Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Last Great Race by Mark Morey Interview & Excerpt

The Last Great Race
by Mark Morey


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.


Excerpt One:

“Achille crashed,” she said and drank some more.  “I have never seen anything like it.  He was the only driver taking the banked curve at the end of the straight flat-out.  Each lap I heard the exhaust note of his car never wavering as he took that curve with his typical, stylish precision.  And then on lap fourteen a sudden gust of wind came in from the desert, blowing dust and debris.  I held my hat and glanced at the Englishman nearby, just as the wind caught the front of Achille's car and lifted the front wheels from the track.  The car rose higher and higher like an aeroplane, flying away from the track until the rear of the car hit the ground and then the front, and it rolled over and over with the most terrible noise.  Over and over until it stopped on its wheels in the middle of an orchard.  There were Arab men dressed in robes and they ran to the car.  I was on the wrong side of the circuit and checked that nobody was coming before I ran to it as well, and so did the Englishman.”  She drank more water.  “I thought he must be dead, nobody could survive a crash like that, but he climbed out of the wrecked car and brushed dirt from his overalls.  He looked around and saw me but I don’t think it registered.”

“Is he alright?” Paul asked, worried.

“He’s fine although shaken.  He didn’t even light a cigarette, and then he fainted. The Englishman Raymond Mays helped him, and he drove us back here.”

Paul contemplated what he heard, and that would have been a terrible thing to see.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Pia repeated and Paul hoped that Achille really was alright.  If he was taking that curve flat-out he must have been doing about 300.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

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.


1. Where are you from?
I am from Canberra, which is the capital city of Australia.  Canberra is the largest inland city in Australia with a relaxed and pleasant lifestyle.
2. Tell us your latest news?
At the moment I am busy promoting The Last Great Race, and mostly keeping indoors during the current cold and wintery spell.
3. When and why did you begin writing?
I have always liked reading good books, and about ten years ago I went to the local library to borrow a book, but I couldn't find one that interested me. Many books by male authors had stereotyped, cliche characters: typically 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 my first novel, The Red Sun Will Come, which I wrote during the period 2005 to 2007.  That and a sequel, Souls In Darkness, were published by Club Lighthouse in 2012.  I had two more novels published in 2014 by Wings ePress: The Governess and the Stalker and Maidens in the Night.  Last year I self-published One Hundred Days and this year I have The Last Great Race
4. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer when my submission for my first novel was picked up by Club Lighthouse publishing, and they thought my story had literary and commercial merit
5. What inspired you to write your first book?
I prefer stories with characters who are interesting and real.  Characters who neither all good or all bad, but like all of us with their strengths and their flaws.  A key element of my first book was to bring together two decent but flawed young people and have those two people learn from each other.  The strengths of one character played into the weaknesses of the other, and they made a good team for the challenges set for them.
6. What would you like my readers to know?
The Last Great Race is not genre fiction, so it will appeal to anyone who wants to read something that is quite unlike anything else available at the moment.  It is historical fiction and I did little to embellish what really happened, because many parts of the story seem too strange to be true, only they are.  The background to the story in European motor racing in the 1930s, but that is only a background and the real story is the people of the time, who often seem larger than life.  The story is set in the 1930s, the Great Depression leading to World War Two and it's mostly set in fascist Italy, and this place and this time make The Last Great Race especially interesting.

I'm sure that all who read this story will remember it long after they come to the last page.

Mark Morey



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