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.

Book Description:

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.

Interview:

Welcome to Book Bloggers Net, Harley. Can we begin by having you tell us how you got started writing mystery/crime books?

Harley: I started writing mystery fiction because I had read all of Raymond Chandler’s fiction, and most of Dashiell Hammett’s, and I loved it. I wanted more like that, even if I had to write it myself. I don’t expect to emulate Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade stories, but I hope my writing captures the feel of those stories in characters, atmosphere, dialogue, and plot. I hope that if you like Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe, you’ll enjoy my private eye, Frank Swiver.

Do you find writing your books comes natural to you or is it a struggle sometimes?

Harley: There are many struggles in writing a novel. It is difficult enough to figure out the plot you want to write, for instance. But once you have that, you have to figure out how to write it—choosing the best scenes to dramatize your plot, putting those scenes together to advance the narrative?

But if I have to struggle with something in life, I’m happy that it’s fiction. Writing does come naturally to me.

Intrigue, mystery and crime are predominant themes in your latest book, Last Puffs. What were the circumstances that led you to write a book like this?

Harley: I was an English major, schooled in what makes good literature. But I was always fond of the sort of stories in which change was manifested in an action. Even if the struggle is in minds of the characters, the mental reversal or crisis action or recognition must be manifested in action, externalized. That preference drew me to pulp fiction which is filled with action and movement. Pulp can approach literary fiction in the quality of the writing, the characterization, and the intensity of emotions on display. Well, Last Puffs is my pulp-y book. I hope it’s very visual for the reader.

Can you tell us a little about Frank Swiver?

Harley: Sure. Francis Xavier Swiver, born 1912. Owner, sole proprietor, Old Vine Detective Agency, 7th Floor of the Rose Building, on Post Street in San Francisco between Taylor and Jones. Charges $25 per day, plus expenses. For that you can lie to him, and he’ll risk a sap to the head, but if he takes your case, he’ll guarantee to do the best he can for you. Frank was a history major at Berkeley, fought in the Spanish Civil War, and came out of it shaken. Now he’s a pacifist. He drinks too much wine, especially when he’s feeling down about the loss of his first girl, Cicilia.

Can you tell us a little about the other main characters in your book?

Harley: Frank’s best friend is Max Rabinowitz, whom he met at college. Max may have saved his life by taking him to Spain when he was slipping into darkness after Cicilia dumped him. And then Frank saved Max’s life on the battlefield in the Spanish Civil War.

The third side of our love triangle is Amanda Zingaro, born in ’21, a brave, beautiful peasant girl who carried an Astra pistol and fought alongside her father in Spain on the side of the Republic. Amanda nurses Max back to health from his wounds and he falls in love with her. As does Frank.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point when the reader just can’t put the book down. What’s one of the pivotal points in your book?

Harley: Well the point I’d like readers to note is very early in the book. Frank is traveling behind the lines with the wounded Max and they meet Amanda and her father, along the road. The Zingaros help them, but they’re stopped by Falangist militia men who try to rape Amanda. It’s a violent scene that forever changes Frank. I’ve posted it as an excerpt on my web site: http://www.harleymazuk.com/blog

What would you like to say to your readers and fans?

Harley: Most of all, if you like my book, please leave a review on Amazon [https://tinyurl.com/ybf2quob]or Goodreads [https://tinyurl.com/y7jcb5kd]. Reviews really help authors publicize their work. And, I’d love to get to know you better. Leave comments on the blogs, or write harley.c.mazuk@gmail.com

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