In 2006 Gregory Lee Renz was inducted into the Fire and Police Hall of Fame for the dramatic rescue of two boys from their burning home. In 2008 Captain Renz retired, exchanging his turnout gear for a writing desk to pursue his passion, storytelling. After eight years, numerous creative writing courses through the University of Wisconsin, countless workshops and conferences, Gregory finally typed The End to his novel BENEATH THE FLAMES.


Beneath the Flames (2019)

Biggest literary influencers:

Ken Keasey, Elmore Leonard’s gritty dialogue, Nelson DeMille’s gripping plots, Andre Dubus’s complicated, flawed characters, and Kent Haruf’s haunting tales of family ties.

Last book read:

Where the Crawdads Sing

The book that changed your life:

I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the late sixties during the anti-war protests that were taking place on the University of Wisconsin’s campus. I was struck by those who fought against an inhumane system and those in positions of power who fought to uphold this system. The combine in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is such a powerful metaphor for the government and its battle to silence the anti-war protesters.   The sad message is that there can be a high price to pay for those who fight the system. But the Chief’s escape at the end of the novel gives us hope.

Your favorite literary character:

Randall Patrick McMurphy of One Flew Over the Cuckoos’s Nest was a great example of a flawed hero, struggling against the combine (Nurse Ratched) and himself.

Currently working on:

The story of an embittered, aging firefighter who gains hope through the eyes of a little girl he rescues from a fire.

Words to live by:

The pathway to peace is through forgiveness, beginning with oneself.

Advice to new and aspiring authors:

Above all else, persistence.

Articles / Reviews:


Renz draws on his years of experience as a firefighter to bring a hardscrabble authenticity to his novel. He packs the tale with plenty of action and a lot of heart. His firefighting sequences are detailed and thrilling, placing readers right in front of the flames. His prose is clean and, at times, poetic…

—Kirkus Reviews

Gregory Renz’s new novel is a triumph of poignancy, compassion, and restraint. In it, a man’s regret is transformed to triumph.

Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the bestselling novel, The Deep End of the Ocean

BENEATH THE FLAMES is an action-packed debut novel with something for every reader: suspense, romance, friendship, forgiveness, family, and more.  A novel that like its protagonist, relentlessly presses on into fiery and controversial terrain where many other writers fear to tread.