Behind the Words With Frank Zafiro

Written and Photographed by: Nicole Hensley, KXLY4 Web Journalist


  1. Tucked away in the Spokane Police Department, down a hallway, then another hallway, behind this door is Major Frank Scalise. Recently promoted, this is his new office. He just moved in so the only thing that identifies the room as his own is the name tag. You wouldn't think that behind this door there's more afoot. 
  2. Major Frank Scalise is also known as Frank Zafiro, a crime novelist. He writes from home, but even that is disheveled. His family is in the process of moving. Sometimes he writes at the Shadle Library, finding a quiet corner to start the first pages of a new novel. 
  3. Some of his books take place in Spokane and others take place in a city like Spokane, but with a few minor changes. He sets the location as River City. That's not all. While you're reading his novel Beneath a Weeping Sky, you'll be walking through the familiar city with the characters, but some things are engineered differently to make the story work the way Zafiro wants them to work. 
  4. A rapist is loose in River City and his next victim is down the hill and around the corner. She might be passing under the Washington Street Bridge. In the novel, those stairs do not exist. Zafiro crafted it that way. Instead its landscaped with brush. 

    While reading the novels, you might experience a reality crisis. It's easy to confuse these blending realities: Spokane and River City. One is real, the other is not. You're faced with your own preconception of how Spokane is versus the way Zafiro writes River City to be. 

    In Beneath a Weeping Sky, Officer Katie McCleod, a reoccurring character, is playing decoy to the rapist that might be lurking in the city's park. That's not the only demon she's facing as she talks herself through a dark passage way under a bridge. 
  5. Excerpt: She took a deep breath. "Toughen up, buttercup," she whispered to herself. 

    She wanted to move forward, but her feet wouldn't budge. 

    There's nothing there that isn't there in the day time.

    Katie blinked and stared into the darkness.

    Beneath a Weeping Sky
  6. In Heroes Often Fail, Officer McLeod unexpectedly stumbles into a domestic dispute over the Post Street Bridge. A man snags a baby from the mother's arms and dangles the child over the river. 

    Excerpt: The distance between Katie and the man was less than fifteen yards when he spotted her. Without hesitation, he extended his arm over the side of the bridge and dangled the infant over the edge.

    Katie scrambled to a stop ten feet away. 

    She pointed her gun at the man's chest, "Pull that baby back. Now!"

    Heroes Often Fail

    Flowing below the bridge is the Looking Glass River. It's the river that separates the north and south region of River City. It's named after Looking Glass, a war chief who directed the 1877 Nez Percé retreat with Chief Joseph. 
  7. Some communities remember the landmarks filmed around them and shared with audiences around the world. When you watch those movies, you'll always see those images and say, "That's Spokane." 

    What about landmarks in the written word? The only difference is it's up to you to recall the landmark and piece it together from everything you know. If your memory is foggy, it may be an unfinished puzzle. 

    At times Zafiro mentions actual cross streets. If you were to visit one mentioned address, you'd find a gas station that was the scene of a robbery in his novel, Under a Raging Moon. Except it wasn't called Zip Trip. 
  8. Excerpt: Kopriva shut off his headlights out of habit as he swung into the Circle K at Market and Euclid. As he pulled up to the front of the store, just to the north of the doors, his mind did a double-take. 

    A short, slender man with long black hair was holding a gun on the clerk inside.

    "Holy Christ," he whispered and reached for his mike. "Baker-123, robbery in progress at Market and Euclid."

    Under a Raging Moon

    Some of the situations depicted are based on incidents that really happened. Sometimes it happened in Spokane like the serial rapist, but sometimes they're based on incidents that occurred in other parts of the country. 

    Zafiro makes a point to separate his work as a police officer and a writer, but they do intermix especially when looking for inspiration. The job brings certain aspects that he'll merely pocket in his mind for a later date. Things that happen now might end up in books later down the road even if it's just a snippet of a conversation.

    He writes what he knows. 

    Frank Zafiro will be featured in the upcoming Get Lit! Festival sponsored by Eastern Washington University. He'll be doing a reading on Saturday, April 14th at 10 a.m. and participating in a panel discussion on that same day from 1:45 to 3:15 p.m. The discussion will be held at the Phase 1 building of the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane. 

  9. Related Links:

  10. Also from KXLY: 
  11. Zafiro's Blog: 
  12. Zafiro's Website: 
  13. EWU's Get Lit: