Tyler Garrett is a model SWAT officer whose good looks, education and familial status add to that image. The fact that he is a black man in the predominately white Spokane Police Department only adds to the city administration’s pride in one of their own. He’s often pointed to as an example of the department’s best and brightest—a young man on the rise.
One summer evening, Garrett stops a reckless driver. It’s something he’s done a thousand times except this time, gunfire erupts from a nearby house. As Garrett dives for cover, the driver turns and begins shooting as well. Garrett survives the ambush by killing the driver and chasing off the additional shooter.
The legend of Tyler Garrett grows and the community rallies around him.
Until the initial investigation determines the driver was shot in the back and his gun has somehow disappeared. Suddenly, the police department, city hall, and even the national news media are wondering just what happened that night. In a nation where police brutality dominates the headlines, Garrett’s case has suddenly become a flashpoint.
Now, Officer Tyler Garrett must take matters into his own hands. Time is quickly running out for him to find the second shooter and clear his name.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to sit down with the authors Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro to gain some insight into the process of writing of CHARLIE 316:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
First, we hope readers have a good time with the book. That it grabs them by the shirt and whips them around on a roller coaster of twists and turns before reaching the end.
Secondly, amid all the craziness that’s happening in the book, we hope the reader engages with the national discussion of officer-involved shootings. There’s a segment of our population that is painfully aware of this as they’ve dealt with it for decades now. There’s another segment that has been able to look away and say it’s not really our problem. Both segments make up our country and we have to get people talking to each other, not shouting, if we’re ever going to move forward.
Finally, we hope that at the end of the book, everyone has a moment to reflect on our personal perceptions, both racial and political. Everyone, regardless of skin tone or political creed, has their own merits and faults. We need to start judging people on their actions instead of sweeping generalizations. To do that requires more effort on our part to get to know a person. It’s harder to hate when we actually spend time getting to know someone and their background.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
We hope it makes a contribution by being a story people want to read and then talk about. There are a multitude of things occurring in the book that are worth discussing—an officer-involved shooting, race relations in America, and policing decisions made through a political lens, to name a few.
Those things need to jibe with what occurs daily on the street where actions of law enforcement often need to be made with split second decisions, within the letter of the law, for the safety and betterment of everyone.
When we start embracing the gray area, where right and wrong no longer matter, is when the wheels start to wobble, and the train is at danger of coming off the tracks. But at the same time, we believe this book also points out that it is virtually impossible not to operate in the gray if you want to be effective.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
Although we had an initial plan for a couple of the twists and turns that would occur throughout the story, we didn’t realize until deep into the book how much the roles of protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) had shifted… until they had.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
The book’s title was Colin’s call sign during one of his patrol assignments. He liked the sound of it so much that he put it aside to be used in a story someday.
It obviously had a similar sound to John 3:16, one of the most commonly known biblical verses—“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Using that verse as a muse, we considered what type of event would need to happen for a police department and its city administration to sacrifice their favorite son so that they could survive another day.
That’s where we started, but the process took us to a lot of different places from there.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Both Frank and I are big fans of Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald, not to mention Donald Westlake, Dennis Lehane, Steve Hamilton, and of course…Elmore Leonard.
Colin Conway served in the U.S. Army from 1987-1991. He later served on the Spokane Police Department for five years. He’s currently active in the commercial real estate field, both as a broker and an investor. He owned and operated a karate school for several years, a childhood dream that finally came to fruition. He began writing in earnest while working as a patrol officer. He found it a creative outlet and continued putting words to paper after leaving the department.
To learn more about Colin, please visit his website.
Frank Zafiro was a police officer in Spokane, Washington, from 1993 to 2013. He retired as a captain. He is the author of numerous crime novels, including the River City novels and the Stefan Kopriva series. He lives in Redmond, Oregon, with his wife Kristi, dogs Richie and Wiley, and a very self-assured cat named Pasta. He is an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist.
To learn more about Frank, please visit his website.