Monday, October 01, 2007


EWU alum pens when not policing

Monday, October 1, 2007

SPD lieutenant also writes crime fiction

Jody Lawrence-Turner
Staff writer
September 30, 2007

He started putting pen to paper when he was 8 years old, crafting “goofy little stories.” By 12, he was writing “more vignettes than scenes” and that’s when he knew he wanted to be a writer.

“It just felt natural,” said crime novelist Frank Zafiro, now 39. “Sort of like a musician or a carpenter, I was just drawn to it.”

But even in his pre-teen years, the Deer Park native was realistic about a career as a creative writer.

“It’s not like you put a shingle out, and someone just starts sending you a check,” he said.

Two other jobs appealed to him – teacher and police officer. He opted for the latter.

Zafiro is the pen name used by Spokane Police Lt. Frank Scalise, whose first novel, “Under a Raging Moon” was published in 2006.

A follow-up book, also based on the fictitious River City Police Department hits book stores today. “Heroes Often Fail” is published by Aisling Press, a division of Oculus Media Group.

The first book was about a serial robber. The second is about a kidnapping. His third will be about a serial rapist – though not Kevin Coe, he says – and he plans a fourth “River City novel” about Russian gangs. Many of the characters in the novels continue throughout.

River City is a “barely fictional” Spokane. And Scalise said the character of Thomas Chisolm is “loosely” based on a real person – Spokane Police officer Thomas Chapman.

“The scar on the face is the same, the swagger is the same,” Scalise said. So is “the willingness and almost delight he takes to standing up to the brass.”

Otherwise the books are pure fiction. But because Scalise worried that people would think otherwise, he has been quiet about his dual identities. Even the short biographies at the end of his books – and others he’s contributed to – have been vague about his career.

But with the police administration’s blessing, he’s making it recognized.

“I think he’s been given a gift, and he should make it known,” said Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. “His work is policing, but he’s also an author.”

Cpl. Brad Hallock, who’s known Scalise since they were in the police academy together, said the author is “able to capture the gritty realism about law enforcement” that other writers can’t if they haven’t worn a badge.

“It’s always a pleasure to read and critique his work,” said Jill Maser, a New Jersey writer to whom Scalise often sends stories for an honest opinion.

In addition to his novels, Scalise has also written instructional manuals for ITT Technical Institute and numerous short stories. He’s currently working on a children’s book and one about hockey, he said.

Through his stories, Scalise said, he tries to expose law enforcement’s human side, as well as an officer’s desire to “slap” someone who might deserve it, without suffering the repercussions.

“I think everyone has a dark streak in them,” Scalise said. And for him, “the writing is where it goes, where it comes off the shelf, and goes into the writing.”Scalise graduated from Deer Park High School in 1986 and went straight into the Army. He attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., to learn Czechoslovakian then spent 2½ years in Germany, working in military intelligence.

After a time in California, he returned to Spokane in 1992, and took tests to qualify for a job at the Police Department or Sheriff’s Office. He was offered jobs at both and started with the Police Department in September 1993.

While working full time, Scalise took classes at Eastern Washington University and received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1998.

He was promoted to lieutenant this summer and works in patrol. He also plays hockey a couple of times a week. And he has three children – 6- and 15-year-old sons, and a 13-year-old daughter – who spend about half their time with him.

“I write between the time I take my son to school and when I go to work (on graveyard shift), almost every single day,” Scalise said. “I tend to be a little bit obsessive.”

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