Best-selling author Neal Griffin comes from Eau Claire to Siren – via California
Becky Strabel | Staff writer
BURNETT COUNTY – Growing up and being involved in a small town you make a lot of connections, and those links can lead you to some pretty extraordinary people.
Like a Los Angeles Times best-selling author who has traveled much of the world but has a desire to move back to his Wisconsin roots. Let me introduce you to Neal Griffin.
Griffin grew up in Eau Claire and enjoyed reading crime novels and watching police-related TV shows. He always planned on being a cop and joined the Marines as a steppingstone to that end. After eight years, he landed a job in a southern California county and is still there. But his affection for Wisconsin, beer, cheese and the Green Bay Packers has led him to Burnett County, and more specifically, the outskirts of Siren.
To say that Griffin has had experiences to write from is an understatement. During his 27-year law enforcement career, he worked as a patrol cop, field training officer, a member of a SWAT team, hostage negotiator, narcotics investigator, gang enforcement specialist and as a supervisor of a homicide unit. He was recognized as officer of the year twice and retired last July as a detective lieutenant.
Griffin is also a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., where he studied police ethics and forensic science. His love of storytelling and on-the-job experiences have led him to a second career as an author. His first book, “Benefit of the Doubt,” was released by Forge Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing, in May of 2015 and hit the No. 8 spot on the Los Angeles Times best-sellers list rather quickly.
The main character, Ben Sawyer, is a police officer in Oakland, Calif., who commits an act of abuse so egregious he becomes the poster boy for police brutality nationwide. Sawyer loses his job in Oakland and is forced to return to his childhood home in Wisconsin where he gets a job working for his father-in-law.
His Newberg mystery series has two books currently available, but Griffin is publishing two more. The third one is due out in April of 2018.
The characters in Griffin’s books are real people in Griffin’s head and have their own lives. After spending time with Griffin, you hear of similarities between his life and those of his characters. A local coffee shop in Newberg is reminiscent of a business that he and his wife had in California. One of the characters is Latina and so is Griffin’s wife. Also, he saw his wife’s hard work and determination to be taken seriously in a white male-dominated world and incorporated those characteristics into Tia, the main character in his second and third installments.
It is easy to be sucked into the fictional Newberg because it could be any smaller town in Wisconsin. Griffin combines real locations with details that lead you to pull out a map and want to follow along. But the story also has many scenarios that are genuine and described with such clarity that one gets lost in the pages and you realize these events occur in small towns as well as the bigger cities.
The Newberg mystery series by Griffin is definitely worth the read if you enjoy crime fiction but also if you like to see characters develop and feel like personal friends. A quick search found copies available in both the Polk and Burnett County library systems for you to borrow, but you may just want to buy yourself a copy to add to your home library to enjoy it multiple times.
Los Angeles best-selling author Neal Griffin appears relaxed in the Wisconsin summer sun as he stands on the back deck of his rural Siren vacation home. The Wisconsin native is grateful to be back enjoying the woods and wildlife even if it is just for a brief time before returning to his California home later this fall. – Photo by Becky Strabel.