El Paso’s Ron Stallworth, whose book “Black Klansman” became a New York Times best seller and a hit movie, will publish another book from his law enforcement career in 2024.

“The Gangs of Zion: A Black Cop’s Crusade in Mormon Country” is scheduled to be published on Sept. 17, 2024, by Legacy Lit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group that focuses on social justice issues and underserved and overlooked voices.

The new book focuses on Stallworth’s efforts to raise concerns in the 1980s and 1990s about growing gang violence in Salt Lake City and other areas of Utah. His investigations found links between predominantly Black street gangs in California and the white and Polynesian Mormon population in Utah, with crack cocaine and gangster rap music a common thread linking the cultures. 

Stallworth, who was a sergeant in the Utah Department of Public Safety, said he faced skepticism from politicians, families and even fellow police officers that conservative Utah faced drug and gang issues that were affecting other communities across the country.

“My son couldn’t possibly be in a gang. He’s white, he’s Mormon and he goes to church every Sunday,” Stallworth said of typical reactions.

Beginning in the late 1980s, two prominent Southern California street gangs – the Bloods and the Crips – looked to expand their drug markets, especially crack cocaine, Stallworth said. That expansion occurred at the same time as the rise of gangster rap, which turned out to be a powerful link between seemingly disparate cultures in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, he said.

Stallworth began to immerse himself in gangster rap to better understand why the message in the music was influential. Anti-police themes were common and resonated with the Mexican American and Polynesian communities in Utah, as well as with some of the young white Mormon population that felt disaffected, Stallworth said.

Listening to gangster rap, starting with N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton,” made Stallworth more aware of what was driving many of the people in gangs that he was interacting with.

“It brought about a greater degree of caution and understanding why these kids were the way they were. We call them sociopaths, psychopaths, sick degenerates. I could see why they would reach that level of contempt with a lot of people, especially cops,” he said. “A lot of these kids had nothing to fall back on.”

Ron Stallworth, native El Pasoan, former police detective and author of “Black Klansman,” poses at the entrance of his alma mater, Austin High School. Stallworth’s upcoming book will focus on rap and gangster culture among youth in Mormon Utah. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Stallworth was 4 years old when his family moved to El Paso in 1957. He graduated from Austin High School in 1971 and moved to Colorado Springs a short time later.

He joined the Colorado Springs Police Department, where he was the first Black person to be promoted to detective.

It was in Colorado Springs that Stallworth began an undercover investigation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978 and 1979. His book about the investigation was published in 2013 and was the basis of the Spike Lee-directed “BlacKkKlansman” in 2018, which won the best adapted screenplay Oscar.

Stallworth left the Colorado Springs Police Department soon after the Klan investigation was ended by his bosses. He spent time in law enforcement in Arizona and Wyoming before moving to Utah in 1986. He retired from the Utah Department of Public Safety in 2006.

In 2017, he married a high school classmate, Patsy Terrazas, and they moved back to El Paso. She is the founder of the Desert Spoon Food Hub nonprofit. 

Stallworth’s first book became an Academy Award-winning movie that generated almost $100 million at the box office. He has talked with one of the “BlacKkKlansman” screenwriters, Kevin Willmott, about adapting “The Gangs of Zion” as a film, most likely as a multi-part streaming series. 

But those discussions are on hold because of the ongoing Hollywood writer’s strike. Stallworth said he recently reached out to Willmott.

“I said, ‘You started writing yet?’ He said, ‘We’re not allowed to because it hadn’t been sold yet, we can’t negotiate with anybody.’ He hasn’t put pen to paper. So I’m waiting for the strike to be settled,” Stallworth said.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.