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?

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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

When you sign up for Audible 30-day Free Trial

Click the link below for the Special FREE Offer:

http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B076C1CVNS

You Save $19.95 (100%)

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.

CROOKED INTERVIEW with Author MARK FINE by ANITA KOVACEVIC

 

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CROOKED INTERVIEW with MARK FINE

BY ANITA KOVACEVIC ON 26/03/2017

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CROOKED TALES

The CROOKED TALES is another bountiful reader feast prepared for you by Readers Circle of Avenue Park and 15 extraordinary authors from around the globe. It contains 15 short stories on deception and revenge from all genres and walks of life, and is now available in kindle and paperback. It gives me a mixture of pride and humbleness to state that my story Beneath is also featured.

This spring I have an amazing treat for you as these superbusy authors have agreed to be my blog guests and do an interview. Crooked Tales inspiring my crookedness, I have also given them a task – in the second half of the interview they have to interview themselves:).

To open this series of Crooked Interviews, here is MARK FINE, a man whose autobiography alone would make for a stunning movie. Thank you, Mr Fine!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MF Profile copy

The Author in his African Element

Mark Fine [Mark of the Hyena], a self-confessed, tone-deaf music executive, was born in South Africa, However, now Los Angeles is his home. There with his two sons—and Charlie, an affectionate neighbor’s dog—Mark wrote his historical fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire—the story of a mixed race couple and their struggle to survive under the racist regime’s oppressive 1970’s apartheid policies. Mark also takes a broader look at the travails of greater Africa; a topic that concerns him greatly. A charming aspect of Mark’s writing is how he looks to nature—Africa’s animals and wildlife—for inspiration and a solution to human shortcomings. In the process of telling the truth via the freedom fiction provides, a reviewer said, “Mark Fine has been brave like William Faulkner in his journey of truth telling – he has simply done it with a much different kind of Southern accent.”  For further info on Mark, check out these links— Website: finebooks.co and MarkFineBooks.com Blog: Fine Ruminations ~ or you’re welcome to connect on Facebook and Twitter: @MarkFine_author

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


 

INTERVIEW

– What is your Crooked tale about and what inspired it?

MARK OF THE HYENA: ‘Fish out of water’ stories intrique me. The set up of an elite academic from New York City stranded in the Kalahari desert with a tribe of San Bushmen as his only means of survival was too tempting to ignore. In the telling we learn of hubris wrapped in first world arrogance, and simple grace in respecting nature’s lore.

– What do you like writing and/or reading best? 

I now have so many stories within me to tell, I’ve shifted my focus to short stories. This permits me the time to write them, and affords busy readers the time to read them.

– What else do you do in life apart from writing?

I mentor aspiring talent in both the music world, especially songwriters, and print publishing. It is the joy of collaboration that finally motivates me.
– What are you currently working on?

An historical fiction/suspense novel based in sub-Sahara Africa. It is based on a true story, and has the tantalizing title, “THE CULTURED SPY”.


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Author Mark Fine

CROOKED INTERVIEW (In a ‘crooked twist’ Anita had the ‘victim’ of the interview, interview himself!)

A Conversation with Myself: The whys and wherefores that shaped author Mark Fine’s novel, “The Zebra Affaire”

Mark Fine: What was the genesis of Zebra Affaire? Was it a grueling process or did it write itself?

Myself: More complex, more a creative evolution. I originally wanted to write a biography about my father. But, despite his accomplishments, he remained a modest man. I began to sense that the notion of a biography would be awkward for him. So I scrapped the idea. However, a great deal of research I’d already completed about his life and times. Subliminally, my mind must have churned away at this problem, because one day—a true kismet moment—the idea of courageous love story between a white woman and black man in the land of apartheid manifested itself. Only then did The Zebra Affaire ‘write itself’.

Mark Fine: Did you find that, as the characters developed, they changed the trajectory of the story from the original vision of the book?

Myself: The arc of the story remained surprisingly consistent. Probably because I wrote the end of my novel first. Seems counterintuitive, but it made sense to have a final destination as a guidepost. Kind of like a closing argument in a legal trial, I instinctively focused on the book’s conclusion when I began. Of course, as characters assumed a life of their own, the ending was constantly revisited, and refined.

Speaking about characters, I enjoyed adding the animal world and their instinctive code-of-honor into the story. As allegories to the foibles of human behavior, the natural behavior of these creatures was rather instructive. I’m thrilled I found a place for Africa’s wildlife in the book. It makes the experience all the more authentic for the reader, and foreshadows the human narrative at the heart of the story in a fresh way.

Mark Fine:  Which of the characters, if any, did I shape from personal experiences?

Myself:  The patriarch, the DGF character, typifies the decent people that tried to make a difference within the discriminatory apartheid system. Despite onerous job restriction laws that prohibited people of color from any management position, the real DGF did in fact hire and mentor a black man as a senior executive for a public company—despite such a hiring being illegal.

Due to the real DGF’s mentorship and ‘civil disobedience’, Rupert Bopape became a legendary music producer and label chief. DGF’s philosophy was simple in a complicated color-shaped society: merit is the only sustainable litmus test, and surpasses all other things that divide, such as race, tribe, gender, and faith.

In the context of the times, DGF was quietly brave. Now for a confession, my late father David Gabriel Fine inspired the DGF character. Fittingly, by weaving his memoire within the tapestry of my historical fiction story I was finally able to pay tribute to a wonderful man, and terrific dad.

Mark Fine:  Your Zebra Affaire story deals with many areas of history and diverse ethnic groups. How much of the final work was a result of inspiration or research?

Myself: The schism between the various races and tribes was my motivation to write the novel, as it remains a cautionary tale. I felt the world tends to adopt a simplistic ‘bumper-sticker’ view of what in reality is a more complicated state of affairs. Things are invariably seen in stark black and white, when in fact it’s anything but immutable. For example, in South Africa the white clans hated each other (English speakers versus the Afrikaners from Dutch heritage), as do the various native tribes (Zulu, Sotho, Venda, Xhosa and others). It’s ironic that South Africa’s motto was “Unity is Strength” when it was such an intensely balkanized society.

But the challenge as a writer was to humanize this constantly shifting tide of societal unrest, and so the context—shocking for that time and place—of an illicit interracial romance. As such, the arcana of South Africa’s convoluted legal code needed thorough research.

However, my main goal is to entertain the reader. It’s the thrilling fusion of romance and suspense set against a canvas that’s vividly authentic and powerfully provocative that makes The Zebra Affairestory worth writing, and reading. This is about the courageous love story of Elsa and Stanwell, the two of them on a collision course with the mighty racist regime, which is the compelling narrative that draws the reader through the book’s pages. If the reader becomes better informed in the process, well, that’s an added bonus.

Mark Fine: If you could return to post-apartheid South Africa and make sweeping changes, what would they be?

Myself: Out with the men! The women of Africa are saints. That image of a humble woman walking miles in the heat of day, barefoot, with a five gallon bucket of water balanced on her head—and with a baby wrapped in a blanket bound to her back, is for me the essence of selfless sacrifice. Unless there is another Nelson Mandela, these women should represent the true voice of Africa. Tireless and dedicated they may be, yet sadly they remain marginalized, underappreciated, due to gender discrimination and patriarchal tradition. I believe it is time for an authentic, nurturing, honest African woman to become the next president of South Africa! Maybe this will become the topic of my next book…

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The Zebra Affaire [Historical Fiction, Suspense/Romance]

To purchase a copy of your own:

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


MARK FINE’S QUESTIONS for other Crooked Tales authors

Do you find a silver lining in a bad review? If so, please give an example.

What percentage of the research you do for a novel actually lands up on the printed page?

Do you have an author you admire? If so, why?

ANITA REQUESTS: Could other Crooked Tales authors please reply to this kind gentleman in the comments below? Other authors also welcome:)

READERS REVIEW ROOM awards a Goldworm for “THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE”

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: AN APARTHEID LOVE STORY (THE SUB-SAHARAN SAGA BOOK 1)

The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine is a Best Book Bit, so be sure to take a look at the reviews and the book trailer! Here is part of one reviewer’s thoughts:

By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced.

Blank white book w/pathIT’S THE SPRING OF ‘76. For Elsa, her affair with Stanwell may well prove lethal, as she’s white and he’s black, and they dared to fall in love in apartheid South Africa. The terrified lovers are the prey in a deadly manhunt from the golden city of Johannesburg to the exotic but dangerous wilds of the African bushveld. ‘The Zebra Affaire’ is a thrilling fusion of romance and suspense—laced with rich South African history.
The tension is palpable as the persecuted couple race against time and bigotry. Reviewers rave about this intimate, yet dangerous love story; that’s set against a canvas that is both vividly authentic and powerfully provocative.

ORDER NOW!

About the Book

‘“INTENSELY DAZZLING…NOT A BLACK AND WHITE STORY, A RAINBOW STORY WITH THE RICH COLORS OF LIVES IN TURMOIL.” – Elizabeth Newton, author of ‘View from the Sixth Floor’

“A book to savor slowly…appreciating each moment. I found myself re-reading sentences and whole paragraphs; such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books I’ve read this year.” – Jean Gill, author of ‘Song at Dawn’

“The story of Stanwell and Elsa really touched me. Racial discrimination was so dehumanizing. This book took me to the days of the liberation struggle, and I experienced the hurt as I read. It was a real privilege to read the history, a period of pain and hope, as seen through Mark Fine’s eyes.” – Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, Former Freedom Fighter & Senior South African Diplomat

“More than a daring, multiracial romance set in a racist 1976 South Africa, that nation on the turbulent cusp of collapsing due to apartheid; The Zebra Affaire grips your soul and won’t let go. Never mind zebras, think lions, raw and roar.” – Geoff Nelder, author of ‘ARIA: Left Luggage’

Book Trailer

Book Details

Check Out The ‘Goldworm’ Reviews For This Book

Review One:

Africa: an alluring and mysterious continent, rich in exotic animals, scenery and peoples. A safari in Africa would be an amazing experience- the chance to see giraffes, zebras, elephants, lions and so many more spectacular creatures, along with unique and beautiful landscapes, jungles, deserts, mountains and waterfalls.

But, amidst the supreme natural beauty of Africa, there is also much man-made ugliness. Author Mark Fine has brought to life the trauma of South Africa in his stirring novel.

In the prologue, the author explains that for too long, the British and Dutch white people had dominated and subjugated the native people of South Africa. With that backdrop, Mr. Fine begins his gripping story of racial hatred forty years ago in the spring of 1976, as he describes how the lives of several South Africans literally and figuratively collided.

On a sunny morning, Afrikaner Elsa, who has just moved from her family farm to Johannesburg meets with Lydia, a British woman at her home in Sandton, the richest square mile in all of Africa. As they enjoy their tea, they hear the sound of screeching tires and clanging metal. They rush to the street and discover that a truck has crashed, injuring a young man. We learn that he is Stanwell, from the Malawi tribe who lives in the bleak and dangerous Soweto district.

The smashing of the truck causes the lives of the Afrikaner woman, the British woman and the native man to crash together in a life-changing way. Stanwell and Elsa fall in love, a love which is legally forbidden at this time in South Africa. Author Fine tells their tale of terror and danger in a fast-paced, yet sensitive manner. He understands the human condition and he understands South Africa. Blank white book w/path

Readers will not only be swept up in this exciting and thrilling story, but they will learn the true picture of life in South Africa under the legally sanctioned racism that was known as apartheid. Although racism and repression of the native African people had been allowed for years, the South African government officially made this cruelty legal in 1948 by enacting the Apartheid laws.

Mr. Fine explains that life in South Africa began to change in the 1970’s due to economic sanctions imposed by the rest of the world and also interestingly because of the introduction of television. But South Africa did not change fast enough to help Elsa and Stanwell.

Mr. Fine also provides detailed historical notes throughout the book to enhance the reader’s knowledge. I enjoyed learning more about the actual events that were the basis of the story of the fictional Elsa and Stanwell. There are many other interesting characters and stories in the book, too.

Apartheid ended in 1996 with the first free elections open to all. Former prisoner Nelson Mandela, of the Xhosa tribe, became the first freely elected President and the first black president. South Africans now describe their country as the Rainbow Nation as a tribute to their transition to a multicultural diversity.

I highly recommend this book, for the history that should never be forgotten and for the sweeping and powerful story that is told with grace and understanding.

Review Two:

It is not often a book as intensely dazzling as “The Zebra Affaire” by Mark Fine comes along. A forbidden love story takes place against the dramatic background of 1970’s South Africa and apartheid. Fine draws you into the story cautiously, laying the groundwork for the eventual affair between Elsa and Stanwell. By gently educating the reader with the background of the conflicts in South Africa, awareness of the difficulties faced by the star crossed lovers is enhanced. This is more than a racial segregation issue; there is a deeper issue brewing in South Africa. Tribal conflicts cause significant damage to a country beset by violence and political unrest.

As the love of Elsa and Stanwell grows deeper and more intense they are assisted by some to strengthen their bond. While segregation forbids open encouragement of their union, friends support them quietly. But the strict Afrikaner regime stands against them if not publicly at least in a behind closed doors attack on their union. While they flaunt their affair the government seems to stand in stunned silence as the world looks on. But the fanatics behind the scenes are both appalled and disgusted by their obvious sexual relationship and strive to expose and punish them for breaking hundreds years old laws.

With vibrant descriptions of both the beauty and ugliness of South Africa the story weaves its way to an intense climax. Waiting for the resolution of the love affair the reader will also wait for the resolution of apartheid. Knowing the eventual outcome of South African politics and the rise of Nelson Mandela it is easy to anticipate the same result for Stanwell and Elsa. In spite of some subtle foreshadowing of events to come the inevitable conclusion still comes as a shocking surprise.

I highly recommend this lush and beautifully written story. Fine’s use of words is akin to an artist’s use of the palette; this is not a black and white story, this is a rainbow story with the rich colors of lives in turmoil. In a word, it is brilliant. If I could rate it higher I would do so.

Review Three:

Reality+romance = relevance

This book came highly recommended and I put off reading it till I knew I had stopped having expectations. Preconceived expectations are never a good thing. The apartheid topic is one I don’t gravitate towards, because it still shocks me too much that people could and can be narrow-minded enough to judge others by skin colour, instead of character. I just get too emotional and enfuriated.

This story is two-fold. One is the social romance fiction based on historical events, and the other is the author’s account of the historical account, which is not fiction but interpreting and explaining the past. You may appreciate this or not, but the author forewarns you that it is your choice and how to watch out for it. The historical background account is certainly useful for those unacquainted with the socio-political situation, although the rest of my review will refer to the fictional part and author’s style. It is absolutely impossible to look at the storyline by taking it outside its historical context, but it is equally impossible to review politics here.

The characters, plot, emotions, descriptions are all reminiscent of the great movies from the golden ages of Hollywood, and you can easily picture someone like Grace Kelly playing Elsa, or Sidney Poitier playing Stanwell. Though at times I did wish there was more conversation between Elsa and Stanwell themselves, the scene with the beaded ‘love letter’ makes up for all the words. The implications of tradition in contrast with their rule-breaking speaks in abundance. However, despite this romantic duo, my favourite character is DGF — sort of love at first read, for so many reasons. Malan Zander, on the other hand, made me want ot leave the book as soon as he appeared, not for bad writing, but for hitting too close to home – the puny souls, abusing power every chance they get, are all too painfully realistic, regardless of time and culture. An entire tapestry of characters is well-displayed as you follow the battle of interracial romance with the world paralysed with bigotry and inhumane politics.

The wording is really rich, intricately written, with quite a few local expressions adding to the overall atmosphere and understanding of the two worlds melded into one. The style is consistent throughout, the syntax quite complex and vocabulary exuberant, and the topic absolutely noteworthy. The fact that the author actually lived in such surroundings and times exudes additional credibility. The contrast between the descriptions of Stanwell’s cursed mines and the media frenzy surrounding Formula 1 and fashion is excellently written, and leaves a striking impression on the reader, enhancing the depiction of injustice and inequality. As the story progresses and nears its ending, the analogies with the wilderness become stronger and serve the story impeccably.

The author does not limit himself only to displaying the brutality of racism, but other forms of tragic prejudice – mysoginist, antisemitic, bullying the weak, misguided and misdirected tiny lords with legal power. What a grand race humans could be, if we weren’t so puny sometimes! Nevertheless, Mark Fine shows very clearly there are no clear lines between the good and the bad, and it is not money, status or skin colour which makes us good or bad, but our nature. Family, loyalty, friendship, respect and love go beyond any limits and matter the most.

The Zebra Affaire is an old-fashioned, romantic but not deluded, vintage-like tale which is not to be rushed in and cannot be rushed. If you are looking for fast-paced, cliffhanger thrillers with wild erotic scenes, you might not find everything you are looking for in this book. If you are looking for a book that makes you think, and engages your sense of humanity, culture, history and language, this is one of the great ones you will enjoy. The writing here reminded me of music – this might not be something you dance to, but something you listen to carefully and in peace. There is much to be learned from such art.

Review Four:

I like to challenge myself from time to time by choosing genres outside of my comfort zone. Historical fiction is probably one of the toughest for me to read because of the statistics and complex story lines found within; but the cover and title of this book pulled me in and I just had to try it.

I was mesmerized from the beginning of this story. The author paints a vivid, controversial scene right away. His character descriptions are thorough and make you feel as if the players are on a stage right in front of you – every single character! The love story has a Shakespearean feel to it that makes your heart ache for the couple, as with Romeo and Juliet. And each love scene is written beautifully.

The pace is steady until about halfway through, where it starts rolling and doesn’t stop until the very end. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a compelling, thought-provoking read.

Famed theatre critic and playright Robert Brustein checking out Mark Fine’s novel THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE

Famed theatre critic, producer, educator and playright Robert Brustein checking out THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE. He founded both Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut and the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the theatre critic for The New Republic. He comments on politics for the Huffington Post.

Honored!

Robert Brustein Doreen Beinart

FINE REVIEW: “A Fine Balance” by Robyn Cain ~ It’s a fine read :)

A Fine BalanceA Fine Balance by Robyn Cain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bald-headed psychopath returns to his neighborhood and the body count rises. He’s the nebulous face, the deadliest kind, of corporate espionage. An equal opportunity killer, incapable of remorse, uncaring whether his victims are family or foe. The opening sequence is startlingly dramatic as we witness the callous actions of this despicable individual. The scene is now set to unravel the full extent of this multi-layered plot.

Enter Jenny; clearly a beautiful and intelligent woman. She is also a revered employee at the company. Yet, rather than live a complete independent life, she merely exists; living a less than privileged life. Jenny’s circumstances add to the growing mystery. We then meet Matt who is travelling incognito, being the millionaire investigating those responsible for harming his company. Matt is a sudden and unwelcome guest in Jenny’s modest residence in order to best maintain his cover. With him impinging on her space, well, needless to say the sparks fly; first the feisty repartee, then the questioning passion.

However, at its heart this is a novel about family and the blood bond that binds–the best that family represents: love, selflessness, sacrifice, loyalty, tradition–and the worst: hatred, corruption, manipulation, betrayal and greed. A fine read. I’m certainly looking forward to reading more of Robyn Cain’s writings.

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FINE REVIEW: “The Long Dance Home” by Julie Mayerson Brown. Lively, Refreshing & Spiced with Snappy Dialog.

The Long Dance HomeThe Long Dance Home by Julie Mayerson Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is vitality to this novel that I found refreshing. The author’s ability to capture the spirit, the essence, of her characters extended way beyond mere florid descriptions. And so I enjoyed the fascinating cast of characters that filled the setting in Clearwater, a small Northern California town.
No doubt about it “The Long Dance Home” is a modern love story, and other reviewers have elegantly articulated the romantic travails of CeCe. But I choose to focus on some other aspects of this well told story; the loving homage to the arts —specifically ballet, the joys of an imperfect family—where the stepmother is a gem, the loyalty of friendships—even if the best bud is a goof, the reverence for tradition—even if it’s the annual children’s performance of “The Nutcracker,” the desire to do one’s very best—even if mistakes are made along the way, and finally the pain of loss—the price for feeling alive.

We meet the Russian-born ballet instructor, Ilana who nurtured the dance prodigy we know as CeCe, as a young child. But due to the fragility of age, and the onset of senility in her mentor, CeCe finds herself experiencing a different kind of loss–the emotional fading of the most influential person in her life. The scene with the crystal ballerina Christmas ornament, a gift received many years before from a then vital Ilana, I found to be both poignant and meaningful.

Finally, there is adroitness in penmanship (especially the dialog) that separates author Julie Brown from many of her peers: there’s a sequence when her current beau visits CeCe’s parents’ home for the first time—the snappy exchange between boyfriend, family and friends still makes me chuckle. This is lively and refreshing stuff that I encourage other readers to enjoy!

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BAD KNEES, GOOD BOOK

Or, How my messed up knees contributed to my new vocation as an Author…

It was my MRI, but the mournful expression on the face of the white-coated orthopedic surgeon suggested he was grieving for his own legs. “Bone-on-bone on both knees,” he said. “You have craters where you once had cartilage.”  Now I had an explanation for the excruciating pain that had robbed me of my mobility.

“Okay, doc. What would you suggest I do next?”

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Would you like this bionic cyborg device in your body?

THE BLEAK ALTERNATIVE

Ever so proudly, as if he presenting me with a Grammy award, the surgeon handed me a gleaming replica of the Stryker Scorpio knee replacement system. I took one glance at this bionic, slash cyborg, device—more like a prop from the Terminator  movie franchise—and fled, or more precisely flopped away on my two gimpy knee’d legs.

SHEER TERROR AND A LIMITED UNIVERSE

I was terrified. Knee replacement surgery seemed akin to gross amputation. Why the necessity for this traumatic procedure, twice—on each knee, I wondered? Surely this is a simple patch job; the biological equivalent of filling in a pothole?

With certainty I knew this was something I wouldn’t do, but as I searched for an alternative solution the pain persisted and my universe shrunk. No more tennis, and no more walks on the beach, no more soccer games, no more travelling, and even obligatory visits to the grocery store became too taxing. In fact, only vanity prevented me from applying for a disabled placard to allow me to park my car a few yards from my destination.

Inevitably I resigned myself to a future marooned on my bum. At least my bum didn’t hurt…at least not yet.

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No! This is NOT a picture of MY bum.

So, what’s a poor guy to do stranded all day on his butt? Watch TV? Tried and done that. And then an absurd notion entered my head, “Why not write a book…”

Now I am not a Luddite. I’m well aware that the earth is round and technology is crazy cool. My resistance to bionic knees was not a foolish quest to invalidate the wonders of modern medicine. Quite to the contrary, I admire medicine. But in this instance, to me, “the punishment did not fit crime” and the recommended remedy was far too draconian. Hence I began the first tentative steps into ‘authordom.’ With computer in hand (or hand on mouse) I now used the wonders of modern technology as my primary research tool.

BOOK RESEARCH FULFILLED A QUEST

Bound to a chair I travelled through the universe and the ages; and visited the arcane and cruel laws of South Africa’s apartheid regime (the topic of my book)—without ever leaving my desk. Google and Bing replaced the library and index card system of yore, and brought all knowledge to my desk seemingly at my bidding. And from this foundation of dedicated research, my romantic-suspense, historical novel “The Zebra Affaire” began to take form and reveal its true shape.

ZA Kindle and Paperback Mock up copy

Here’s the obligatory plug of my novel. You are welcome to buy it at Amazon.com and other fine retail outlets. Thank you 🙂

Now we’ve reached the heart of this story; a “circle of life” thing—that still fills me with wonder—kind of happened. You see the book owed its very existence to the plight of my poor knees, and seemingly in a selfless act of gratitude this same book chose to show pity on my knees and reciprocated in kind.

EUREKA! A SOLUTION

One day when researching the specifics of the bloody massacre of black school children during 1976 Soweto Riots—I was suddenly transfixed by the search engine’s seemingly arbitrary highlight of something called stem cell regeneration of knee cartilage. And so I followed these crumbs of information that my grateful book had offered me. Apparently I had finally found the asphalt patch I’d been seeking for my pot-holed knees.

An innovative medical group, a modest two-hour drive from my home, was pioneering the procedure. They instructed me to bring my MRI (which I then pried from the grasp of the protesting orthopedic surgeon) to the initial appointment.

Anxiety skyrocketed. It was vital I qualified for the program. Fortunately both knees did; I experienced a similar euphoria as if my two knees had graduated college magna cum laude.

WHAT KNEES? LIVING PIN CUSHIONS…

Now I will spare you the gory details (as there were none: no scalpel, no chain saws, no staples, and no sutures). But there were lots and lots and lots of needles (and some sedation). It would be fair to describe my needle-sprouting knees as living pin cushions during the meticulous stem cell “seeding” procedure.
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An intimate portrait of one of my two prickly knees. And yes, it did hurt. I was awake during the process…

MOBILITY RECOVERED AND NOVEL PUBLISHED

Twenty months have come and gone since stem cells harvested from my own body were carefully inserted beneath each knee cap. I used the time well, finishing off my novel, and designing both the front cover and the book’s interior. And as I labored the stem cells did their share of the work.

All now is well! “The Zebra Affaire” continues to receive splendid reviews (76 of them to date, Thank you!) for which I continue to be both humbled and grateful:

I see Pulitizer Prize material here…” readerJeanne Mary Allen

“Intensley dazzling!” Elizabeth Newton, author of “The View from the Sixth Floor”

“Scorching!” Charlie Flowers, author of “Hard Kill”

“If I could, I would give it six stars!” reader Enrico Grafitti

“A masterpiece at All levels…,” Ilana Edelstein, author “The Patron Way”

“A book to savour slowly…I found myself re-reading whole paragraphs, such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books I’ve read this year.” Jean Gill, author of ‘Song at Dawn’.

Clearly my pen is well indebted to my long suffering knees! As for my ability to walk—it is now a joy to be fully engaged, zooming about,  speaking at book clubs and book signings—with barely a twinge in either knee.

A little more about me: here

FINE REVIEW: “Dangerous Wind” by Alan Cook ~ A thrilling fictional global hunt with a real world warning.

Dangerous Wind: A Carol Golden NovelDangerous Wind: A Carol Golden Novel by Alan Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thrilling global hunt by an alluring woman, suffering amnesia, forced into a mission to track down a former lover she can no longer recall! These are the riddles that make Dangerous Wind such an intriguing read. From the security of my chair I raced pell-mell alongside our heroine, across seven continents, in pursuit of a master mathematician–the alleged villain bent on destroying the Western financial system. Reflecting true life, nothing is quite as black and white as first thought.

And as author Alan Cook’s intriguing story unfolds we witness allegiances change, and in the process motives of the principal characters become better defined; but he is also ringing a cautionary bell about the overreach of big government, the hazards to the world economy by “to big to fail” banking institutions, and the slippery slope spiral of restricted freedoms. Hence, in the spirit of “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” Mr. Cook succeeds in informing us as he simultaneously so ably entertains us.

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AUTHOR READING [Video]: “Hotel Rendezvous” THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE by Mark Fine

More than a daring, multi-racial romance set in a racist South Africa in 1976 on the cusp of abandoning apartheid; the tension is palpable in this character-driven novel. The Zebra Affaire by Mark Fine grips your soul and won’t let go. Never mind zebras, think lions, raw and roar!

“The Zebra Affaire” is a romantic historical drama that fills each page with soul and love, yet serves as a damming condemnation of apartheid South Africa. The novel features two lovers; Elsa a white woman and Stanwell, a black man. A crime in the land of apartheid. This excerpt, read by the author Mark Fine, tells of the couple’s first romantic–but illegal–rendezvous in a plush Johannesburg 5~star hotel.

To buy Kindle edition:

Amazon Worldwide: http://hyperurl.co/i958xl

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle

Website: http://booklaunch.io/mjfine/markfinea…