Friday, November 17, 2023

Q&A with Robert Mazerov




Robert Mazerov is the author of the new novel The Last Horseman. He has worked in journalism and in marketing and advertising, and he lives in the Denver area.


Q: The Last Horseman is described as being inspired by true events. Can you say more about the novel’s inspiration?


A: My parents were the most moral and ethical people I have ever known, which contributed to our gradual decline in income and winning in a sport that tolerated more and more unethical behavior.


Training racehorses is hard work, so I avoided that and started out as a newspaper reporter because I am a sucker for a good story.


I don’t exactly recall how our conversation began, but one day she told me the story of the life she built for us as an illegal gambler, her success, and the dangers she faced. She told me about the characters who were in our lives, and their backstories.


I was inspired by the unwavering ethics and honesty my parents lived by, the notion that the one time my father cheated he suffered for it – we all did. He never cheated again.


At the same time, while my mom stood for honesty and moral behavior, she rationalized her own choices: she didn’t fix any races, hurt any horses, or encourage any horsemen to cheat. She simply relied on her knowledge and some insider information to fuel her wagering.


It was illegal, unethical, and incredibly lucrative, and it’s the only time I ever knew her to bend her morality – it was out of necessity to save her family. It’s an inspirational story that’s worth telling.


Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: I didn’t really research the book, as much as I lived it. As I grew up, I participated in most of the events that shaped this story, never knowing the context of the stories and the players in them, or that my mother had a secret life as an illegal gambler, a life she kept hidden from all of us.


I mucked stalls, groomed horses, cleaned harnesses, drove tractors, and trained racehorses on a standardbred horse farm in southern Ohio – much like the farm in The Last Horseman – and at horseracing tracks all over the country.


My research was born of listening to the stories of my life and being shocked by the events they described.


The whole story behind The Last Horseman came as a surprise to me. It’s unsettling when your parents become people, with flaws and insecurities. The people I knew weren’t the people I knew. The events I witnessed had far greater complexity and shading to them.


As I learned about what lies under the surface of the track and the horse race, more and more of the events made sense to me, the people became real, and the context became clearer.


Q: A question on your website asks, “Would you gamble everything for someone you love?” How do you think your characters might answer that question?


A: My, you have done your homework.


I think someone with an understanding of true love, who has a person they love, a belief they cherish, or an ideal they hold dear would definitely respond they would gamble everything for someone or something they love. Loving something means risking your heart to protect it.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?


A: I hope they laugh when it’s funny and take away the moral dilemma of compromise for the greater accomplishment. I hope they see the love that two people have for each other, in my parents. I also hope they see that an empowered woman is an unstoppable force.


My mom was brilliant, funny, decent, and steadfast. She combined those qualities with the drive to save her family and empowered herself to succeed.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: What if there was a complex robbery of an impregnable place, and subsequent murder?


The police know precisely who committed the robbery and how they did it. They know who was robbed, and what the malefactors got. They know who is going to be murdered as a consequence of the robbery, as well as who is going to commit the murder.


Yet, the police don’t pursue the crimes or the criminals. It’s not bribery or corruption, it’s a jaundiced view of justice.


I covered this story long ago, and it has stayed with me.


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: He never knew. Never. Eddie never knew his wife had a gambling scheme and was so successful. He never knew that she was pumping him for information or gambling and winning massive amounts.


He got a new truck every couple of years, and she got a new car (she got the first Mustang in town), and he never questioned it or particularly cared. She said she was good with money and investing, and he took her at her word.


Shortly before he died, I talked with him about it in a roundabout fashion without giving away any secrets. He had no idea, and he died not knowing.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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