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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guest blog: Mark Spivak on "Friend of the Devil"

Author Mark Spivak is on a promo tour for his culinary thriller Friend of the Devil (Black Opal Books) and so I have him over to do a guest blog. Here's what Mark thinks what becoming an author involves:

I started mentoring beginning writers about a year ago, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and starting investigating writer’s groups in my area (South Florida). Almost exclusively, they were structured as group critique situations, which didn’t make much sense to me: if you’re a beginner, I don’t believe you’re going to benefit much from the advice of other beginners.
What I ended up doing was working with an established writer’s group, and creating a Meetup tailored to the mentoring concept. Participants send me work ahead of time via email, and they receive an intensive one-on-one critique at the session. We get together an average of twice each month, and have attracted aspiring writers ranging from poets to novelists to creators of children’s books.
A number of consistent patterns have emerged. Most of the people who show up are beginners with terrific ideas and sloppy executions. Many of them haven’t studied formally and lack training in grammar, sentence structure and point of view. A great many of them are hampered by time constraints (either job or family) that limit the amount of time they can focus on writing. The most common scenario, unfortunately, is that talented people tend to stop coming when they realize how difficult it really is to become a writer.
The question I invariably end up asking them is whether they are writing to express themselves, or whether their goal is to have other people read their work. Either course of action is fine. Whether someone is writing for therapy or whether they really want to go the distance, my role is the same: I want to help them learn the craft and find their own voice.

Probably the most disturbing trend I’ve noticed is the current reliance on self-publishing. It turns into a shortcut for many people, a way of avoiding putting in the effort to make a piece of work as good as it can be. Rather than agonize and slave over it until it’s perfect, they pay Joe the printer to print it for them. This is a workable solution for some people (a person who wants to record their memoir for their children and grandchildren, for example), but for someone who really wants to be a writer it can short-circuit their career.

Now, some info about the novel, Friend of the Devil. Btw, Mark is giving away a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly chosen reader. So don't forget to leave a comment via rafflecopter. Here's the link:


In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.


Several years after the opening of Chateau de la Mer, the triumvirate of Avenzano, Walsh and Ross appeared to be one big happy family, although there were rumors of strains in the relationship. One night, at the height of the Festival of Champagne, there was an incident. Ross, a notorious womanizer, was sipping Cristal with a redhead at the restaurant’s corner table. His wife slipped through the front door of the mansion, unannounced. Walking slowly through the dining room, past the Medieval memorabilia and dramatic cast-iron griffins, she strolled up to Ross’s table, took a revolver from her evening bag, and calmly shot him through the heart.

The ensuing chaos did more to establish Joseph Soderini di Avenzano in the American imagination than his designer pasta, his Bedouin-stuffed poussin, his recipes transposed from Etruscan or Old Genoese, or his library of 10,000 cookbooks. This was more than a good meal, after all. This was sex and death in Palm Beach. Even more intriguing was the Chef’s refusal to comment on Ross after his death, except for informal and effusive eulogies in his famous baritone.

“Watch that Cristal,” David’s friend Bill Grimaldi told him before he left Manhattan to do an assigned story on the 25th anniversary of Chateau de la Mer. “It’s a killer.”

Author bio and info

Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on He is the holder of the Certificate and Advanced diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Mark’s work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. He is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). His first novel, Friend of the Devil, is published by Black Opal Books.

 Amazon author page URL    

Barnes and Noble Author URL


  1. Many thanks for hosting me on your blog today. I look forward to meeting readers and answering any questions they might have.

  2. I love reading the excerpt! Thank you for the giveaway! :)

  3. thanks for the guest post and excerpt. Congratulations to Mark on the new release.

  4. Great post, thanks for sharing the excerpt :)

  5. Sounds like a great read, hope I'll have a chance to read it soon!

  6. This book sounds like something I'd really enjoy reading, thank you for sharing!

  7. Hope you are having a fabulous weekend! Looking forward to reading this book!