Playing With Fire



It rains a lot in Trillium, Oregon, but not enough to douse the political, personal and literal fires that surround the man in the hot seat, Ben Cromarty, Trilliums city manager. A suburb of Portland in the shadow of the snowy Cascades, Trillium has come a long way from its sleepy days as a sawmill town. The population is bursting. High-tech businesses are moving in. And the citizens are getting cantankerous.

A proposal to reorganize the fire department quickly escalates beyond a dry policy debate. It divides the community, pitting council members against each other, the firefighters against the city, and business against business.In the middle of it all is Ben Cromarty, struggling to keep the city from consuming itselfand to keep his job. The conflict over the fire departmentand over Trilliums futureplays itself out in political intrigue, legal wrangling, personal vendettas and sundered friendships. Before it is over, the city’s troubles are splashed across front pages, its political structure is shaken to its core, Cromartys family faces danger, and a self-inflicted assault on Cromartys marriage threatens to pull his personal life into the public crisis.

Buy it Now

Playing With Fire is available in both print and e-book (Kindle) formats. 

If you buy or borrow Playing With Fire, please add a review to the Amazon page. Thanks!



“He is a facile writer and talented story-teller. Playing With Fire should be required reading for public administration courses.”–Peter Harkness, Editor & Publisher, Governing Magazine

“This is a well written novel. Lazenby knows his subject well–he understand the politics. I had intended to read this on my vacation; I was going to read just the first three pages. I got hooked and finished the book. It may seem hard to believe but this is a very exciting novel about local government. I recommend this book to any that have interest in government, politics, policy– or just want an interesting novel to read. I hope Lazenby continues to write.”

“This book is amazing! It pulls the reader in and hangs on! You will likely not be able to put it down until it is read. It is an easy read yet well written. It holds real world events including political agendas and the personal life of a city office member.”

“A novel about being a city manager sounded like a formula for pure boredom — and I have experience as a local elected official and teach public policy. I am glad that I felt “duty bound” to read this book, it is extraordinarily well done. Lazenby masterfully creates a complex, multi-tiered plot involving all of the complexity and many of the issues faced by local governments today. Even a casual reader who simply wants to get a sense of what really happens at City Hall everyday will be well rewarded with both information and entertainment by this book.”“It was awesome! I read it in one sitting.”

“I finished reading your book yesterday. BRAVO!!! Can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed it. Hope you’re already at work on a sequel.”

“To be absolutely honest, when I bought your book I thought it would be one that I might eventually get to, but I really did not harbor any great expectations. I just finished it and totally enjoyed it! I literally could almost not put it down.”

“I happen to have served as a City Council member in Durham, North Carolina and I teach state and local public policy part-time at Duke University. I was impressed with how you managed to weave so many local government issues into a really compelling story. I also appreciated the double entendre title. I am not quite sure how, but I am going to use your book in my class next year.”

“I work for [an Oregon city manager], who mentioned some time ago that you were writing a book. I’ve been reading it online in Governing magazine and, honestly, really look forward to Wednesdays. (I suppose I could actually buy a copy from Amazon…) It’s uncanny and eerie and too real. Nearly everyone with whom we work would find themselves in its pages. You’ve got the eyes and ears to take everything in and the ability that we all wish we possessed to put it in writing.  I’m jealous.”