THE AUTHOR, Mark Fine was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has made the United States his home since 1979, living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. For well over a decade he headed an award-winning record label that he founded, called Hammer & Lace, that united non-profit organizations with world-class celebrity and music talent to create benefit albums and entertainment events to raise awareness and funds in aid of breast cancer research, at-risk children, the blind, freedom of speech, and wildlife conservation. For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Variety magazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision.” He has also contributed articles to entertainment industry publications, and conducted public speaking engagements at media and charity events.
The oncology community has honored Mark for his innovative, entertainment-based approach to health education. But he is especially proud of his “Paws of Fame” award he received from The Wildlife Waystation for support and commitment of animals worldwide. As such, animals always make an appearance in Mark Fine’s writings. Now he resides in the South Bay, where he lives with his two sons, his “significant other” and Charlie, a neighborhood dog that drops in from time to time. There he wrote the historic romance novel, The Zebra Affaire. Set in apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.
The Zebra Affaire: An Apartheid Love Story
IT’S THE SPRING OF ‘76. For Elsa, her affair with Stanwell may well prove lethal, as she’s white and he’s black, and they dared to fall in love in apartheid South Africa. The terrified lovers are the prey in a deadly manhunt from the golden city of Johannesburg to the exotic but dangerous wilds of the African bushveld. ‘The Zebra Affaire‘ is a thrilling fusion of romance and suspense—laced with rich South African history. The tension is palpable as the persecuted couple race against time and bigotry. Reviewers rave about this intimate, yet dangerous love story; that’s set against a canvas that is both vividly authentic and powerfully provocative.
EARLY MORNINGS IN MID-JULY on the Highveld were gripped in the bracing chill of a Southern hemisphere winter. White frost dusted the parklands and lawns. These tiny ice crystals were destined to thaw as they faced a warming sun. However, in Pretoria’s corridors of power, matters had heated up considerably. The nation’s administrative capital was at full alert as a consequence of the Soweto upheaval. Though the mob violence had been contained, the threat still simmered.
The Soweto Riots had eroded the certainty of the ruling regime. They feared for their way of life. Despite their apparent insensitivity to the plight of other humans, the Afrikaners were great champions of wildlife conservation—and similar to the white rhino, a victim of senseless poaching, they too felt as if they were an endangered species.
An endangered animal is desperate. A cornered animal is dangerous. The ruling regime was both desperate and dangerous as they felt their grip over the nation loosening. The Soweto Riots invoked a regime dictate of zero tolerance. From on high, directives to the nation’s security apparatus adopted an apocalyptic tone—the end of the volk was imminent, and all threats must be stopped, now. No deviation from the law by anyone would be tolerated.
The Security Branch considered Stanwell and Elsa’s romantic entanglement a matter of national security; what was once considered a tawdry “domestic affair” became a public symbol of rebellion and had to be crushed. The couple had undermined a key principle of apartheid; the white minority’s dominance could not be eroded by the intermingling of the races. Another outrage was Stanwell’s status as a business executive. His authority over white employees signaled to the Bantu that they were the white man’s equal, and that was unacceptable.
The Security Branch’s first act in their campaign against the couple was plagiarism. They lifted the “Zebra Affaire” headline from the newspaper article that publicly exposed them, and made it the operation’s code name.
Their second action was to classify Stanwell as an enemy of the state.
Malan Zander was delighted. Finally he had his marching orders. The mixed-race couple was now fair game, and it was time they suffered the consequence of their actions. He felt the buzz of anticipation. Others chose to be doctors, teachers, or builders in order to heal, impart knowledge, or create. Zander never understood that mindset.
As a child he found it more gratifying to demolish things, and as an adult, annihilation was his guiding light. Fortune shone on him when he found an employer that regarded the destruction of people’s lives a virtue.
For Zander restraint was an anathema; he’d much prefer bludgeoning the miscreants into submission. But his orders were clear: the Zebra Affaire must be handled subtly, as the world was watching. No killings, no public trial, no questionable disappearances—just make it go away. But for now just one problematic life required his immediate attention; he would deal with the girl later. As Stanwell’s crimes against the State were twofold, in business and in the bedroom, Zander had fertile grounds to create mischief.
Stanwell initially dismissed the disruptions, strange repeated hang-ups or silence on his telephone at work, as a nuisance. But paranoia grew when he heard mysterious clicks and echoes on the company phone. It could only be the State’s Security Branch meddling in his business.
Then the threats started, and Stanwell’s worst fears were confirmed. Vulgar in content and vicious in implication, faceless voices with rasping accents vowed public exposure. All Stanwell’s claims of innocence to his invisible attacker were brushed aside with merciless laughter until he began to plead. At that point he was given a specific warning: Miss Elsa Marais would soon receive something in the mail. After that the calls stopped, but the pressure continued.
Two white men arrived unannounced at the warehouse facility. Their ill-fitting suits were a signal to Stanwell’s staff that they were members of the Security Branch. The visitors were seen speaking with Stanwell through the executive office’s glass wall. The three men leaned toward each other in a conspiratorial fashion. Their body language was clear—they wished not to be overheard.
After the men left, the warehouse swirled with rumors that Stanwell was a snitch working for the apartheid regime. In that cesspool of tribal mistrust, Stanwell’s coworkers happily accepted the allegations as fact. This placed Stanwell’s life in potential danger. A revenge killing by embittered colleagues was now a real threat.
Understandably, Stanwell was terrified.
“INTENSELY DAZZLING…NOT A BLACK AND WHITE STORY, A RAINBOW STORY WITH THE RICH COLORS OF LIVES IN TURMOIL.” – Elizabeth Newton, author of ‘View from the Sixth Floor’
“A book to savor slowly…appreciating each moment. I found myself re-reading sentences and whole paragraphs; such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books I’ve read this year.” – Jean Gill, author of ‘Song at Dawn’
“The story of Stanwell and Elsa really touched me. Racial discrimination was so dehumanizing. This book took me to the days of the liberation struggle, and I experienced the hurt as I read. It was a real privilege to read the history, a period of pain and hope, as seen through Mark Fine’s eyes.” – Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, Former Freedom Fighter & Senior South African Diplomat
“More than a daring, multiracial romance set in a racist 1976 South Africa, that nation on the turbulent cusp of collapsing due to apartheid; The Zebra Affaire grips your soul and won’t let go. Never mind zebras, think lions, raw and roar.” – Geoff Nelder, author of ‘ARIA: Left Luggage’