Monday, June 20, 2016

The Last Great Race VBT

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.


“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.

Mark, thanks so much for stopping by. So, tell us a little 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.

How did you get started writing?
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 my first novel, The Red Sun Will Come.

What was the inspiration for your book?
I have followed Formula One car racing since the early 1970s, and through that I was aware of the story of Achille Varzi, a good driver of the 1930s, until his private life got in the way of his racing career.  When I looked into the facts about Varzi I didn't realise that he was the best racer in a legendary era, certainly one of the best of all time, and that his love affair with Ilse was so passionate and ultimately so destructive.  I thought that passionate love, the tragedy that came out of it, and his recovery with the help of Norma who came back into his life, made a great story.  Norma Colombo was a woman against the odds.  She lived with Achille Varzi unmarried when women didn't do that, and when Achille broke up with Ilse she came back to him.  That was just as amazing as anything that happened between Achille and Ilse.  One man and two women who adored him completely, totally and absolutely.

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I have written one crime novel, one mystery and four historical fiction novels.  I can't think of other genres at the moment, but maybe one day I will get a bolt of inspiration.

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
I don't read or write fantasy.

What are you up to right now? Do you have any releases planned, or are you still writing?
I am writing a story set in Renaissance Venice, loosely based on a real-life scandal that happened in the fifteenth century.

Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?
My favourite colour is blue.

Favorite movie?
My favourite move is Apocalypse Now which is a great re-telling of Hearts of Darkness, or a journey up a river into insanity.

Book that inspired you to become an author?
All those terrible books by authors who I won't mention, but who just don't know how to develop their characters and character relationships.

You have one superpower. What is it?
To take away the pain I have to endure from an illness many decades ago.

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
I would pick Achille Varzi as one, and as I speak Italian that would be possible.  Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and Shakespeare

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
The fictional journalist Paul Bassi is a little like me, with his dry sense of humour, and his adoration for the special woman in his life.

June 20: Sharing Links and Wisdom
June 21: Rogue's Angels
June 22: Room With Books
June 23: Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
June 24: Liz Gavin's Blog - review
June 24: fundinmental
June 27: HarmonyKent
June 28: BooksChatter
June 29: LibriAmoriMiei - review
June 30: The Avid Reader
July 1: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
July 11: Long and Short Reviews
July 12: Readeropolis
July 13: T's Stuff
July 14: Deal Sharing Aunt
July 15: It's Raining Books

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.

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  1. Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!

  2. Very unique racing theme. Thanks for the chance to win :)

  3. definitely looks like an interesting read 😊

  4. Sounds like an awesome book, thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you for the excerpt and giveaway

  6. I liked the excerpt, thank you.

  7. What comes first for you--the story or the characters?

  8. Sounds like an interesting book.

  9. Thank you for hosting this interview and I hope your visitors have time to drop by my blog for more information and pictures, and links to buy The Last Great Race

  10. I have added this book to my TBR list and look forward to reading this book!