Writer puts human experience on pages

Spokane police officer Frank Scalise’s third crime novel comes out today. He writes under the pseudonym Frank Zafiro.jesset@spokesman.com (Jesse Tinsley)
Spokane police officer Frank Scalise’s third crime novel comes out today. He writes under the pseudonym Frank Zafiro.jesset@spokesman.com (Jesse Tinsley)

What do you think of when you see a police officer? Do you begin to sweat? If you see one in your rearview mirror, do you check your speed?

Frank Scalise is a captain with the Spokane Police Department. In his spare time, he’s a husband, a father, a hockey fan, an avid reader, a film buff and a published writer.

Scalise began writing in his youth as he attempted to emulate his favorite Hardy Boys mysteries and J.R.R. Tolkien stories. He began writing vignettes of action scenes, honing his imagination and moving on to short stories.

Scalise graduated from Deer Park High School in 1986 and then joined the Army, where he served in military intelligence until 1991. Though he wanted to be a writer, he knew he needed a more practical career with a regular paycheck. He also knew he wanted to make a difference in the world, so careers as a teacher or a cop were on the top of his list. He became a police officer in 1993, though he never stopped writing.

His short stories have been published online and in a dozen anthologies, including “Be My Santa Baby,” (Mysterical-E, Dec ’05) a tragedy over $118, and “Trails of Red,” (Crime and Suspense, Jan ’06) a story that was initially thought of while he sat in a hot tub in the dead of winter. “I noticed icicles in my hair and wondered what would become of a killer if he got locked out of his house on a cold winter’s eve with a victim lying dead (or is she?) in his home,” Scalise recalled.

Much of his work is written under the pseudonym Frank Zafiro, a name he and some high school buddies called their mock video production company. The word Zafiro means sapphire in Spanish. “I used a pseudonym because, in my field, I wasn’t sure how my colleagues would respond to my writings and I wanted some distance between my real life and imaginary one.”

Scalise moved on from short stories to full-length novels, a series of River City crime novels beginning with “Under a Raging Moon.” His latest, “Beneath a Weeping Sky” is being released today and it follows characters from the River City Police Department as they attempt to stop a rapist. And yes, River City is a lot like Spokane: same hospitals, same hills, same bridges and same types of people.

“Through my writing, I want to explore the human experience and I want the readers to gain empathy for others,” he said. “Empathy is a good habit to develop. It’s really a game of inches – nudge it a little and make the world a better place.”

Scalise also wants to humanize his characters, especially law enforcement. After reading his stuff, rather than feeling trepidation at the sight of the cop in your rearview mirror, you may smile, because some of Scalise’s characters are a hoot while others are heroes.

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail jlarue99@hotmail.com.

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