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE” Audiobook for FREE

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Click the link below for the Special FREE Offer:

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Two Short Shorts (includes Bonus excerpt from “The Zebra Affaire”):

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Short-Shorts-Stories-Strangers-ebook/dp/B0771X8VNC/

Amazon Authors Page:https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Fine/e/B00KOIP05S/

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/MarkfineAuthor


Thanks to Fiona Mcvie for this interview. You can view her original post here.

THE TRUMP CONUNDRUM AND A HOPE FOR POLITICAL EMANCIPATION

AUGUST 26, 2015 – Whether it’s a personal predilection, always seeking that silver lining amongst the darkest of clouds, or the happy coincidence that this is the 95th anniversary guaranteeing American women the right to vote—but I already see some interesting positives in Donald Trump’s acerbic quest for the White House. For sake of clarity, I’m by no means endorsing his opportunistic ideological mindset or his pugnacious platform. However, I applaud the fact he actually ran, and in doing so has taught us much about existing blemishes in our modern Constitutional Republic.

We’re Living In the Age of Kardashian. kardashian_family_wAs a nation we’ve plummeted toward a miasma of the trivial, contented in the superficial and the outrageous. Alongside our unbridled delight in the shameful we have paradoxically bridled ourselves with the censorious restraints of political correctness. We now live in a society where celebrity trumps common sense and true human decency is nothing more than an ersatz hashtag.

Our political leaders (a pox on both parties) are incapable of leading as they’ve become obsessed with power and celebrity as the final end product, rather than a means to do Good.  In this dumbed down culture, even a onetime dignified presidential fireside chat to the entire nation is now a flippant appearance on Comedy Central. As for the once respected media, it’s become depressingly “tribal”—no longer the peoples’ ombudsman; instead devolving into paid propaganda shills for their respective sides or fawning over the latest luminary pregnancy.

Are We Angry Enough at Political Leadership to Deserve Change?

The unintended outcome is a confused citizenry that’s quick to whine, yet slow to act in any meaningful manner. Yes, we all hoped for change but found nothing but a remorseless angry-votersdecline. We turned to our political leaders for guidance; they in turn promised the world in exchange for their reelection—all the while whining the loudest about those from the other tribe, as they systematically accomplished little in a self-serving scheme suited to preserving the status quo.

As the babble of conflicting voices mounted, with those occupying the ideological extremes being the shrillest, it had become apparent that an agent of change was now essential. Yes, the once supine electorate had begun to take notice—and had finally gotten angry. And the two most unlikely candidates have stepped in to fill the void…

Political Polar Opposites Donald Trump & Bernie Sanders.

 Trump and Sanders

Acknowledging this political leadership vacuum, both sides across the political divide have, simultaneously, identified for themselves unconventional champions.  And the sustained embrace of these two unlikely frontrunners can only be interpreted as an unabashed mutiny against the ineffectual status quo; with Trump being the more dramatic manifestation of this public resentment toward the political class (as an Independent Democrat, Bernie remains a politician—though admittedly an iconoclastic one).

This rise of the unconventional candidate alone makes a Trump campaign, despite the sound and the fury, worthy of being. A message is being transmitted to the political hacks; lobbyists and current tenants of the Potemkin village in Washington D.C. that enough is enough. This is an emancipation of sorts from a most unlikely source, and I wonder if we will seize the moment.

Celebrity Equals More Eyeballs and Participation. It’s a Fact.

The fact that more than twenty four million Americans tuned in to watch the first Republican debate on Fox News is an absolute stunner. In this age of apathy and fluff it’s a surprising and welcome windfall of Trump’s celebrity presence. Did those twenty four million tune in to see Rand Paul?  I think not. It appears celebrity is now a necessary inducement to activate higher participation in our democratic process. So be it. It’s certainly preferable to the alternative; a lack of interest and chronic voter apathy. That’s how it should be; the American people should have a loud voice in their democracy—and take a keen interest in those that claim to advocate on their behalf. And so another lesson is gleaned from Trump’s venture into the political arena.

2015 Primary Season has Become Deliciously Egalitarian.  

As unlikely candidate that he is, Trump has already provided another valuable service to this nation. With his bombast he has effectively shattered the death-grip choke hold of the jimmy-fallon-chuck-liddell-choke-hold-political elites. We’ve been indoctrinated with the conventional narrative that politics is only for politicians. And that it’s best political leadership remain in the grasp of professional politicians (and their cadres of lobbyists). With his billion dollars and chuztpah Trump has convincingly proven that’s all bunkum!

Candidate Bench is Now Potentially Deeper.

A virtue of the Trump phenomenon is that by his flawed yet forceful presence, he has dramatically increased the potential talent roster for the highest office in the land. sportsmanshipThe depth of the bench is now that much greater. However, do prospective candidates now realize it? No doubt gifted men and women, with considerable talents and abilities on offer, have been relegated to the cold comfort of the political sidelines. They had bought into the claim that only a professional politician had the nous and sanitized biography to qualify for the job; and that the campaign trail would tear a political neophyte apart. The Teflon Don has proved otherwise, warts and all.

Enter the Perfect Celebrity Substitute.

This has to be an encouraging development for those patriots with an itch to get involved—but had adjudged themselves unqualified due to lack of political experience.

And so we enter the realm of the theoretical; a notion once improbable pre-Trump, but now attractively feasible. We need a celebrity, not a politician,  with a stratospheric recognition Q Score, devoid of “warts and all,” who has the intellect and refinement to lead—appreciated by men and adored by women (no matter their political persuasion), and who happens to be well married. Someone whose smile can replace Trump’s scowl; and ensure our emancipation from the political technocrats is complete.

Wait a moment, there is such a candidate, potentially…

George Clooney!

George Clooney Cool 2016 copy

Graphic rendered by MARK FINE

The man brings the luster of refined celebrity to any task and has lived a life replete with decency and unheralded activism. As for being an actor, Ronald Reagan has already resolved that question. In a word, Mr. Clooney is the manifestation of “Cool.” A refreshing contrast to the petulant, hot under the collar Lilliputian leaders—or aspiring leaders that are currently clogging the airwaves with their spiteful propaganda. And George Clooney is successful, suggesting he is capable of being his own man—not depending on the graft of lobbyists and special interests. In the celebrity hands of folks like Clooney our emancipation from the elite political class would be complete.

Curious to know what you might think about a possible celebrity presidency? Good or bad thing…what’s your opinion?

Note: To my knowledge Clooney has shown no interest in seeking the Presidency. I’ve merely used him for illustrative purposes, as an example of how politics in the United States could well change in light of Donald Trump’s illuminating campaign. And to show that it is feasible, in this environment of insurgent politics, for an outsider to seek higher office.

•ο•

About the Author: Mark Fine was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has made the United States his home since 1979, living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. For four decades he has worked alongside world famous recording artists. He eventually launched his own award-winning record label, Hammer & Lace, with a mandate to produce benefit albums in support of such causes as breast cancer awareness, at-risk children, and wildlife conservation. Featured Image -- 304For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Variety magazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision.” He has also contributed articles to entertainment industry publications, and conducted public speaking engagements at multimedia events. Now he resides in the South Bay, where he lives with his two sons, his “significant other” and Charlie, a neighborhood dog that drops in from time to time. There he wrote the historic romance novel, The Zebra Affaire. Set in politically extreme apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.

Visit the author’s website and blog at www.markfinebooks.com