When first speaking to author Mark Fine, one is struck by his accent. His voice is measured, and spoken with the properness of a long suffering boarding school inmate. Indeed, from age eight until seventeen Mark lived several hundred miles away from his Johannesburg home, near the coastal city of Durban. Boarding school prepared him well for his tour of duty in South Africa’s Navy Signal Corp. There he learned Morse code and touch-typing. The latter "military skill" was the first step toward becoming an author.
A lifetime career in the music industry began as a record store clerk. While working in the South African record business, one of the most defining moments of his life took place. He found himself facing the wrath of an authoritarian government; accused of being a subversive for distributing revolutionary music—Bob Marley’s reggae. That threatening encounter served as the catalyst for Fine’s permanent relocation to the United States. In this way the path of an understated artistic activist chose Mark Fine, and much of his behind-the-scenes creative work moving forward now had an air of gravitas about it.
A successful music industry career led Fine from Minneapolis, New York and then Los Angeles. Through global music giant PolyGram, Mark founded Hammer & Lace Records in 1993. The label had a unique mandate: to be the industry’s only imprint dedicated to highlighting specific social or health issues by creating benefit albums that promoted awareness and could save lives. He had pioneered an innovative business model that incorporated strategic cause-marketing through music as an effective way to simultaneously address creative aspirations, business objectives and social issues. For a decade Fine proved adept at uniting non-profit organizations, corporate and media sponsors, and world class musicians such as Sheryl Crow, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Bryan Adams and Boyz ll Men in aid of breast cancer research, at-risk children, the blind, HIV/AIDS, freedom of speech and wildlife conservation.
For these initiatives Mark was voted by Variety Magazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision” and addressed the Industries' Coalition against Cancer on the topic, "Going beyond the Corporation: How Companies Take Their Health Messages to the Public." For his efforts in the fight against breast cancer, he has been honored by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Board of Sponsors in Washington, D.C, and received both NABCO's" Celebrate Life Award" and SELF Magazine's "Creative Initiatives Award." But he is especially proud of his "Paws of Fame" award he received from The Wildlife Waystation for his commitment to animals worldwide. As such, animals always make an appearance in Mark Fine's writings.
Ironically perhaps, due to his dedication in the fight against breast cancer, Mark’s wife succumbed to the disease in 2006. In striving for a hopeful future for his two young sons, he relocated the family to South Bay, Los Angeles. Now bound to the home as Mr. Mom, Mark was another step closer to becoming an author. And as a man needing to do something of substance, to have the people in his life know he loves and supports them, and to do something within his power to make the world just a little better for his having been a part of it, Mark Fine began to write.
As he had reached a new point in his life, Fine took on the task of showing the world a snapshot of his metaphorical backyard. In the process of painting with words his own backyard, Mark Fine has been brave like William Faulkner in his journey of truth telling – he has simply done it with a much different kind of Southern accent. Fine has created a world in The Zebra Affaire that tells the truth of his home via the freedom fiction provides, and in seeing where South Africa has been – whether it is in choosing to follow the rules regardless of how nonsensical or cruel they might be, or to challenge the system, we may see a piece of ourselves as well. He puts human faces and hearts into his pages, and as we follow their loves, trials, and conflicts, we find this incredible story of the human condition as it endures some of the most unspeakable horrors.
When asked to compare his career in the music industry to that of an author, Mark replied, "I've always been an integral part of the creative process, and had the privilege of working hand-in-hand with remarkably talented individuals. But my role was to enable, nurture and support others. But writing this novel, I was finally the sole creator. It's given me a true appreciation of the solitary challenges of the creative process."
Fine did however voice his single greatest regret of his storied record business career; the fact he never wrote a song. So, when pushed to explain this lapse, he shrugged saying, "Well it wasn’t for lack of trying, but I couldn’t get beyond the catchy song title." The Zebra Affaire then is the successful debut novel of a wannabe songwriter. What Mark was unable to express in a three minute melody, has been fortunately articulated in 350 pages of historical fiction. Mark Fine remains reflective. "There’s such elegance; such creativity to condense a big idea into song. I really do admire the songwriter's craft. I needed 85,000 more words—though none that rhymed—to tell my story."