Advance Reviews for THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story

I just finished reading this book and it's truly a masterpiece on so many levels. As a South African who left S.A. in the late 70's, I can attest to the authenticity of Mr. Fine's historical and social facts, as well as life as it existed there at that time...and anyone will enjoy the ride through all the South African-isms...but above all that, it is a beautiful, heartfelt and very complete love story of the "no-no" kind, written magnificently by Mark. Again, thank you for the divine journey Mark Fine."
- ILANA EDELSTEIN Author, "The Patron Way"

"I met Mark Fine on Google+ and was instantly intrigued by his writing. His book, The Zebra AffaIre, is a fast-paced, suspenseful tale about the racial divide in the police state of South Africa. The story involves a mixed race relationship during apartheid, riots, tribes at war and the horrors of an unfair and unyielding society. It’s a love story, it’s a societal change story and it’s a war story all at once, the kind of page turner that some of us devour hungrily, anxious for the next thrilling bite. What’s more, the author has provided side-notes of historical context and information that adds to the understanding of the situation. 

I don’t know how many young people today remember the days when apartheid was a very big deal that was in the news all the time, so this novel could very well provide needed historical background to a situation about which many young adults know nothing. In an interesting way, which is the best way to feed history to youth, in my opinion. It’s a good book.

It’s not just a guy’s book, either, although Mark writes with the eye of a man. I loved its energy and, since it had been a long time since I’d considered apartheid (given how much else has gone on in the world), it was a good reminder of South Africa’s past and present. Mark provided me with a review copy but the opinion is my own. It’s available on Amazon and would make a great gift book, too."

- CAROL CASSARA Book Recommendations to Warm You 

In the best tradition of historical fiction, Fine has woven the story of several intriguing individuals into the larger fabric of a troubled time. In this case, a biracial couple’s story is at the center of late 1970s apartheid South Africa. Fine has a flair for detailed descriptions, whether it is the local 1976 Formula 1 race or the local record shop. In the latter instance, Rodriguez is tipped to become the most important musical artist in South Africa (although the author and astute readers know the Detroit native was virtually unknown everywhere else for decades).

In order to explain the complicated and often inscrutable laws and customs of the region, Fine uses an alternative to the footnote. He sets out in italics an explanatory paragraph or two in the midst of the narrative. Although this would seem to disrupt the flow, the explanations further explain the context.  Indeed, this technique avoids the dreaded exposition of having the characters explain to each other that which they already know.

Fine shines a light on the pernicious effects of tribalism, which may ultimately cause more damage across the African continent than colonialism. The lovers at the story’s center do not move through Johannesburg in isolation; the supporting cast of characters range from a nightclub singer to the head of a large record company. Whether describing the region’s introduction of the 45 RPM single or the horrific conditions in the mines, the author’s descriptions remain compelling.
Fine’s first novel brings his experience of growing up in South Africa to the page with clarity and conviction.
Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.


"I received a manuscript from Mark Fine yesterday about living in South Africa during the year I was born. I must apologize to any and all I have plans with in the next 24 hours because I am cancelling…as I can't stop reading this for a proper critique. I'm on the second round of reading, and this novel blows my mind. Anyone who wants to talk smack about indie writers needs to meet Mark Fine. Also, I am a harsh critic of wordsmiths, as I should be, and I am tiresome in my line by line analysis. Mark, as of now, I cannot say you should change a thing."

"This is a beautiful, poignant story. It made me want to keep reading, and that is so important. This is fascinating history—with such insight that I’ve been thinking of the common ground Southerners from the US has shared with South Africans. This (novel) is fantastic, relevant, and an incredible contribution to literature, history, anthropology, and all of the humanities. Mark Fine is brave and brilliant. Only an idiot would fail to see the significance of what he’s written. No need for idiots in Mark Fine’s corner." 

"Two words: I'm hooked. Three more words: You write beautifully. I love the lyricism of your language…and you certainly know how to draw in a reader with imagery. I want to know more about these people, this time, this country. I feel quite drawn to your book's content and to your particular eloquence as an author. love the pulse and style of your writing…I know this book is a true labor of love, and I certainly want to see it shine."

"The Zebra Affaire is unusual territory to explore and rather fascinating. It is written with such great patience and so many wonderful descriptions. Mark Fine has certainly opened up my world (and) I envy his experiences." 

- Sandra Tyler  Editor-in-Chief, The Woven Tale Press

"A smart man once said, 'All you need to be a writer...was a pencil.' Clearly, an overly simplistic and outdated comment with no reference to a good story, plot, characters, and more important GOOD WRITING. A talent author Mark Fine appears to inhabit in his new offering, The Zebra Affaire. His ability to paint a scene with words is not in question in this epitaph to racism in apartheid South Africa." 
- HARRY HEALEY, H2 Reviews

"Mark, Your book is very well written and is very timely since the recent passing of Nelson Mandela. The female characters were portrayed with realism and sensitivity. Even though written by a male author, (it’s) a true rendition of "womenfolk" nonetheless, their feelings and reactions were plausible, captured authentically, and expressed rationally as well as compassionately."  

"Good, neat opening. And, of course, we’ve got a situation to hang the narrative exposition around that hooks the reader. You display a lovely sense of descriptive depth to help convey the atmosphere of location and situation. This is good as it more fully immerses and thus engages the reader, providing a sense of ‘satisfying reading’. This is something I see too little of…but in your case, it’s a major strength of your writing. What’s also good is how you show character so much. We get a good sense of the two women, Elsa especially, through their actions and reactions and from what they say. I love the idea of the story and what you want to say. I like too how early on you give the reader the basic issues of apartheid. Some will know most of the details, others will benefit from reminding, and others will know nothing about it. You’ve pitched your exposition on the subject about right in terms of depth and length. And that you did it neatly within a situation/event is good. Overall, this is very strong." 

"The Zebra Affaire is overall very tightly structured. Its drama builds naturally and logically. Particularly effective is the deft interweaving of subnarratives like the historical asides and the stories of the patriarch’s family—these interludes were well-situated and covered an appropriate, helpful amount of background information, (and are) good for bringing the tribal division/unity theme full circle. All characters play a distinct and vital role in supporting the narrative…descriptions are very vivid and engaging. It is especially noteworthy that even less central characters are brought to the forefront with the neat interweaving of their backstories, thus allowing crucial thematic elements to shine through. The naturalness of the women’s interactions, particularly their conversations I appreciated, that while each has a distinct manner of speaking; neither is overly saccharine or bubbly, thus avoiding stereotypes. Mal Zander comes across as thoroughly “venal” and despicable. Mal indeed shines as utterly corrupt in word, deed, and physical description."


by Mark Fine
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