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Boone has been prospecting with the Iron Brotherhood outlaw motorcycle gang for almost a year, trying to earn his patch with the club. When a simple muscle job goes terribly wrong, his world changes forever.

He is quickly plunged deeper into a world of drugs and intimidation, and the lines between right and wrong blur. The bonds of brotherhood that he forges with other members clash with the dark actions they take. His girlfriend, Faith, represents a danger of another kind, but Boone can’t stop himself where she is concerned, either.

When someone close to him dies, and rampant rumors of a rat in the clubhouse puts everyone in danger, Boone comes to learn what it really means to live his life in the cut.

Author Frank Zafiro sat down with The Big Thrill for a quick chat about book two in his SpoCompton crime novel series, IN THE CUT:

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Definitely the plot, though the setting is absolutely integral to the plot. I wanted to feature an outlaw motorcycle gang, and the initial broad strokes of the intrigue and potential betrayal came to me almost fully formed. In fact, the character was actually the greatest struggle, and he underwent significant changes as I discovered who he really was (thanks to my wife and another author helping me talk it through and making great suggestions).

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

On the surface, just a rollicking good time, chock full of some intrigue, action, and hopefully a few surprises. If you feel like getting a little deeper, by the time I was finished with the revisions, I was also shooting for this idea of who we are as individuals, whether we should be true to our nature even if our nature isn’t the best, and how some things — brotherhood, loyalty, acceptance — are universal.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The main character, without a doubt. After a couple dozen books, I was faced for the first time with a character that I didn’t completely understand. As a result, while the plot I initially envisioned and expanded upon came together nicely, I found that something was off about the main character. Upon reflection, I came to realize that I had forced him to be who I needed him to be for the purposes of the story. And while the story worked, the book didn’t, because Boone wasn’t who I was portraying him to be, and it just didn’t mesh.

Not every reader had an issue with this, but a couple did, and they pointed out what I already had a nagging problem about, so I knew I had to tackle it. So I approached it with the attitude of, “Okay, what happens in this story IS what happens…that’s not changing much at all. So for those events and actions to make sense, who does Boone have to be? More importantly, who is he, really?”

Thanks to my first reader (my wife, Kristi), and another author (Colin Conway, who I collaborate with frequently), I discovered the answers to that question. But to do so, I had to question a number of fundamental aspects of who he was, and realized I didn’t know him at all. Once I let go of my own shoehorned approach to who Boone was, a different picture emerged of the character. Ultimately, this truer vision of Boone works because his actions all make sense now.

In the end, this was the greatest challenge by far, and as is often the case with challenges, it became the biggest opportunity as well.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

Yes—who my main character actually was!

I also realized partway through that this was going to be set in the same world as one of my previous novels, At Their Own Game. The main character from that book, Jake Stankovic, even has a few short scenes in IN THE CUT.

Is Boone a hero or an anti-hero?

The reason I like this question is because if someone is asking it, then they probably “get” the book, because the answer to the question is, “Yes.”

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

There’s so much latitude to write about whatever you want. A mystery or crime novel can easily contain elements of other genres and still be a crime novel. On top of that, I think that the stakes in these kinds of books are high enough that it really allows you to explore interesting elements of who we are as people, and what it means to be a human being.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

Lawrence Block, Donald “Richard Stark” Westlake, Stephen King, John D. MacDonald. Block for his way of making the reader so comfortable in the narrator’s mind, Stark for his lean tension and brutality, King for his ability to portray characters in such a real way, and John D. MacDonald for the way that Travis McGee could consider philosophy and fisticuffs in equal parts.


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 the author and his work, please visit his website.