Monday, March 19, 2018


Last Puffs Is the Sort of Book I’d like to Read So I Had to Write It l Harley Mazuk @fswiver

Last Puffs Is the Sort of Book I’d like to Read So I Had to Write It

“Write what you like” is common advice to beginning writers. When I realized that I had read all of Raymond Chandler’s novels, and most of his short stories, and that I’d finished the Dashiell Hammett canon too, I was at a loss for what to read next. I wanted new “Black Mask” stories, and it looked like I’d have to write them.

What does my new novel, Last Puffs, owe to Hammett? First the prose for the most part is simple—straightforward declarative sentences, like Hemingway might write. Second, as Hammett might do, writing up his reports for his job as a Pinkerton operative, I tried to write in a voice like a private eye, typing up his reports for the boss. I give meticulous, objective descriptions of suspects, clothing, settings. Third, I saw value in setting your stories in situations where social institutions have broken down, like the Spanish Civil War setting with which I open my book. In such circumstances, tensions run high, and stakes can be high too. I added common Hammett-like elements to my stories, such as a working-class protagonist, (private eye Frank Swiver, a wino and a womanizer, who takes on his clients’ problems for $25 a day). I used dry wit and understated humor. And I put Frank in troubled or unconventional romantic relationships—his trysts with femme fatale Joan Spring, and with troubled heroine Amanda Zingaro.

What does, Last Puffs, owe to Chandler? Raymond Chandler was a wonderful resource. In addition to what I learned from his Phillip Marlowe books and stories, he was a prolific letter writer, and even a rather opinionated critic. I learned in Chandler’s “Twelve Notes on the Mystery Story,” that “The most effective way to conceal a simple mystery is behind another mystery. Make the reader solve the wrong problem.” And so in Last Puffs, we have the murder most foul of a couple Chinese women in San Francisco in 1948. To keep the reader from puzzling out the secret of those killings, I give him a story of a cigar factory lector, accused of murder in Fresno in 1949. And we set it all against the backdrop of a young woman, out for revenge against the fascists who killed her father and left her for dead.
Does Frank solve those murders? Maybe. Consider that according to an essay by Steven Marcus in The Continental Op, the P.I.’s job, when called out on a case, is to investigate the “reality” that anyone involved in the case will swear to, to deconstruct their accounts, and to construct his own “reality,” (a true fiction) of what really happened. Frank Swiver can do that as well as Marlowe, the Op, or Sam Spade.
I learned to incorporate the tropes of pulp fiction I enjoy. What’s a novel without a curvy femme fatale with gorgeous gams and straight seams on her stockings? Throw in tough guys, a double cross, gunplay, murder, colorful slang, a sap to the back of the head, a crushed fedora, nefarious schemes, and . . . another double cross.
The other influence on Frank Swiver has been Ian Fleming’s James Bond. I chose Bond because of his totally inappropriate over-the-top drinking—a 2013 study of Fleming’s novels revealed that Bond averaged 92 drinks per week (—and his ability to go into action thoroughly toasted. Of course I also appreciated Bond’s eye for the women, and his zest for sex, angles I want in my stories, even if Marlowe was a bit puritanical in such matters.

P.I. Frank Swiver, of the Old Vine Detective Agency on Post Street in mid-20th century San Francisco has turned into my “series” character. I’ve had a lot of luck with him. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine bought my first professional effort—“The Tall Blonde with the Hot Boiler”—in 2010 and put it in their “Black Mask” section. If they put it in Black Mask, I figured I must be doing something right, attaining that pulp feel I want.

So if you’ve been waiting for the next installment in the glorious tradition of classic P.I. novels, Frank Swiver may be the shamus for you.

Title: Last Puffs                       Genre: Mystery (private eye)
Author: Harley Mazuk              Website:

About the Author

Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year that the Indians won the World Series. He majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay, India. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government in Information Technology and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. His first full length novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder, was released in 2017, and his newest, Last Puffs, just came out in January 2018.

Harley’s other passions are his wife Anastasia, their two children, reading, running, Italian cars, California wine and peace.



About the Book:

Author: Harley Mazuk
Publisher: New Pulp Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Mystery/Crime/Private Eye

Frank Swiver and his college pal, Max Rabinowitz, both fall in love with Amanda Zingaro, courageous Republican guerilla, in the Spanish civil war. But the local fascists murder her and her father.

Eleven years later in San Francisco in 1949, Frank, traumatized by the violence in Spain, has become a pacifist and makes a marginal living as a private eye. Max who lost an eye in Spain but owes his life to Frank, has pledged Frank eternal loyalty. He’s a loyal communist party member and successful criminal attorney.

Frank takes on a case for Joan Spring, half-Chinese wife of a wealthy banker. Joan seduces Frank to ensure his loyalty. But Frank busts up a prostitution/white slavery ring at the Lotus House a brothel in Chinatown, where Joan was keeping refugees from Nanking prisoners.

Then Max sees a woman working in a Fresno cigar factory, who is a dead ringer for Amanda, and brings in Frank, who learns it is Amanda. She has tracked the fascists who killed her father and left her for dead from her village in Spain to California. Amanda wants Frank to help her take revenge. And by the way, she says the ten-year-old boy with her is Frank’s son.

Joan Spring turns out to be a Red Chinese secret agent, and she’s drawn a line through Max’s name with a pencil. Can Frank save Max again? Can he help Amanda avenge her father when he’s sworn off violence? Can he protect her from her target’s daughter, the sadistic Veronica Rios-Ortega? Join Frank Swiver in the swift-moving story, Last Puffs.


February 10, 2018
Format: Kindle Edition| Verified Purchase
Frank Swiver is a detective. Murder investigations are his specialty. He likes wine, loose women and fast cars. Not necessarily in that order. Swiver inhabits an earlier world that is archaic and, without doubt, politically incorrect by today’s standards. Harley Mazuk recreates in Swiver a character from another era whose story is fun and entertaining. Mazuk has an impressive knowledge of wines and cars which permeate his narrative. As to his knowledge of women, I am not competent to judge. I do know that the geography and time period portrayed is well researched. There are many twists and turns to the plot as well as an injection of espionage that keeps the reader guessing. Fans of old fashion detective novels will enjoy this book. I know, I did.
-- Amazon Reviewer


Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Harley Mazuk said...

Thank you, Dorothy! We have been getting some swell reviews on the Amazon page for this book.

thewriterslife said...

I know!! Last Puffs rocks!!!

Follow Us @soratemplates