One of the things I rely on heavily when writing my crime novels is my fifteen-plus years’ experience in the criminal justice field: as a police/fire dispatcher, a federal court clerk/bailiff, and a social services/schools/law enforcement/juvenile court liaison. I generally tell folks that as a dispatcher – especially in the smaller departments (I worked in three different agencies over the years, four if you count my stint in Police Explorers as a senior in high school) – I did everything an officer would do but ride patrol and make arrests. I took citizen complaints in person and on the phone, wrote reports, booked prisoners (including strip searches – not fun!), and occasionally rode along on prisoner transports. I was so confident I understood “my” officers, that I knew the industry inside and out; nothing about the job could surprise me.
I was wrong.
In UNDER A RAGING MOON: A River City Crime Novel, author and retired police officer Frank Zafiro goes past the veneer of the job that the public sees, past the inner departmental workings that I was privy to, and delves into the hearts and minds of the patrol and command officers of the River City Police Department. And it’s unsettling.
UNDER A RAGING MOON is not a made-for-TV Hollywood version of life in uniform. This is gritty, disturbing reality. I realized after the first few pages this was not bedtime reading. Was it because I could picture “my” guys in each of the scenes Zafiro so graphically portrays, giving a familiar face to the characters who inhabited his fictional department? Because I could identify with the gripping fear felt by his dispatcher, Janice, when everything goes to hell? I don’t know. But I came away humbled, stripped of my previous arrogance. I’m curious to see how this will translate to my own crime writing.
A side note: the tiniest things bring songs to my mind, and Zafiro’s title continues to evoke the Celtic band Knot Fibb’n’s cover of “Under the Irish Moon.” If he ever needs a soundtrack for this story, this melancholy tune will do the trick (Roger Daltrey’s “Under a Raging Moon” isn’t on my playlist).
As is my habit, I don’t reveal much of the plot itself, and I do try to avoid spoilers. But let’s face it: we all know anything with the title UNDER A RAGING MOON is not going to end happily ever after. And while I found it difficult to keep track of the large cast in the first half of the book, by the end it really didn’t matter. I was so invested in the department and the officers’ lives that each tragedy, each death, was heart breaking.
Zafiro’s world is full of macabre police humor and pathos, of love and betrayal, and like real life, the good guy doesn’t always win.
But his readers do.
I was honored to meet Frank and his wife at Killer Nashville in August, and I look forward to reading more of his work.