Double Duty

Wisco native, a decorated California cop, pens second realistic police thriller

Caleb Gerdes

A former Marine and career police officer (in Southern California) Neal Griffin writes gritty crime novels.
A former Marine and career police officer (in Southern California) Neal Griffin writes gritty crime novels.

Midwestern Noir could be that savory aged cheddar from the local dairy or a pint of a dark lager at the local brewery. However, it is,  in fact, a fresh new genre in gritty crime novels, and like the other two, it is crafted with the love of Wisconsin in mind. A Voice From the Field is Neal Griffin’s second novel and the nation’s second opportunity to get a compelling look into the life of a Midwestern police officer.

A west-central Wisconsin native, Griffin is a former Marine and career police officer in Southern California. He has been named Officer of the Year twice, and the list of his positions proves his knowledge of the world behind the badge. He is now a Lieutenant Detective. Griffin’s first novel, Benefit of the Doubt, has received plenty of praise and is a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

“Griffin’s work proves superior to the unrealistic fare that often passes for a police thriller,” according to Kirkus Reviews. His newest, and second novel, A Voice From the Field, follows the story of Tia Suarez in an authentic and honest way, the type of honest that has you picking bits of grit from your thoughts for the next week while wanting to ask Tia’s advice as you are getting pulled over for speeding.

As Griffin confessed, he “needs to be willing to spend a lot of time in a made-up world with make-believe friends and adversaries,” and added that he “is a grown-up with imaginary friends.” And it shows. From the first page you can tell that Tia Suarez is a complete character, one you will love while sometimes feeling frustrated at her lack of tact.

A Voice From the Field follows Suarez, a Newburg, Wis., detective who stumbles onto a human trafficking ring while struggling through her own recovery after being shot in Griffin’s first novel. While the plot drives through alleyways and cruises along country roads, we are given a rare and rich view of the world that law enforcement officers operate in.

During the early stages of writing this novel, that law enforcement world was in the throes of discovering human trafficking, which Griffin describes as “colossal, but also agonizingly personal.” While in this dark and an unforgiving world, Griffin also portrays the officers Tia works with in an honest, and sometimes harsh, light. Griffin hopes that while broadening his readers’ understanding of the atrocities of human trafficking, he also can challenge their assumptions about law enforcement, whether those assumptions are overly forgiving or unnecessarily antagonistic.

While the novel falls into the gritty crime drama territory, it does so in its own way, while holding onto the comfortable bits that makes a genre a genre. Tia Suarez is a rebellious and confrontational detective, a woman who has a very close encounter in the first pages in which her small stature proves a liability. Her character both pays homage to the tropes a genre reader expects, and breaks those tropes. This ability makes Griffin’s characters feel more authentic and realistic.

“(Tia is) an amalgamation of all the best police officers I’ve ever worked with, both men and women,” Griffin said.

If you find yourself falling in love, or at least falling in like, with Tia Suarez, you will be pleased to know that Griffin is planning to continue to delve into Midwestern Noir with future novels. Not only does he enjoy exploring the human psyche, but he won’t miss a Packer game and will thoroughly enjoy a wonderfully aged cheddar. As a true Wisconsin native, he can’t keep from raving about our communities and the miles and miles of country road where “it’s like driving through a postcard.” And who knows – maybe next time he makes it home, someone will have a Midwestern Noir cheddar with his name on it.

Learn more Griffin and his novels at Join Griffin for a discussion of A Voice From The Field at 7pm on Friday, April 15 in the Volume One Gallery.

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