ESCONDIDO — Looking from the outside, it makes sense a veteran police officer could fill hundreds of pages writing on the subject he knows best.
But from the inside, Neal Griffin’s passion for crime fiction came before he donned the uniform of the Escondido Police Department. He became enamored with the topic during his in the small town of Eau Claire, Wis., which is closer to Minneapolis (97 miles) than Milwaukee (245).
Memories of his childhood in small town America became the backdrop for the 27-year EPD veteran’s first novel, “Benefit of the Doubt,” which was released last May. Now, Griffin’s publisher Forge Books, an imprint of Macmillian, will release his second novel, “A Voice from the Field,” Feb. 2, which focuses on a human trafficking ring.
He will also hold two local events to promote the book. The first is at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Warwick in La Jolla and the second is at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. He will also make stops in Orange, Houston, Phoenix, Irvine and two stops in Wisconsin.
“I’m excited about it,” Griffin said. “I just created a little community that, to me, mirrors the authentic small-town environment anywhere in Wisconsin.”
The first book touches on the ethics, integrity and corruption of the local police in a fictional Wisconsin town, how law enforcement works from the inside, all while the book’s protagonist must battle against a killer who escaped from jail.
“A Voice from the Field” is a continuation of the first book, but turns the spotlight on the heroine of the first book, Tia Suarez. Although the main character, Ben Sawyer was popular, Suarez added a different dimension, Griffin said.
“She really jumped off the page,” Griffin said. “The story is about her coming back from a very serious, life-threatening injury she suffered in the first book. It’s her trials and tribulations.”
Griffin’s second release comes on the heels of the popular Netflix docu-series “Making a Murderer,” which also takes place in Wisconsin and centers on a murder case and questionable tactics by police, according to defense attorney’s in the series.
Regardless, Griffin did note some similarities between his books and the series, but said the as a whole it was an amazing piece of filmmaking, although he did not take a public stance in the case.
Despite the coincidental timing, Griffin aspires to be in the realm of crime-fiction authors such as Joseph Wambaugh, Jo Nesbo, Andrew Gross and James Patterson. Those authors take readers through series following Hollywood Station (Wambaugh), Harry Hole (Nesbo), the Women’s Murder Club (Gross) and Alex Cross (Patterson).
“I do see 10 books,” Griffin laughed. “I see them, but I don’t know if my publisher sees them. I think people really like to see those continuing characters.”
Griffin and his first book have seen a rapid rise gaining rave reviews for a born-again rookie, this time from some of the industry’s top authors.
Readers have also been positive to Griffin’s first book, scoring a 4.7 out of five on Barnes and Noble’s website and a 4.3 out of five on Amazon. It also spent five weeks on the L.A. Times’ bestseller listing, reaching No. 8.
Reviews from prominent authors for “A Voice from the Field” have also poured in before the release.
“I was at work when a friend called and said congratulations and I said, “about what?” Griffin said of the first novel’s release. “He said it was at No. 8 on the L.A. Times bestseller list.”
His passion for books began at an early age and about five years ago, he began working on his first novel. As Griffin put it, ”cops are storytellers,” and with a push from his wife, councilwoman Olga Diaz, put pen to paper.
He began crafting his voice, while his story included a social context. After winning a writing award in 2012, Griffin caught the eye of literary agent Jill Marr.
“It started as a hobby and little by little I got more serious about it,” Griffin said. “I know that Jill knows what she’s talking about. When I first presented the manuscript to Jill, she found something there, but it still needs a lot of work. We went back and forth over a year on the manuscript.”
Forge Books picked up the book within a week and the whirlwind began. The marketing and resources provided by Macmillian also changed the future of Griffin’s novel and aspiring second career.
“They put it in publicist’s marketplace as a buzz book,” he said. “They did different events all over the country.”