Few would argue that race relations in America is an issue that continues to challenge communities. Police officers are at the center of many racial controversies due to the very nature of their job – maintaining law and order, often under difficult circumstances, in poverty-stricken, minority communities. But what happens when those officers are forced to make harrowing, split-second, life-and-death decisions? And what happens when those actions lead to charges of bigotry, brutality and racism? And what if those charges are blind to the truth – fueled by false racial stereotypes, hysteria, mistrust and a distinct political agenda?
Eliot Sefrin’s debut novel, Under A Cloud, is the 2006 recipient of the Public Safety Writers’ Association (PSWA) Grand Prize for Best Fiction. The novel, which is receiving rave reviews, addresses many of the most sensitive and emotional issues facing both public safety professionals and the communities they serve. It has also created a ripple effect in the tight-knit law enforcement profession, where accusations of racism stemming from police actions are all too common.
The topic of race relations and those who are sworn to protect and serve has captured the consciousness of America. With the Academy-Award Winning Best Picture Crash, many people are examining their own ideas and views.
“Under A Cloud addresses issues that I think are timely and important,” Sefrin says. “They’re timely because the kind of incident depicted in the book continues to create headlines and potentially explosive consequences, given the volatile chemistry of race relations. And they’re important because we can learn from them in a way that can help us live together, recover from tragedies and build stronger communities.”
Under A Cloud follows the story of Matt Holland and Rachel Cook (based on Sefrin’s wife, one of the first female police officers deployed on street patrol in New York), two highly-regarded New York City police officers involved in the fatal shooting of an innocent black teen in a poverty-stricken Brooklyn neighborhood. The accidental shooting immediately becomes a lightning rod for a bitter racial confrontation that ravages a city, results in lengthy, politically-charged investigations and becomes the focus of a landmark civil rights case. As the riveting drama unfolds, both the officers and the family of the slain teen become immersed in intense inner crises, as they struggle to come to terms with the tragedy and the impact on their lives.
“With Under A Cloud,” Sefrin explains, “I try to take readers on a journey into the hearts and minds of people whose lives are profoundly reshaped by the kind of police shooting that, sadly, is often an inevitable byproduct of a very difficult job. I think the novel provides us with a glimpse of who we are as a people – and who we’re capable of being.”
PSWA president Marilyn Olsen cites the novel as “excellently crafted, touching, a pleasure to read.” Says Olsen: “The characters are multi-dimensional. The issues raised are timely and important. Under A Cloud is, simply, very good.”
“Under A Cloud will have you riveted to your seat,” says BookPleasures.com’s reviewer Sue Vogan. “It will take you through a death and rebirth – of a hero, a family and a city. Truly, a must read.”
Sefrin knows a great deal about the public safety industry. He currently serves as a publisher and editorial director for Cygnus Business Media, a leading business-to-business media company. Cygnus is one of the largest public safety media companies in America, reaching more than one million professionals daily through an integrated platform of magazines, websites and expositions – Law Enforcement Technology, Law Enforcement Product News, Public Safety Product News, Officer.com, Firehouse.com, Firehouse Expo, Firehouse World and Enforcement Expo.