AUTHOR INTERVIEW: HARLEY MAZUK AUTHOR OF LAST PUFFS @fswiver


Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year that the Indians won the World Series. He majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay, India. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government in Information Technology and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. His first full length novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder, was released in 2017, and his newest, Last Puffs, just came out in January 2018.

Harley’s other passions are his wife Anastasia, their two children, reading, running, Italian cars, California wine and peace.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Harley: I heard a story, probably a feature on National Public Radio, about the old cigar factories of Havana and Tampa. Each factory employed a lector—a person who read to the workers as they hand-rolled cigars. Imagine, a factory so quiet that you could read aloud to the employees. I pictured a beautiful woman with dark eyes and dark hair, rolling cigars on a tawny, bare thigh. I knew I wanted to write that scene and put it in my book.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Harley: It was a little hard because I started with just that scene. I had had to nurture it and grow it into a novel. This meant more scenes and complications. Usually, I can keep the complications for a short story straight in my head, but a novel can be mind-boggling. What helped me with Last Puffs and what I’d pass on as a tip to make the journey easier for other writers, is that I came up with a structure that broke the novel down into four short stories, connected by common characters, and a hidden underlying thread. I call it The Dain Curse model, and I’m very indebted to Dashiell Hammett for showing me the way in that Continental Op novel.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?
Harley: New Pulp Press is the publisher. Over my years as a writer, I’ve always kept my eyes open for publishers of pulp fiction and noir-ish books who welcome unagented submissions of longer work. I came across New Pulp in 2015, and when it was time to submit Last Puffs, I sent it to them. They work quickly, and I’ve been very pleased with the results.

Q: What other books are you working on and when will they be published?

Harley: I’m working on a couple of short stories now, and one of them, The Road from Manzanar, has potential to grow into a novel. It’s set in 1942, before Frank Swiver, protagonist in Last Puffs, became a private eye. It’s inspired by my love for our National Parks, in this case, Yosemite, and by the current debate about immigration and about hyphenated Americans (as in Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, etc.). It’s not a complete novel yet, so it’s way too early to say when it might come out. I’m also thinking of self-publishing a book of Old Vine Detective Agency short stories that have a single story-arc following the relationship between Frank Swiver and his erstwhile secretary, Vera Peregrino. That could be an interim release around Fall 2018.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

Harley: Last Puffs is a bit of a homage to a couple of my writing heroes Dashiell Hammett and Ernest Hemingway. I already mentioned Hammett’s The Dain Curse (1928) and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) influenced my Spanish Civil War scenes.

Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

Harley: Ultimately, Last Puffs is an anti-violence book, set against a shifting backdrop of settings in which for one reason or another, there’s been a breakdown of civil society or the rule of law.
  
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Harley: Final words for other writers: The difference between published authors and unpublished authors is perseverance. Keep at it. Keep writing; keep trying to learn your craft and improve; keep pitching your work to agents and publishers. Continue even in the face of difficulty. Persevere.
And final words for readers: if you enjoy Last Puffs, please take a few minutes to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews can mean so much to an author. Thank you! 

About the Book:

Title: LAST PUFFS
Author: Harley Mazuk
Publisher: New Pulp Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Private Eye

BOOK BLURB:
Frank Swiver and his college pal, Max Rabinowitz, both fall in love with Amanda Zingaro, courageous Republican guerilla, in the Spanish civil war. But the local fascists murder her and her father.

Eleven years later in San Francisco in 1949, Frank, traumatized by the violence in Spain, has become a pacifist and makes a marginal living as a private eye. Max who lost an eye in Spain but owes his life to Frank, has pledged Frank eternal loyalty. He’s a loyal communist party member and successful criminal attorney.

Frank takes on a case for Joan Spring, half-Chinese wife of a wealthy banker. Joan seduces Frank to ensure his loyalty. But Frank busts up a prostitution/white slavery ring at the Lotus House a brothel in Chinatown, where Joan was keeping refugees from Nanking prisoners.

Then Max sees a woman working in a Fresno cigar factory, who is a dead ringer for Amanda, and brings in Frank, who learns it is Amanda. She has tracked the fascists who killed her father and left her for dead from her village in Spain to California. Amanda wants Frank to help her take revenge. And by the way, she says the ten-year-old boy with her is Frank’s son.

Joan Spring turns out to be a Red Chinese secret agent, and she’s drawn a line through Max’s name with a pencil. Can Frank save Max again? Can he help Amanda avenge her father when he’s sworn off violence? Can he protect her from her target’s daughter, the sadistic Veronica Rios-Ortega? Join Frank Swiver in the swift-moving story, Last Puffs.

Praise:

February 10, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition| Verified Purchase
Frank Swiver is a detective. Murder investigations are his specialty. He likes wine, loose women and fast cars. Not necessarily in that order. Swiver inhabits an earlier world that is archaic and, without doubt, politically incorrect by today’s standards. Harley Mazuk recreates in Swiver a character from another era whose story is fun and entertaining. Mazuk has an impressive knowledge of wines and cars which permeate his narrative. As to his knowledge of women, I am not competent to judge. I do know that the geography and time period portrayed is well researched. There are many twists and turns to the plot as well as an injection of espionage that keeps the reader guessing. Fans of old fashion detective novels will enjoy this book. I know, I did.
-- Amazon Reviewer

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