Tag: White with Fish Red with Murder

Book Excerpt: WHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk

51ZieRgHZBLWHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk

Book Excerpt

When Cici came back down, she was in a silver satin men’s pajama top, long enough to come down to mid-thigh. Only the top button of the three it had was buttoned. “Oh, it’s good to get out of all those clothes after a long day.”

“All those clothes? You barely had on enough to ante up in a game of strip poker.”

“Sure I did, Frank. I had enough on because when I play cards, I win. Runs in the family.” Cici plopped down on the davenport next to me. She lifted her martini with her right hand, crossed one bare leg under her, and draped the other on my lap. She propped her left elbow on the back cushion and rested her head against her hand, smiling at me.

“I don’t know, doll. I saw Fenwick today. He doesn’t think the general lost all that money to Rusty.”

She sipped her drink and eyed me hard over the rim of the glass. “Fenwick don’t know nothing about it, Frank. I’ve got the paper. As a matter of fact, I want you to take those IOUs down to the probate court for me and file a claim. Now that Thursby’s dead, that’s the only way I can collect.”

“Well, that might have to wait a day or two.”

“Why wait, Frank?”

“I have to go up to Sonoma tomorrow. I’m going to go talk to Sally DeBains. I think I’d like to see the Blackbird vineyard too. I’ll have to take care of your claim on Thursby’s estate later in the week.”

She shrugged. “There’s time, I guess.”

“There’ll be plenty of time. I didn’t find any wine. There’s an abundance of good gin around, so I made martinis. How’s your drink?”

“It’s just what I needed. Thanks. There’s some wine in the cellar, but most of it’s at the restaurant. Rusty didn’t drink much wine. He liked his gin though.”

“Did he drink much when he gambled?”

She hesitated, and then nodded. “Sometimes.”

“Fenwick thinks he had plenty to drink when he was over there. You know, maybe his judgment wasn’t so good when he drank. Maybe he didn’t win all that money from Thursby.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe he did. What difference does it make what Fenwick thinks?” She sipped her martini. “Jesus, Frank, who says Fenwick thinks at all? He seems like . . . like such an animal.”

“He was okay when we dipped our bills today—just the two of us—in Thursby’s kitchen. Anyhow, I talked to some of the other suspects today too,” I said.

“Suspects?”

“People from the train. Suspects in the Thursby killing.”

She had another swallow of her martini and then set the glass down on the table. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around my neck. The cool satin sleeves slid around me, just above the collar. “Frank, are the police hunting for any suspects in the Thursby killing?”

“No, they’ve got Vera.”

“Maybe you should just leave it that way.” She planted a kiss on my yap and gave me some icy cold tongue. Then she crammed a salty surprise, an olive, into my mouth.

“She didn’t do it.” I chewed the olive.

Interview with Harley Mazuk

101044HarleyinTuscanyHarley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year the Indians won the World Series. Harley grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, attended Hiram College and spent his junior year at Elphinstone College, Bombay University. He received his B.A. in English literature. Retired from a long career in U.S. Government Service, Harley now writes full-time. He and his wife Anastasia live in Maryland, where they raised two children. Harley’s passions are writing, reading, Italian cars, and his family. He and his protagonist, Frank Swiver, share a love of California wine. Visit Harley Mazuk online at: www.harleymazuk.com

Tell us about your new release.

51ZieRgHZBLWhite with Fish, Red with Murder is the story of Frank Swiver, a private eye, who accepts an invitation to a wine tasting on a private rail car, and brings along his secretary and lover, Vera Peregrino. The host, General Thursby, wants Frank to find proof that a friend whose death was ruled accidental had been murdered. Thursby suspects Cicilia O’Callaghan, widow of his late friend and an old flame of Frank’s. But Thursby takes two slugs through the pump, and the cops arrest Vera for his killing. Frank finds himself trapped in a love triangle as he spends his nights with Cici, and his days trying to find Thursby’s real killer and spring Vera. But soon he realizes his relationship with Cici is poisonous, and he risks losing both women . . . and maybe his life.

What led you to write this book?

Being a bit of a rebellious youth, I never expected to reach old age. So as my 50th birthday loomed, the occasion called for a celebration. I decided to write a murder mystery game for my 50th birthday party. I asked the guests to dress in their best 1940s fashions, at a minimum fedoras for the gents and stockings with seams for the dames. I wrote scripts and assigned roles. There was plenty of wine, and everyone had fun. Some years later, I began to entertain serious thoughts about becoming a writer when I retired. I took the old scripts and dossiers I had written for the murder mystery characters out of the drawer and began to turn them into a novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder.

Which is more important characters or setting?

When you think about the elements of fiction–plot, setting, character, point of view, theme—setting is perhaps first among equals. Everything begins with, grows out of, starts with place. A story has to know where it is in time and place. Characters develop in and are shaped by their environments.

I didn’t think this way about the primacy of setting when I wrote most of White with Fish, so in my book, characters are more important than setting. It’s a character-driven novel.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

They are, loosely. Some are composites of characters I’ve known; with some I relive incidents from my life that I think have or had emotional or dramatic impact. A good example is that I’ve never been a private eye, and I’ve never lived in San Francisco. Yet there’s a lot of me in my P.I., Frank Swiver. Frank is a pacifist, a Roman Catholic, and he drinks too much wine. I was a conscientious objector, I’m a Catholic, and I drink a lot of wine, too. So we share a consciousness, a philosophy, and an approach to life. That makes it easy for me to write Frank’s part. Other characters in the book share traits with people I’ve known, and we’ve lived through incidents that I recreate it the book.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

This book is an “entertainment,” as Graham Greene used to say about some of his works. So I hope readers enjoy it and have fun. I’d like to transport readers to a slower paced, less technical world, in which the detective doesn’t rely on technology, lab results, or computers to solve the crime, but rather on his courage, his persistence, and work ethic. I’d like to leave readers wanting to come back and see Frank Swiver and some of the other characters again—there will be more.

Do you read the same genre you write?

For the most part, yes, I do. Mystery or detective fiction. This last fall and winter, I read Black Water Rising by Attica Locke, A Corpse in the Koryo, by James Church, Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris, The Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill, Miami Purity, Vicki Hendricks, and two Michael Didbin’s Cosi Fan Tutti and Dead Lagoon, featuring Aurelio Zen. Zen is one of my influences for Frank Swiver. I read an Eric Ambler novel, The Light of Day, on my Kindle.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Richard III by William Shakespeare, a play about what happens when a sociopath takes over a great country. I’ve never read this before, but so far, I find it absolutely brilliant. I often have to use study guides to understand Shakespeare’s language, but the dialogue in this is so vivid, so clear, I know exactly what’s going on. Richard is not a likable character; he’s loathsome, actually, but he establishes a connection with the audience in his opening monologue. I won’t say readers (or audiences) root for him, exactly, but like Hannibal Lecter, he’s compelling, fascinating even. And though it is classified as a history play, the title page calls it “The Tragedy of King Richard the third.” It’s very enjoyable so far, and I think a writer can learn a lot from reading Shakespeare.

Review: WHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk

51ZieRgHZBLWHITE WITH FISH, RED WITH MURDER by Harley Mazuk (A Frank Swiver Novel)

Released Feb 28, 2017 by Driven Press

Mr. Mazuk says he enjoys “old school” pulp and private eye fiction. Consequently, you know what to expect from his novels – fun noir – and you are not disappointed. His protagonist is private eye Frank Swiver, a connoisseur of wine, fine and not so, and big-breasted women, willing and not so. Hard-drinking, hard loving, rarely sleeping and being shot at all the time fills the bill with this noir. With characters reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, they are all the more fun because Mr. Mazuk knows how to use them well. Along with a train car full of suspects, he sends the reader to the post-war world of Napa Valley wines. And we go willingly.

To his credit, Mr. Mazuk has created a protagonist who is his own person. Just when you expect Swiver to go one way, he goes another. He makes the unexpected choice or says the unexpected thing making his character seem more real and likable. He rescues a cat named Chardonnay because he feels he has to. Of course, the cat later dies – once again, in an unexpected turn of events – but the rescue is an interesting character beat.

Which leads me to my only criticism. The deceased cat seemed to be still laying in the trunk of his car at story’s end, which took place days later. I pondered on that. I think it’s better for a writer to complete or finish off a plot device – sometimes it only takes a sentence or phrase – rather than risk leaving a reader dangling with a ‘what happened to’ thought lingering in their minds.

But all in all, this is a good novel, with colorful characters, interesting dialog and a crackerjack plot. Frankly, it was a surprise to me who ‘did’ it. And that speaks well for any mystery.

Review provided by Heather Haven