PRESS RELEASE: Apartheid Love Story Historical Fiction Novel Zebra Affaire Audiobook Released

The acclaimed apartheid historical fiction novel The Zebra Affaire where author Mark Fine chronicles the courageous and intense love story of a proud Zulu descendant and the daughter of a white farmer in 1976 South Africa has now been released in audiobook format on Audible.com.

Rancho Palos Verdes, United States – November 28, 2017 /PressCable/ —

The critically acclaimed apartheid novel The Zebra Affaire by South African author Mark Fine has been released in audiobook format on Audible.com, with narration by fellow countryman Dennis Kleinman.

More information is available at https://amazon.com/Zebra-Affaire-Apartheid-Saga/dp/1512321028.

The Zebra Affaire is an acclaimed historical fiction novel by Mark Fine set in 1976 Apartheid South Africa. It tells the courageous, forbidden love story of Stanwell Marunda, a descendent of the Zulu, and Elsa, the daughter of a white farmer, under an intolerant, racist regime.

The book is lauded for its authenticity and seamless fusion of romance and suspense within one hundred years of South African history. Recently described by critics as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ meets ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in ‘Out of Africa’, the novel is now available in audiobook format on Audible.com.

First released in July 2015, the novel is now being relaunched as an audiobook to meet renewed interest for its multicultural story and interracial romance with recent events unfolding in Zimbabwe, the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and the rise of white supremacy sentiments around the world.

The narration was performed by fellow South African Dennis Kleinman, chosen by Mr. Fine out of more than 50,000 voice actors on Audible’s database. Mr. Kleinman, while in studio producing the audiobook, read a scene on page 192 in the paperback. In the scene protagonists Sid and DGF discuss a painting by a South African artist named Ilse Kleinman. Narrator Kleinman realized the fictional characters in the novel were referring to his real mother.

Author Mark Fine reveals how “this was a stunning coincidence. The Ilse Kleinman that the patriarch DGF references is actually Dennis’ mother. Both she and the painting are real. Ilse’s personal story and paintings intrigued me, having survived both the Holocaust as child and witnessed apartheid as an adult. These two horrific experiences informed her art, so she rightfully had a place in my novel. That’s the wonderful thing about writing historical fiction/world literature, where threads of truth are woven throughout the story. Also, the character named Sid coincidently shares Dennis’ father’s name, and drives the same car.”

He adds “I am from Johannesburg, and Dennis is from Cape Town. We both immigrated to the US but had never met, until now, on this audiobook project. When I auditioned his tape, I felt he was perfect for my book. However, to discover our paths crossing in this fiction meets reality sense makes our collaboration all the more remarkable.”

Mr. Kleinman shared his thoughts. “This is an important book to experience because it tells a story of all the nameless lovers that must have struggled with the oppressive laws of apartheid as they found each other, regardless of the color of their skin. It was an honor to bring The Zebra Affaire to audio. I invite anyone who is interested in stories that impact us deeply, to read the book, or listen to the audiobook.”

The new Zebra Affaire audiobook has received sterling reviews by Senior South African Diplomat, Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, fellow authors and hundreds of readers. For additional details about this courageous and relevant novel, and the forbidden love story it tells, visit the website link provided above or at https://audible.com/pd/Romance/The-Zebra-Affaire-Audiobook/B076C1CVNS.

Contact Info:
Email: pr@finebooks.co

For more information, please visit http://www.finebooks.co/

Source: PressCable

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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

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.

Year End Best Books Ever! And ‘The Zebra Affaire’ Makes the List!

Making the Top 20 list at number eleven is the historical / literary fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire according to the myriad-minded author, Jean Gill. Also, an acclaimed photographer, Jean Gill commented in her article:

He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.


At the prompting of readers’ from the THE BOOK CLUB facebook group, Jean Gill prepared her recommendations. Her list contains a compelling and diverse collection of superb reads for the inquisitive reader, that I’m including Jean’s complete article for both your convenience and reading pleasure.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Books Ever! What are yours?

by Jean Gill [See the original here.]

I was asked to choose my 20 best books ever for The Book Club, a readers’ group on facebook. Impossible of course! This is the list I came up with. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! And help yourself to some Christmas goodies while you’re thinking about brain food!

Pink Rheims biscuits

1. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Book 1 in a trilogy showing dystopian survival in a reality TV game where the forced participants can die. Not my type of book, I thought, but I could not put it down. I love the feisty teen heroine who’s a deadshot with bow and arrows and no book better captures the post-truth machinations of current politics. (I’ve been wanting to use the word ‘post-truth’ since I discovered it was Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016.)

2. The Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri Tepper
Fantasy novel that turns what-if into a gripping story. What if there were a way to organise society so women can have great sex with unsuitable men AND also ensure that children are protected and nurtured? I read every fantasy book Sheri Tepper writes, for the way she creates amazing worlds, tells a good story and makes me see our own world differently.

Starry starry blinis

3. H is for Hawk – Helen McDonald
Best Autobiography
Autobiography about two interwoven emotional journeys; grief and training a goshawk. A book to savour for the beautiful way its written, for its passion and honesty, for its expertise regarding birds of prey and their training. A bonus for me is the analysis of received wisdom from the past re training hawks, in particular via quotations from the troubled soul T.H.White (another of my favourite writers).

4. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Best Children’s Book
The French Winnie-the-Pooh; a children’s book with observations on life that strike a chord with adults. Full of quotable quotes! ‘People have forgotten this truth,’ the fox said. ‘But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.’
Goodreads has 659 favourite quotes from this book so I think you’ll find one that hits the heart!

French Christmas log

5. Mums Know Best – The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook
Best Cookbook
A recipe book collated from family recipes throughout the U.K. during the Hairy Bikers’  television tour. A tribute to Mums and to home cooking, with recipes that all work and that show the whole multi-cultural range of the British people and our food. When my French neighbours sneer at Britain’s lack of cuisine, I tell them ‘You find world cuisine in Britain’ and nowhere is that more true than in this cookbook. It makes you want to write down all your own family favourites; I still use the splotched, handwritten recipe for Grandma’s Christmas Cake although my mother is dead now and I am the Grandma. The photos are good too and as I’m a food shooter (with a Nikon D750 as weapon of choice 🙂 ) I have hundreds of cookbooks and am very fussy about the photos.

6. The Visual Toolbox:60 lessons for stronger photos – David duChemin
The best photography book. From a master of travel / landscape/ wildlife photos who works with natural light. Offers inspiration and guidance, whatever level of photographer you are. In DuChemin’s company I gain confidence in who I am as a photographer; I learn what I want to improve and how to do it. His own photos are a joy.


7. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb
Epic fantasy.
Book 1 of the Farseer Trilogy. Illegitimate and unwanted, young Fitz has to fulfil the only role at court which is offered to him – that of assassin. As the kingdom faces invasion, Fitz discovers his own magical powers and has to learn to control them, for his king and country’s sake. The grand, heroic adventure swept me away, I fell in love with the wolf, and I read every Robin Hobb book the moment it’s available. Training in magic has become clichéd but Robin Hobb pits the illegal Wit (bonding completely with an animal) against the court-controlled Skill (telepathic communication and control of humans) and, uniquely, Fitz has to master both kinds. The relationship between Fitz and his Wolf is as deep and convincing as those between the various humans.

8. Chéri – Colette
Very French love story.
First published in 1920, when France was where the British went to be naughty, Colette’s story of a 19 year old boy and his 43 year old female lover is a sensual classic. Worldly-wise courtesans and pretty young things (male and female) play out their relationships against a backdrop of gowns and soirées. I discovered Colette when I was 18 and the whiff of decadence fascinated me as much as her beautiful, poetic style. She taught me about pearls. She also taught me that a woman could break all the rules, as a writer and as a woman. Colette was the first woman to be accepted into the all-male Académie française, and a poster showing her with her cat in St-Tropez is beside my desk. She was my first inspiration as a writer. Chéri is no longer shocking but this slight volume lingers in the imagination like French perfume.

9. The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif
The best epic love story. Set in colonial Egypt and present-day, the story of a young English widow who meets the love of her life is revealed through the discoveries of her descendant, who also goes to Egypt. The relationship between Anna and Sharif is a heart-melter for any romantic and the exotic background takes you on a voyage of discovery.

10. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Best BIG 19th C novel. Historical romantic suspense set in the 17th C with the best swordsmen in the whole of France. The historical equivalent of shoot-outs and car chases; sword-fights and breakneck horse rides to save the Queen of France. So many characters to fall in love with but my favourite is Milady. The Best Villain ever!

11. The Zebra Affaire – Mark Fine
Historical / Literary Fiction. He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.

12. Shogun – James Clavell
Best block-busting page-turner. The adventures of a 17th century English sea-captain surviving in the violent politics of Japan – and I mean violent. Gut-wrenching (this is the culture of hara-kiri after all!) high adrenalin and romantic. Bushido code, world trade, culture clash and steamy tea ceremonies. The beautiful translator Mariko is wonderful and so much depends on the choices she makes, we agonise on her behalf. An emotional roller-coaster, whether you like historical fiction or not.

13.  The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett
Best historical fiction with fictional heroes in real 16thC events, starting in Scotland. Book 1 in the six-book Lymond series. Francis Crawford of Lymond is, in my eyes, the most desirable fictional hero ever and his complicated adventures are not short of romance. Intelligent, wide-referencing and thrilling, Dorothy Dunnett’s books are the ones I’m most flattered at my historical novels being likened to.

14. Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse
Modern classic. Appeals to the middle-aged lonely werewolf in all of us, the one who looks in the mirror with distaste and is willing to follow a free spirit into The Magical Theatre and dive into life’s might-have-beens to discover what still could be. Wild psychic adventure!

15. Soul Music –  Sir Terry Pratchett
Best comic fantasy. The Grim Reaper’s grand-daughter has to learn the family business; Death. Stands alone but set in the many-novelled Discworld where Pratchett fans like me have their favourite characters and set of stories. Death is mine, with his grim sense of humour and his kindness; the character of Death in ‘The Book Thief’ derives directly from Pratchett.

16. Sailing to Sarantium – Guy Gavriel Kay
Best historical fantasy. Based on medieval Byzantium but ‘given a quarter turn to the fantastic’ is how G G Kay describes his technique. He captures the grand sweep and scale of history in all his books, with characters who know they are part of something bigger, characters who make me feel in awe of their nobility, their love affairs, their creative work. He makes me feel proud to be human (not easy!) And there’s a heart-pounding chariot race.

17. Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
The first fantasy novel, ever, and it’s epic. If you’ve read other fantasy novels you’ll recognise the elements: the band of elves, dwarves, men and hobbits, heroes who have to save the land from the forces of evil, with the help of Gandalf the wizard. What keeps it fresh for me is that Tolkien did it all first and there was nothing like this before TLOTR I can feel Sauron’s eye seeking me out and I identify completely with the struggles of small people burdened with the responsibility of the cursed ring.

18. The Distant Sound of Violence – Jason Greensides
Modern urban fiction about British teenagers from different cultures. They have big hearts but the world’s against them. You just want to adopt them all but the adults in their life have no idea what they’re going through – or don’t care 😦 An ending that stays in your mind, powerful and gives hope.

19. I Heard The Owl Call my Name – Margaret Craven
Modern fable. A young vicar, who does not know he is dying, is sent to a native American village where the two religions/ mythologies take the reader on a spiritual journey in two cultures. You don’t have to be religious (I’m a sort of humanist) to respond to the wisdom in this novel, a metaphor for how to live well and accept death, when the owl calls your name. ‘Don’t feel sorry for yourself because you are going to so remote a parish. Feel sorry for the Indians. You know nothing and they must teach you.’

20. The Bees – Laline Paul
Best novel about bee-ing. Suspense and dystopian paranoia drive the story because ‘they’ are out to get the young bee Flora 717. She tries to keep out of trouble while knowing that something is terribly wrong in the hive. Underlying the survival adventure is an accurate knowledge of bees. I’m a registered beekeeper, having followed practical training for three years in Provence, and the micro-view of the world created by Laline Paul is correct in all its facts and possibilities. If bees could speak human, this is the story they would tell and as well as being a page-turner, it’s an important story for the planet.


About Jean Gill

Jean is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France (specifically in Montelimar) with a big white dog, a scruffy black one, a Nikon D750 and a man.  Click here to see Jean’s impressive body of literary works.

Brain to Books Blog Tour: Today’s Featured Author, MARK FINE | Bio, Book Excerpt, Reviews & Interviews

Brain to Books Blog Tour

Fast Facts

Author: Mark Fine

Genre: ​Romance / Suspense / Historical Drama​

Books:  The Zebra Affaire: An Apartheid Love Story​ from The Sub-Saharan Saga​

Official Site

​Bio

Mark Fine (1)​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.
For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Varietymagazine 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 apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.​

Accomplishments

​Finalist. BGS Best ​Book 2015 Award, Dublin, Ireland

Blurb

Mark Fine (2)Apartheid, South Africa

In the spring of 1976 matters of the heart are strictly controlled by racist doctrines. In that toxic mix of segregation and tribal mistrust, an unlikely union between a black man from Malawi and a white woman—an Afrikaner—shocks the nation unaccustomed to such a public affair. All sides across the color divide are represented in the interracial couple’s painful journey in an unaccepting world. The lovers find themselves in the crosshairs of the racist regime’s cold-blooded enforcer, Mal Zander, who will stop at nothing to crush their union and future hopes for a colorblind nation.

The intimate and emotional love story of Elsa and Stanwell is exposed for all to see under the harsh glare of television, newly introduced. In a narrative that’s intense—vividly authentic, and thought provoking—the reader will witness Elsa and Stanwell’s desperate fight to remain together—as the apartheid nation waged a deadly struggle for liberation…and eventual redemption in the guise of prisoner #46664, Nelson Mandela.

Review

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.

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.

Read an Excerpt

He needed to make it right. Elsa had misunderstood him. She believed he’d rejected their child and made a mockery of their love. It upset Stanwell that she wouldn’t accept his explanation that he was preoccupied by a cruel government stalking them. And that his immediate concern was for her safety, leaving him little room to truly grasp her good tidings.

So he returned to the way of his people, and prepared for Elsa a love letter—made from primitive colored beads.

Stanwell carefully harvested the beads from a family heirloom, a ceremonial loincloth of his mother’s that she in turn had inherited from her mayi. His mother had thrust the rolled leather apron into his grasp as he set to leave Malawi for the City of Gold, and, with tears in her eyes, had wished him the blessings of his ancestors.

 His message to Elsa would not be in words, but in colors. Stanwell patiently threaded tiny antique beads into a delicate necklace of such intricate design it belied his rugged, workman-like hands.

The beaded chain was predominantly yellow—the color of corn touched by the sun—and signified fertility and wealth. Hanging from the center was the rectangular “love letter”—a chevron of black and white beads trimmed with red and pink. The charcoal-black beads pledged marriage, the ivory white beads promised spiritual love, and the red beads—juicy-red like pomegranate seeds—vowed strong, physical love. But the single tier of pink beads, the color of Elsa’s lips, was the most significant; these shiny little beads declared Stanwell’s commitment to the birth of their child.

⧑⧒

Elsa accepted the uniquely crafted peace offering. She was touched by his handiwork, and the effort and thought he’d put into its creation. Happy tears rolled down her cheeks as Stanwell gently described the significance of each colored bead. At the moment he placed the necklace around her neck, Elsa’s hand reached up for his, and then she turned to face him. Stanwell cupped her face in his hands—a bas-relief in ebony and alabaster—and held her close. No longer doubting his intent, Elsa raised her lips to his. Tenderly they kissed their sorrows away.

Impetuously Stanwell knelt at Elsa’s feet. He placed his lips on her belly and kissed it. Then on his knees he began an earnest conversation with her tummy, whispering away in his mother tongue.

Elsa had never heard him speak the language of his people before. “What were you saying to our child?” she asked.

Stanwell first touched his fingers to his lips and then to hers. “Hush, I was speaking to our son,” he said.

“A son! How do you know it’s a boy?”

“I know,” he said quietly.

Elsa saw the conviction in Stanwell’s face; there was no doubt. She then knew it to be true. A trill of excitement coursed through her body. For the first time it was real; in her belly, created by their love, was their son. A boy destined to become a unique individual, a manifestation of the union of two great heritages, with skin a beautiful coffee hue. Such a child would be incapable of bigotry and tribalism.

“How could the white half of him hate his black half, or vice versa?” Elsa said softly to Stanwell. “He will be our wonderful gift to Africa.”

 As they gently affirmed their belief in each other, all was still except for music that filtered into the room from somewhere in the backyard. It was mesmerizing. The melody and rhythm remained steadfast, yet as the minutes passed, evocative layers of complexity were added. Both Elsa and Stanwell were fond of the recording, and knew it by the name “Mannenburg.”

But the anguished cry of the saxophone soaring over the hypnotic strains of the keyboard meant something else, something hopeful for Elsa and Stanwell. This plaintive masterpiece by Dollar Brand was the birth of a wonderful new sound called Cape Jazz—a fusion of American jazz and local Marabi music from the District Six township—another unconventional, yet fruitful meld of two musical forms and cultural traditions.

⧑⧒

It was dark—probably after midnight. Stanwell was already in motion. Something had alerted him, something rustling by the window. Then the barking started.

Elsa woke. “What is it?” she asked.

“It’s Leo. He’s barking outside our window.”

“Ridgebacks don’t really bark. Something must be wrong.”

Stanwell, about to lunge through the door, stopped in his tracks. A fusillade of snarls and growls had replaced the barking; then a volley of frantic curses, “Jy’s ‘n dood hond ! Jy is ‘n duiwel !” [You’re a dead dog! You are the devil!], filled the night, followed by pounding footsteps and a thud as a body made hard contact with the fence, then he heard the desperate night caller scramble to safety.

Stanwell opened the door. A proud Leo—panting, salivating—stood with a trophy in his jaw. It was the ripped back pocket from a now tattered pair of jeans.

At daybreak, among the churn of muddied footprints they discovered an overstuffed man’s wallet. Inside was the firearm license and driver’s license of a certain Ulrich van Zyl. Elsa and Stanwell recognized the face; it was “Thick,” one of the monsters who’d attempted to rape Elsa in the elevator.

Crass reality had forever invaded their discreet oasis. It was a chilling development. Stanwell hugged Elsa to his chest. Mal Zander’s stooges were closing in. Yet still Stanwell couldn’t bring himself to tell Elsa about his clash with the Security Branch operative. And he hoped he would never have to do so.

Interview with Mark Fine

Angela B. Chrysler: I want to take a moment to welcome Mark Fine, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE available on Amazon: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle

Thank you so much for speaking with me, Mark. Please take a moment to tell us about your book. Tell us, how did you come up with the idea for your book?

Mark Fine: Thank you Angela for chatting with me. Though they don’t realize it, I would have to credit my two sons. I have this belief that if a people don’t know their history, they are destined to be forever lost. It was important to me that my sons learned about their African roots from their father; but my personal story isn’t that interesting. So I chose to couch the story from the perspective of far more intriguing characters, that of Elsa (who’s white) and Stanwell (who is black) and their daring romance of the no-no kind. The cruel dynamics of the love-struck couple’s story under the racist regime of then South Africa is all theirs, but the place and time that I inserted them is very much mine.
ABC: Stories always require some form of research. What kind of research did you do for your book?

MF: Besides reference works and letting my fingers stroll through the universe that’s Google, I went on safari. In capturing the romance and exotic location for The Zebra Affaire, I had the privilege of viewing many wild creatures in their natural habitats—a life-affirming experience that I strongly suggest for others. Being in the bush, tracking game (with camera, and not firearm) is not a bookish, academic pursuit, which was a welcome change. The composite of the senses are vital to telling a story that’s authentic. And as the climax of the book is resolved in the African bushveld, what better place to begin the writing process.


ABC: Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?

MF: It’s less about a specific scene, than the challenge of ensuring the reader understood the arcane nature of South Africa’s apartheid rules. Without the reader truly appreciating the jeopardy Elsa and Stanwell faced in that turbulent society, the novel would not have the impact it deserved. So, instead of footnotes or endnotes—both devices that pull the reader away from the narrative, I created what critics have favorably called “anywhere notes.” These I inserted within the context of the story. In the wonderful reviews Zebra has received, these “anywhere notes” have been applauded. Readers now better understand the societal construct of the time, and Elsa and Stanwell’s story became more meaningful, touching and emotional.


ABC: Please describe your favorite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favorite?

MF: The challenge was to set the stage for this unlikely union; a white woman and black man falling in love, at great personal risk, in a bigoted apartheid world. I don’t wish to reveal too much, but emergency events surrounding a catastrophe was the vehicle I used. Without a solid foundation to establish their relationship, and at the same time reveal the cruelty of apartheid, well, the novel would not have succeeded so handsomely. Fortunately this establishing scene worked, and as such it has become my favorite.


ABC: Which of your characters, do you relate to the most (or) who is your favorite character and why?

MF: The patriarch in the book, a character known by the initials DGF is certainly my favorite. He holds moral authority, decency and strength in an unkind world. Certainly flawed, but he represents all the honorable and kind people of South Africa who tried to make life easier for discriminated majority. He understood that bigotry was dehumanizing, and worked to make a difference. I’d like to believe that DGF is a reflection of my personal sensibilities.


ABC: I once read that every author is simply a compilation of his/her favorite authors. Which authors have done the most to influence your writing and why?

MF: Always enjoyed substantial books that both entertained and informed. It was such a pleasant way to learn. Without a doubt Herman Wouk, Leon Uris, Ken Follett, and South African authors Wilbur Smith, Andre Brink shaped me. I’d like to add Alan Furst to that list. He’s my current favorite.


ABC: “Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. We invent it. What does “story” mean to you?

MF: Of course, “story” takes me back to being a child, and the best moments were being read to. I was fortunate that my granny owned a private library in Johannesburg, and she shared with me her joy of the printed page. So many stories, and so many rich memories preserved in my mind.


ABC: Tells us about your next project.

MF: The Zebra Affaire is set in 1976 South Africa. I’m considering remaining in sub-Saharan Africa, and setting my next novel, The Hyena Affaire in 1978 Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). I’m in the process of developing the outline, character profiles, and continuing research. Though my books are set back in time, and on a continent many are unfamiliar; the themes are relevant today, considering the tribal turmoil in the Middle East, as an example.


ABC: Where can we find you and your book?

MF: The Zebra Affaire is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. It can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and other fine retailers. For convenience the Amazon link for the Paperback is:http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireNovel and the Kindle: http://bit.ly/ZebraAffaireKindle

ABC: Thank you again, so much for speaking with me.

MF: You are welcome, Angela. I enjoyed discussing my work with you.

Connect with Mark Fine

Official Website

Fine Books

Mark’s Blog

FINE REVIEW: “THE LAST LION: Defender of the Realm” by William Manchester & Paul Reid. Hazard of Writing in the Footsteps of A Master

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 (The Last Lion, #3)The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William R. Manchester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The great biographer William Manchester had the ability to transport the reader back to a period of history with the lust and vigor of great fiction. Unfortunately, due to Manchester’s untimely death–and despite his already in-depth research on Churchill, in the hands of journalist Paul Reid this third volume of “The Last Lion” is merely dry and factual. I’ve never been overwhelmed by the size of large tomes, but this book has been difficult to navigate due to the fact that it seems to be “just about the facts” and fails to bring these larger than life characters that dominated the WWII stage back to life.

I still give it four stars because these same facts are meticulously documented, and for the sake of history this facet of a most momentous task—documenting Winston Churchill’s war years was well accomplished. Alas, the presentation is sterile and uninspired–unlike the two previous volumes in the trilogy.

To be fair there was but one William Manchester. And it is only fair to acknowledge that Paul Reid had an unenviable task trying to write in the footsteps of a great master; this he failed to do with the élan and grace of Manchester, but in the end I would rather have read this less-than-stellar book than had no Volume 3 at all. Finally, to have had Churchill’s war years neglected due to the mortality of a great author would have been a sad loss; my gratitude to Paul Reid for leaping into the breach and endeavoring to do his best to set the record straight.

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FINE REVIEW: “A Dream Fulfilled” ~ Former Freedom Fighter, Ambassador & Author, Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe. A Riviting Personal Story of Sacrifice for Human Freedom.

A Dream FulfilledA Dream Fulfilled by Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Thandi Lujabe-Ranko, the subject of this fine and authoritative autobiography, which outlines for us, in sometimes uncompromising terms, the journey taken by herself – from the cauldron of apartheid, through various postings in exile to a triumphant return to the native land. A quiet, unassuming though single-minded woman, Thandi represents the best that any country can offer. I urge you to read this book as it will not only inform you but will become one of the most important records of the invincibility of the human spirit.”

These are NOT my words, but I discovered them in the forward of “A Dream Fulfilled.” Imagine my delight when I saw that they’d been written by NELSON MANDELA. Of course, I agree with Mandela’s assessment of this fine book.

In a time when we see ambassadorships cavalierly handed out as rewards to those who merely “bundled” the most money for a presidential election, it is gratifying to see that in the tip of Africa a diplomat received her High Commissioner appointment to represent her nation based solely on merit. And boy, did she earn it: The Hard Way! In reading Ambassador Lujabe-Rankoe’s harrowing story, it becomes evident how difficult her journey was; the personal cost was awful. But in telling her story, the ambassador deservedly indicts the brutal apartheid regime. But she displays generous grace and humor to those that were kind.

Thandi was always destined to serve, but her early ambitions to be a nurse in South Africa were crushed by early activism protesting the apartheid laws. As she became immersed in the freedom struggle, she found herself in danger, and fled her native land. With the threat of death a constant, due to the apartheid regime’s sustained efforts to assassinate the ANC leadership, Thandi (often with a child in tow) was constantly on the move to various destinations in Africa, and even Norway. I was amazed at this formidable woman’s ability to adapt to these new communities, cultures, and societies–yet, at the same time successfully championing all humanities cause.

And that is what finally makes the reading of this book so satisfying: Redemption. After 33 years in exile (and after Mandela’s 27 years of imprisonment), both their dreams were finally fulfilled with Nelson Mandela’s 1994 ascendency to the presidency. And as a fitting reward for her profound contribution to the freedom struggle (not merely based on gratuitous political favors) Ambassador Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe was appointed High Commissioner, with the mandate of representing her first-time free nation to the world. And as ambassador, and knowing so well the countries she was posted (due to her past travels) she served her nation brilliantly.

I strongly recommend this book those who appreciate autobiographies and memoirs, African studies, political science, 20th Century world history, women empowerment, stories of personal courage and sacrifice, and compelling tales of inspiration.

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