Whenever I find new authors I really enjoy, I share them with you. Recently I discovered Frank Zafiro, a prolific author who writes crime fiction. Like me, he’s a former cop, and his prose has an authenticity that many are lacking. He’s a gifted writer, and I think you will like his stories.
So let’s get to it!
Q: You were a cop for twenty years in Washington after doing a stint in the army. Briefly tell us about your background and experience.
A: (For the longer version, folks can check out my website)
I was a Czech linguist in the Army for one enlistment (almost five years). I came on the job in 1993. For the first half of my career with the Spokane Police Department, I worked at the line level – patrol officer, FTO, corporal, and detective. At the ten-year mark, I stumbled into sergeant-hood. From there, I had the honor of being in charge of virtually every unit in the department at one time or another at one rank or another – patrol, investigations, SWAT, K-9, volunteers… I got to do or be around all of it.
I retired in 2013 as a captain. After that, I continued to teach. I’d been teaching at the academy, community college, and university courses during my career. Post-retirement, I taught police leadership all over the US and Canada (LPO, for those who know the program). At the end of 2017, I decided I wanted to be home more and write more, so that’s what I did.
Q: Two quick Zafiro war stories: best and worst days of your career.
A: Neither of those days are very quick stories, so I’ll share some runner-ups. One of the worst days was when one of our officers was convicted in federal court while I was a captain. One of the best was when I was road-siding with one of my officers while I was a lieutenant and without prompting, he told me he’d follow me into hell itself.
Q: When did you start writing?
A: Around ten or so, though I don’t think I did it consciously and frequently until I was about thirteen.
Q: Did you always know you were a writer?
A: Pretty much, yes. Somewhere in that ten to thirteen range, I knew it for sure.
Q: Knowing you were a writer, did you keep a journal throughout your career?
A: I kept journals during high school, but somewhere along the way, they got lost. I do have many of my early writings and notes and ideas in a box up above the garage, though. I keep telling myself that I’ll pull them down sometime to see what’s what.
Q: I recently discovered your Stefan Kopriva mystery series and picked up the first book, Waist Deep. I enjoyed it so much I’ve started the second book, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, and I’m hooked on it as well! But there are only four books in that series, and I know I’m going to want more from you once I finish. Tell us about the other series you have written, and in what order would you suggest people enjoy your books?
A: I’m glad you’re digging Kopriva. There will be at least six books in that series, with five and six coming out over the next couple of years. But Kopriva actually gets his start in the River City series proper, in the first title, Under a Raging Moon. He is arguably the main character in that and the second book in the series, before he [spoiler alert!] leaves the department. Waist Deep picks up ten years after that second River City book.
I often say that if you like mystery, I’ve got the subgenre for you (unless it’s cozy, and if that’s your jam, I know some good books to point to!). For instance, if you like Procedurals, the River City series is at fifteen entries, with a new one coming in the fall. In River City, the cops are the good guys, but they aren’t perfect. Same could be said with my other procedural series, Charlie-316, written with Colin Conway. Both of these are written to be authentic and nuanced.
If private eyes are more your speed, there is the Stefan Kopriva you mentioned. I am also two books into a three-book series featuring a retired detective named Jack MacCrae. For lighter fare, there are the Stanley Melvin PI stories, which begins with the award-winning “Hallmarks of the Job.” A couple more Stanley stories are on the horizon.
Some of the books that are the most fun to write are hardboiled/noir titles. My SpoCompton series (#5 coming in July) explores the criminals instead of the cops. And the Ania series (a complete series now, at four books) features new protagonists each outing but the titular femme fatale is the through-thread of the series.
Action/thriller is another genre I play in. With Eric Beetner, I wrote the Bricks & Cam Jobs trilogy that starts with The Backlist. This one is all about competing hit(wo)men, so it is full of action and dark humor. My Sandy Banks thriller series started with The Last Horseman and is finally going to get its second and third installments in 2023 and 2024.
See? I told you I covered the entire waterfront (except cozies—for that, you should start with Colin Conway’s Cozy Up to Death).
Q: Every author loves book reviews – we nearly beg our readers to write them. One reason why is every author gets bad reviews, and we need more good ones to offset them. What is the worst review you’ve ever received?
A: Not counting the one where they gave a one-star review to Chisolm’s Debt while quite obviously describing Queen of Diamonds, you mean? Or the ones that criticize the book for being exactly what the description says it is (a gritty crime drama with profanity being ripped for too many naughty words)?
Ooof. I sound salty. Truth be told, I actually don’t mind legit bad reviews, if they’re fair. You just didn’t like it? Cool. But if you pick up a romance and complain that there’s kissing, I don’t get that. Same with picking up a procedural and complaining about language or violence. Or too many cops.
Anyway, worst review? I had to go snooping to find one, but here’s what someone wrote in a one-star review back in October 2022:
“This is one of the s!lowest books I have ever read! It is beyond boring!! Don’t waste your time reading this, it like a bad report! Over and over again!!” (SIC)
This was for book #7 in the River City series, which currently has 193 ratings and a 4.5 average. So… everyone has an opinion, I guess.
Q: And the best?
A: Impossible to pick just one. I’m proud that virtually all of my titles are rated over 4 stars, and those few that aren’t are 1) suffering from few reviews, so each has more weight, and 2) still tickling the underside of four stars.
That said, the reviews I enjoy reading the most are when the characters really connect for the reader. If they love/hate a character, I know I did something right. Also, when it is obvious that the reviewer “got” what I was going for, that is satisfying.
Q: The feedback I cherish most is when cops tell me they enjoy my stories. Does it mean a lot to you to get feedback from those who are the most critical of all in our genre?
A: Oh, absolutely. Anyone’s mom can five-star a book and put the review on the fridge. When another cop reads it and says, “Yes, this rings true,” it’s a thrill. Not only because cops know when something is off (sometimes way off) but also because reading crime fiction might be a bit of a busman’s holiday for cops. If they dig the book, then that feels like it must be a cut above. You pass the “got it right” test but you were above the “just another cop story and I lived that, so… boring” threshold, too.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Well, 2023 is a little lighter than usual in terms of releases. I’ve got a new River City coming in the fall, All the Forgotten Yesterdays. July will see the fifth SpoCompton title, Shades of Knight. I’m hoping to get out a couple of new Stanley Melvin stories, a short story compilation called The Last Cop & Other Stories, and a couple of novellas under my given name.
Most of this year, I’ll be stockpiling ahead for 2024 and beyond. I want to put out three River City installments a year, starting in 2024, for example. I’ll also take some other series to a nice resting point – SpoCompton to six books, Stefan Kopriva to six, Jack MacCrae and Sandy Banks to three each. Tentatively closing out these series (or at least pausing them) will give me more time to focus on RC and some other non-Zafiro projects.
One title I’m pretty stoked about is the sixth Charlie-316 entry, The Silence of the Dead. Colin and I are working on that now, and I suspect it will see a 2024 release. It is an ambitious story that takes place in multiple time periods with a complex plot and multiple themes. It’s an idea that’s been swirling in my head for almost a decade, so it is great to see it start to emerge.
Q: I have no idea where you get the energy or time to put out so many great stories. Thank you for this great interview, and best of luck to you, my friend.
In addition to all the links throughout this interview, here are ways to get in touch with Frank or follow him:
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Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends.