The Last Great Race
by Mark Morey
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GENRE: Historical Fiction
This story is based around the life of one of the most fascinating and enigmatic sportsmen of his era, Achille Varzi: multiple race winner, twice Racing Champion of Italy and a hero to his many followers. Told partly through the eyes of Varzi and partly by fictional Italian-Australian racing journalist Paul Bassi, we follow the many triumphs and tragedies of Varzi’s life: his passionate love affair with Ilse, his tragic morphine addiction, his recovery from his addictions, his marriage to Norma and his re-signing to race for Alfa Romeo.
Only war intervenes, and Paul and his wife Pia leave Achille to spy for the British at the naval base in Naples. Paul and Pia endure hundreds of Allied air-raids, they join the partisans who fought off the German army until the Allies could rescue them, and then they survive in a near-ruined city as best they can.
By 1946 Italy is still shattered but life is returning to normal, and no more normal is Achille Varzi winning the Grand Prix of Italy that year. Over the next two seasons Achille Varzi scores more successes, until he makes his only ever driving mistake and is killed in Switzerland in 1948. Even though he died too young, Paul and Pia know that Achille Varzi would never have lived in his life in any other way.
The porter nodded slowly. “My name is Ludwig Broder and I was a journalist once.”
“It’s the way of things.”
Paul wondered the way of what things, until he realised. He looked around and nobody was close. “Persecution?” Paul asked quietly.
Herr Broder nodded slowly.
“I’m sorry to hear about your misfortune, Herr Broder.”
“It was only a newspaper in Koblenz, but….”
Paul was sure that persecution would get worse. “Should you leave?” Paul asked quietly.
“To where? My family has lived in this region for more than four generations.”
“If you leave, one day you can come back when it’s better.” Paul thought about options. “You speak good English. Go now, while you can.”
Herr Broder demurred.
“I was born and raised in Australia and I moved to Italy two years ago,” Paul said. “Because I spoke Italian, Italy became my home.”
“Where are you staying Herr Bassi?”
“Hotel Ringhaus. We can take our luggage; it’s not far.”
Her Broder nodded and Paul opened his wallet and took out a twenty mark note. “Thank you for your trouble, Herr Broder.”
“Thank you,” Herr Broder said before placing the note in his pocket.
Paul picked up his case and bag and Pia, looking baffled, grabbed hers.
“One day it may be too late,” Paul said. “Goodbye and good luck.”
“Enjoy your racing Herr Bassi.”
Paul headed towards the hotel with Pia alongside.
“Che cosa?” Pia asked.
“He’s Jewish,” Paul said in Italian. “I told him to leave now, while he can.”
“People shouldn’t have to leave their country just because they’re Jewish.”
“If you were Jewish; what would you do?”
“I would leave.”
“He used to work for a newspaper, but as you know….”
“No public servants, no teachers, no writers, no academics, no journalists.”
“I’m sure it will get worse.”
Pia shrugged her shoulders and Paul wondered how much worse it could get. But he was sure it would get worse.
It is my pleasure to welcome Mark Morey, author of The Last Great Race, to Room With Books!
Hello, Mark! Please tell us about yourself.
I am in my fifties and I have been writing for about 10 years now. In real life I am an information technology analyst and have been now for many, many years. My hobbies include writing of course, travel and motorcycle riding. My philosophy for life is to do it now because you never know what the future may bring.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Writing came later in life, and remains beyond my career of information technology analyst. I actually fell into information technology by accident when the industry was young, and it suited me at the time and I was good at it. A lot of what I do in my job is writing, and writing for pleasure came from that.
How long have you been writing and who or what inspired you to write?
I wrote my first novel 11 years ago and it was published 4 years ago. I have always liked reading good books, and one day I went to the local library to borrow a book, but I couldn’t find one. Particularly the books by male authors had stereotyped, cliche characters, the loner who eventually rights all wrongs but never finds love or companionship. I thought I could do better than that, which became the inspiration for that novel, The Red Sun Will Come.
Do you do a job in addition to writing and would you tell us more about it?
I am an information technology analyst, which means liaising between system users and technologists to design the best and most cost-effective solutions for business problems. It’s a job dealing with people in a variety of scenarios: workshops, focus groups and one-on-one, and then documenting and agreeing outcomes. It also involves writing specifications, reference manuals and training materials.
How would you summarize this book in less than 20 words?
This is a fictionalised account of a real-life story that seems too incredible to be true, only it is.
Now, let’s talk about writing and how you came to be a published author.
I decided to start with genre fiction and write a crime novel, but to make it different I set it in Moscow, Russia. That was a particularly good setting with government corruption and the Russian Mafia, and with many re-drafts I got it to a state where it was suitable for publication. In 2012 Club Lighthouse picked up The Red Sun Will Come and the sequel, Souls In Darkness. The latter is a dark mystery set in Siberia and is a great story. I find the more I write the easier it is to produce a polished, complete story.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I considered myself a writer when The Red Sun Will Come was published in 2012.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
I finished the first draft of The Red Sun Will Come in 2006, and revised it over the next 18 months including getting it professionally edited. It was published in 2012. This shows that patience is an essential attribute for new authors.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to “The End”?
I researched and completed the first draft of my latest novel, The Adulterous Bride, in four months. It needs a beta reader or two, a revision from there, and then it may be ready. In the meantime I am concentrating on publicity for The Last Great Race, which really prevents me from writing.
What can we expect from you in the future? More of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
The Adulterous Bride remains in the realm of historical fiction being set in Venice in 1428. After that I don’t know, but I will do something that’s not historical fiction.
Who is your favorite character from your books and why are they your favorite?
The fictional journalist Paul Bassi who’s able to turn his obsession into his career, and who completely and totally adores the gorgeous Pia Donati. He’s a good man who has it all.
What is your routine for writing?
If I’m going well I will write for three or four hours a day for a number of days in a row, and then when I feel stale I will take a break for a day or two. When I’m writing historical fiction I have to pause and do additional research like the clothes they may have worn, the price of goods and a myriad of other details. I don’t believe in writing every day because what may come out of that is often unusable.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I always write the story and then struggle to find a title for it!
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books?
I always choose a theme and write to that, and the theme will be embedded in the story. In the case of The Last Great Race the theme is ‘pride comes before the fall’, which summarises what really happened. There are other messages like the ability to romantically love two people at the same time, something many don’t believe is possible but I know it is.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
With the advent of eBooks and print on demand, the traditional publishing model of offset printing an initial run, flooding retail stores and then pulping them after a few months has become obsolete. Instead these stories are now always available, either by download or in hard-copy, and can be sold months and even years after first publication. Print on demand is for those who want a traditional hard copy in their hands, doing away with the need for offset printing. High-quality, low cost and readily available on-line.
What is your favorite book and why is it your favorite? How many times would you estimate you’ve read it?
My favourite author is Paolo Coelho and I have everything he has written. All of them are my favourites.
Do you read all the reviews of your books?
I always read all the reviews of my books. I take on board any positive criticisms, but I also appreciate that every reader has their preferences and my stories may not be what they prefer.
That’s enough of the serious business. How about a handful of fun questions?
What is your favorite food? I have too many favourites to name! I always eat healthy food and I never eat so-called junk food.
Who is your favorite singer or group? The Italian singer Laura Pausini
What is your favorite color? My favourite colour is blue.
What is your ideal getaway dream vacation? We always visit places we haven’t been to before, staying in apartments and living like locals while we’re there. It may be Paris or it may be Moscow, but we keep away from tourist hotels and do it the hard way, and come home with great memories as a result of that.
What final words would you offer to our readers?
I hope you buy and read my story because I’m sure you will enjoy it. It’s set mostly in fascist Italy but it also travels to Germany just as the Nazis have taken power, while over-arching that is one of the most tragic love stories that has ever, ever happened.
Thank you for spending time with us at Room With Books, Mark. I appreciate your time and wish you the best with The Last Great Race. I hope you will come back again!
Writing technical documentation and advertising material formed a large part of my career for many decades. Writing a novel didn’t cross my mind until relatively recently, where the combination of too many years writing dry, technical documents and a visit to the local library where I couldn’t find a book that interested me led me consider a new pastime. Write a book. That book may never be published, but I felt my follow-up cross-cultural crime with romance hybrid set in Russia had more potential. So much so that I wrote a sequel that took those characters on a journey to a very dark place.
Once those books were published by Club Lighthouse and garnered good reviews I wrote in a very different place and time. My two novels set in Victorian Britain were published by Wings ePress in July and August of 2014. These have been followed by a story set against the background of Australia’s involvement on the Western Front, published in August 2015. Australia’s contribution to the battles on the Western Front and to ultimate victory is a story not well known, but should be better known.
Staying within the realm of historical fiction, one of the most successful sportsmen of the 1930s, Achille Varzi, lived a dramatic and tumultuous life. It is a wonder his story hasn’t been told before, beyond non fiction written in Italian. The Last Great Race follows the highs and lows of Varzi’s motor racing career, and stays in fascist Italy during the dark days of World War Two.
Mark Morey http://markmorey.blogspot.com.au/
Mark Morey will be awarding a $10 Amazon/B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.