The award-winning ‘Weight of Living’

“Outside, a steady rain washed away all other sounds; just the splash of water on asphalt and cement, tapping on roof tops and drumming metal car roofs; a perfect wall behind which to hide.

IMG_7092We walk through this wreckage, seeking what does not exist: wholeness.  This is the weight of what we are, he thought. The weight of living.


A few cabs and delivery trucks splashed through the streets left damaged by winter’s wrath. Walking again. I wish I could walk this all away. What did Del say the other day: You see how deep the poison goes, how strong is the wrong in what they doin’.”



Kirkus Review Pro Page :

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An old rose

This is an old rose, decades old. It has seemingly died more times than can be counted.

Then there is new growth, a rebirth, life again.

  We do this to ourselves don’t we?

Run, as if we can burn off the anger and pain.

Hide, craft shells and excuses, blame others for absence,

then blame ourselves because we are closer at hand.

But some things  don’t die.

They just  get  bruised.

Like love mistreated, rough handled.

Buried in sorrow, wrapped in barbs.

That is this life, is  it not?

Offering these new, fresh leaves, guarded by thorns.

Offering old clichés about roses and love

and your soft eyes and sweet mouth,

the space between dreams and darkness,

between dry, barbed stalks, and tender, fresh leaves

that are hope against a brittle past.







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More New Nagler: Frank’s own darkness

This story is the prequel for the other Frank Nagler books. There are events and aspects of Detective Frank Nagler’s life that must be  set up. This is one:

“The cemetery hollowed out, the wind and echo of  scratching road sounds faded,  footsteps on stone paths, the voices, whispers, “be wells”, “So sorry,” “Praying for you.”  even the silent random pat on the back, all gone, drifted away.

Frank Nagler had nodded, eyes wrinkled in a sadness, his face a clay mask, forehead creased, trying to cast a smile back to the well wishes, a face seeking a permanent expression between the joy of Martha’s life and the depthless pain of loneliness.

Only Sister Katherine knew.

IMG_5950 The good Catholic sister in her wanted to hold Nagler’s hands, kiss the bruised knuckles and draw him toward the peace and forgiveness of God’s love. But as his friend and observer of his life, she knew that Nagler would nod in an empty gesture, accepting the words, but reject the message; knew that he would battle against the dreads of his world in his own way. Knew that only Martha had been able to penetrate his protective shell.

“Her love will be with you always, Francis,” she had whispered. “Always.”

Nagler had nodded, but as she walked away, Sister Katherine knew the withdrawal had begun. “I will watch out for you, Frank,” she said as she walked head bent away.

In the cemetery’s silence, he tried to rise from the grave.

He had smoothed the rough, pebbly soil, breaking up small clumps between his thumb and fingers, then brushing again the surface.

He tried to rise, but felt anchored.

His hand would not pull away from the grave, his knees and legs had no strength to push him upright.

“Why did you choose me?” his cracked voice said. “You could have done so much better than me. But there you were, beautiful girl, and I could not turn away, could not say no. So we ran, and laughed and loved and told the world to get out of the way. And all that was you.” He closed his eyes while tears gathered and dropped to the dark soil. “It was all you. I could barely keep up.”

With his free hand he brushed a finger along the letters of her name carved into the red headstone; then his hand trembled. His face closed, then opened, contorted through anger, and pain, and sorrow and settled on the question.

swamps audible ad “Why?” he pleaded. Then silently, a voiceless word, drenched in pain as the weight of the day settled, said to closed fists curled at his mouth. Why?

Then he rose, and the coldness coalesced, the pain sealed.

“I will protect you by being hard,” he whispered.  “The world hurt you enough. Rest, my sweet.”




He walked.

Through the clanking, riotous rush hour streets. Walked through train whistles and shouts for cabs, walked past squealing trucks forcing left turns, past cackling crowds at street corners; stalked along Ironton’s cluttered sidewalks as if he was alone.

Walked as if the motion would grind away the pain; walked as if the pushed-aside shoulders would buff his grief to a hardened sheen.

Walked past the little troubles. Don’t care that you hurt. Don’t care what you want. I can’t fix it for you. Fix it yourself. We all have our problems and I don’t want yours.

Stumbled through the dark broken streets of the worker’s ghetto; walked past the misery that still hung on porches of sad houses, past his own life’s sad beginning, looking for that turn to sunlight and Martha.

Walked through the city’s pain of death and senseless killing, past wailing voices of families, the hollow eyes of victims, the hate filled darkness of a murderer, past the senselessness, past the killer’s mirthless laugh; walked to that point when they would meet.

Walked finally to the Old Iron Bog and breathed in the stinking hollowness of it all.

Nagler stumbled off Mount Pleasant to the narrow path that led to the flat, tree shaded landing where he and Martha first had come alone. Oh, those little tenuous kisses, dry,  then longer, lingering. The moment with a wicked grin she leaned against the car and pulled off her t-shirt, said “yes” and he touched her; then her mouth so soft, and the lavender  scent of her hair; her hands reaching into his pants, the relief.

His shriek rippled over the dark water. Loud and long, it drove nearby birds from hiding.  He turned and slammed his open hand against a small tree. Then again. He leaned his forehead against the tree and pulled out the unwilling tears.

“I’ll not cry for myself,” he whispered. “There are only tears for Martha.”

“Don’t cry for me,” she had said on one of the last days. “Rejoice for me. I’ll love in your happiness, Frank. Not your grief.”

Oh, he wanted to believe that.

But not today.

Today, he sank.

Shadows slipped across the moody black bog, hollow in its depth, a place for his trembling soul.

As he  returned to Mount Pleasant, his police radio chirped to life.

“Yeah, Nagler.”

It was dispatcher Millie Washington.

“Sorry to bother you, Frank. We have another body.”

A cold smile. The target for his rage announced.”

The Frank Nagler books are available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Brick  (Ocean County Library System) Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library.


The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:




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A new review of the Frank Nagler Mysteries. Warning: contains high praise (and the author is stunned)

We writers sit our desks and bemoan what we think is an inattentive world,

and then this arrives:

Thank you, Deborah Dameika. High praise, indeed. Thank you for reading the books, and taking the time to send me your thoughts.


“I purchased a trilogy of your books at Riverwinds in West Deptford.

I loved them! Could not put them down once I started the first one!

(The Swamps of Jersey, The Weight of Living and A Game called Dead).

I know you are writing the fourth and fifth book! Can not wait to read them!

Excellent writing! It grabs your attention and holds you. You are right up there with Stephen King!  

Thank you for your writing gift. I am truly looking forward to your next books.”

The Frank Nagler Mysteries:IMG_5950

“The Swamps of Jersey” (2014) is about political corruption and murder, and I attempted to write it in real time, that is to say, reflecting some of the activities that mark our present lives that carry some universal meaning, but use them in a story that is broad and wide, and with luck, filled with the lives of characters struggling to make sense of troubled times. The central character is Frank Nagler, a cop, whose troubled heart is ever present.

Nagler is called out on stormy night to investigate the report of a dead woman in the Old Iron Bog. It is the first event in a chain of events that set the hard-luck city of Ironton, N.J. on edge. Besides the possible murder, the city was flooded when a week-long storm settled in and wrecked homes, businesses, and streets, and Nagler is trying to make sense of a series of letters that claim to expose theft of city funds, except they are so incomplete he wonders if it is really so.

Then there is Lauren Fox, a woman sent to Ironton to jump-start economic development. She and Nagler are attracted to one another and begin to become serious when she leaves town without an explanation. Nagler was an emotional recluse following the death of his wife years before. They had been childhood sweethearts, and her death crushed Nagler.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY is available as an audiobook on and

The story of Frank Nagler picks up two years after “Swamps”  in “A Game Called Dead” (2016)

A GAME CALLED DEAD was named a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest.


Ironton, N.J., is still a city struggling with its economic and rebuilding troubles, but new heroes emerge. Meanwhile a break-in at the local college leaves two women badly beaten, and one later dies. Following a series of criminal acts in the city, including several that damage the book store owned by Leonard, Nagler’s friend, the story takes on a sinister twist.  The title comes from the students’ name for a video game that has taken on a real-world life. They call it “A Game Called Dead.”

The story is tense and propulsive.


“The Weight of Living” (2017) brings Frank Nagler face-to-face with a soulless, manipulative killer whose crimes stretch back decades.


2017: First Place in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards

2018: Named a Notable 100 Book in the Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest

2018: Named a Distinguished Favorite in the Independent Press Awards contest.

A young girl is found in a grocery store Dumpster on a cold March night wearing just shorts and a tank top. She does not speak to either Detective Frank Nagler, the social worker called to the scene, or later to a nun, who is an old friend of Nagler’s.

What appears to be a routine search for the girl’s family turns into a generational hell that drags Nagler into an examination of a decades old death of a young girl, and the multi-state crime enterprise of the shadow ringmaster.

The deeper Nagler looks, the more he and his companions are endangered, until the shocking climax that leaves Nagler questioning his actions to both solve the crimes and heal his damaged soul.

The story is entangled, deeply involving and holds an emotional grip.


The Frank Nagler books are available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Brick  (Ocean County Library System) Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library.


The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:








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The absolute truth about why there is a Statue Of Liberty at Garland Pond

NOTE:  This is what results from a little research into composting toilet systems, recollections of summers on Garland Pond, Maine, and a dip into the pool of Maine story telling traditions. The author can not be held accountable if any part of this seems incongruous. 


Well, them buggers down to Augusta finally went too far.

They actually decided it’s up them where a man can do his business in the woods.

Heard right.

Seems there a limit as to how close to a pond that you can relieve yourself.

Seventy-five feet.

  Anything less and all the beautiful water in the State of Maine turns a shade of pee-green, all the fish will die, and all the birds and critters that eat the fish will die, and you guessed it, all the men who eat the critters and birds will die.

Won’t be nobody left to tell the tale.

So, instead of coming up to the camp that summer for some fishin’ and beer drinkin’, we all had to arrange to move our outhouses.

Now, them outhouses were perfectly fine for decades. Perched, they were over a hole in the ground that was dug without a lot of fancy engineerin’. And I more than once had to instruct my friends and family from away  that they had to move the shovels and rakes out of the way, to make sure they didn’t leave the paper on the floor cause the chipmunks would take it, and that for the sake of everybody else to make damn sure they tossed a handful of wood shavings down the hole when they were done.

Stared down a lot of visitors from  Mass. who seemed to have some cultural objection to the process. Told them there wasn’t much choice. The nearest place with running water was about five miles away at Grady’s over at the big pond, and unless you bought something bigger than a candy bar, he might not oblige.

But if they thought they could make it, we could use a case of beer and more charcoal.

So the edict from on high came down.

Not only did we have to move the outhouse, but we had to install a cement holding tank.

Struck me as odd that the only place in three counties that had a supply of them tanks was down to Rumford at George Handy’s True Value. Drove by the place and the fencing and lawn machines had been set aside for a couple stacks of  them gray, six-by-eight structures. Big enough to live in. Smelled a little, that deal did.  George’s brother-in-law is a legislator who voted for the change, so why would I be surprised that George got a monopoly on the distribution?

Truth be told, I didn’t really have an objection to moving the privy. It had been moved before, especially after one rainy spring when it sort of floated away from the hole.

So after we all got accommodated to the thumb of big government pressing down on us, we got to work.

Now the landscape around the pond is not well suited for much since everything is on a slant, the pond being dug by that old glacier which plopped a chunk of ice as a parting gift.

After you scrape away a few inches of pine needle dander, and a couple more of rooty topsoil, you hit ledge.

And after one enterprising flat-lander tried to dynamite the ledge away and ended up blowin’ up his camp and sendin’ a good slice the mountainside sliding into the pond, the county supervisors  discouraged the use of explosives when relocating the privies.

At the north end of the pond, where the glacier  left behind a lot of sand, them camp owners had a time diggin’ pits, dropping  in the tanks with all the holes for pipes and vents, and went about their business.

But the rest of us, along the narrow road scraped out years ago around a few boulders, had to face the fact that our new structures might have to be  just anchored on the  most level spot we could make.

So while all the anchoring was taking place, a completion broke out, and the summer was spent building some of the fanciest outhouses you ever seen.

Since no one wanted to have some big gray old thing sitting uphill of their camp, they set out painting ‘em. Lot of green ones, naturally, a few done in camouflage, browns and greens and a little yellow and red,  some beach scenes which  really was out of place and got some folks talking about stagin’ a midnight paint intervention to bring back order to the Maine woods.

One guy painted a Red Sox logo on his, and then when he sold the camp to a New Yorker, it was replaced with a Yankees logo. We hoped the next camp owner wasn’t a sports fan because that was just too much change for us.

All we was looking for was a quiet place to do our business while readin’ a couple pages in the yellowed and chipmunk chewed Farmer’s Almanac from 1983.

But higher they got, which ain’t hard when you start four feet off the ground.

A couple English castles, a boat cabin or two, a 1964 Mustang, which actually was a thing of beauty,  I have to admit. A couple with two stories and windows,  one with a widows walk and spyglass, and an Egyptian pyramid.

Then it got ugly.

The politics showed up.

Some Texan on the south end had already pissed us off by buying out a couple camp owners on either side and replacing  their log cabins with a three-story  mansion. We think he was the guy who poisoned the loons. Bad enough he ran that loud thirty-five footer at all hours, but we tolerated that.

We had for years listened without a loud public complaint when Jerome Anson played “Reveille” at six in the morning when the pond was dead quiet,  and for entertainment blew off a little cannon. He stopped that after he nearly sank Jake McGill’s canoe with Jake in it.

Jake was fishing that particular foggy morning and was nursing a good-sized bass into his net when that shell whistled over his head and he dropped the pole, the net and of course the fish, all the while managing not to dive headlong into the cove, which with its rocky bottom wouldn’ta  done him no good.

We all awoke that morning to Jake givin’ Jerome some holy hell, for sure.

It might have been the Confederate flag that got Eugene riled up. Not just a little, regular flag, but something ten-foot across. The Texan hung the damn fool thing on a flagpole atop off his stone outhouse.

Now Eugene was a woodsman, a modest, hardworking man, whose family had settled the region after we won it from England.

He had family in all the wars, and they left headstones decorating graveyards from Yarmouth to Greenville. Gene had an uncle who was hero at Gettysburg, repelling any number of Rebel charges.

The way it was told, Eugene politely asked the Texan to remove the Confederate flag and the Texan kind of waved his check book at him and said he’d buy out Eugene if he had a mind to.

Some teens, it was told, burned the rebel flag and the Texan forced the  county sheriff  to investigate. The sheriff decided it was lightening. There was a bad storm or two that summer and a few dry spruce did explode.

Not sure what tipped old Eugene.

Might have been the barbed wire, and the wooden gate across the road.

Eugene lived the opposite side of the Texan’s compound, just past the stone outhouse. One of the camps the Texan bought but left standing was on the lakeside of the road and he ran barbed wire around his property and installed a gate where the two camps opposed each other, just like some detention center.

Gene had to wait each time he went to his camp for someone to open the  gate.

We think it was the flags that drove the Texan out. American flags of all sizes. Hung from trees, poles, nailed to the side of camps and sheds and outhouses, just a wave of American flags, a line of them leading to his camp that he had to pass under each time he went in and out. Outnumbered that single Confederate flag by a long shot.

It might also have been the sugar in the gas of his trucks, the sand in the gas on his boat, the little knife-cuts at the water line of his vinyl kayaks.

Or it might have been the time that he came back after a week or so out of camp and found windows shot out.

But he left. Boarded up that mansion and never came back.

In celebration or something, someone rearranged that wooden mess into a tall nearly perfect replica of the Statue of Liberty, including a white light that rotated and cast a pretty glow across the lake on those deeply golden sunset nights.

It was said that the light was powered by an old  Jeep that Eugene had hauled in and stored in what might have been an improper expansion of his camp – just a foot or two at a time, painted red to match, so no one really got a good look – but we never asked.

Now all of this took place in the past  and no one kept any records and most of the camps have changed hands a couple of times, so there’s no way to accurately detail it all.

But it’s said that if you slide your canoe through the half-hidden rocks at the south end of the pond, and the light is just right, among the new growth of spruce there’s a wooden arm holding a torch that might look  familiar.

That said, if anyone tells you a tale that says it is the absolute truth about anything, you might be a fool to believe it.

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The earth is leaking


it’s been underground for a long time, hasn’t it,

all that complicated stuff that leaks from your eyes at the wrong moment

just below the surface and it rushes up in a red eruption, flaring then cooling, a crust again because it is easier to cool than burn,

there is more protection in a shell than to be on fire all the time

because it wants be about what was, never was, is and might be and might not be

wants to offer salve for all the burns, all the disembodied phone calls when questions hung unformed and unanswered,

wants to burn it all down to ash

wants to be about fixing everything, scorching away the pain that we let time create, the midnight silent, ceiling staring why

wants to be about joy and the nectar of your hair, the salt of your skin, fingers touching

wants to be about joy but becomes about time

wants to be about joy and becomes about missing

wants to be about lips together, soft and brief

wants to be a closing, a cooling, pain subsiding, release

wants to be a fissure, heat tapped and rising, then bursting

the channels of love and pain and distance and blame unclogged

wants to be about both giving and taking

wants to be in that moment free

wants to be the tear wiped from your cheek

wants to be simple

wants to be that instant

when we float.






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June is Audiobook Month — And I have one

For the first time ever I am pleased and amazed to say I have a reason to celebrate June is Audiobook Month. In April, my publisher Imzadi Publishing released the audiobook version of THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, the first Frank Nagler Mystery.

The book was recorded and produced by veteran voice  artist LEE ALAN, a 35-year professional voice actor, artist, writer, composer, producer and published author.

Lee is a Peabody Award Nominee, winner of 14 Silver Microphone Awards and a former ABC Radio and Television performer and program executive.

His site:

I’ll be at the Warren County Park Fest  from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 9  at Bread Lock Park, Route 57, Greenwich Township.


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We are West Hartley Parkway

It was a voice from the past.

Fifty years past.

“So, what have you been doing for the past fifty years?”

valley newsIt was the voice of Jim Morrison, my best friend and rock-and-roll bandmate from Fulton, N.Y.

He had found me on Facebook.

It wasn’t that I was trying to hide, but when you spend your life moving nearly all the time it can feel like hiding.

He was the second old friend to recently reach out on Facebook.

The other was Bruce Coville, with whom I was in elementary school in Phoenix, N.Y.

Many of you know Bruce as the much loved author of great and innovative YA books. I can say I knew him when, which is a great honor.

Jimmy and I talked for about an hour, mostly about Fulton in the mid-1960s and our band.

Yeah, I know, we were two of 290 million US teen-agers who started bands after the British Invasion, but so what.

In 1963, I had a drum set – a four piece pearl-gray Ludwig.

We stood in the crowded hallway of the old Fulton High School plotting — Jimmy, who was going to play bass guitar, even though he didn’t own one or had ever played one; Ed Litwak, who did own a guitar and was sort of our Roger Mcguinn, and Ray Foster, who played piano, but never joined up.

We were talking about how to play Hermans Hermit’s “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Gotta start somewhere.

But we were musicians. Drummers, trumpet and sax players in the high school band. Music was not a foreign language, although rock certainly was.

4by4Next thing we know we’re on the concrete porch at our house on Fay Street plugging into our one amp two mics and two guitars.

We woke up my older brother, and our English teacher who lived down the street marched up to tell us to stop disturbing the peace.

And I guess we were. Good for us. Rebellion, in a small way, had arrived.

Fay Street was a rural road at the end of Fulton, a subdivision waiting to happen.

Our little amp blasted out some notes and the drums and cymbals echoed off the concrete sound board of the house, and we announced our arrival to the world.
We were called “The End.” Just because.

Jimmy and I were kind of roust-about kids. We spent the summers bike riding, swimming, playing sports, and after the band was formed, practicing.

We had parents with few rules, because that was the times and that was Fulton, a hardworking small city. As Jimmy said, his father’s rule was “Be home before the street lights turn on.”

bAND ON TRUCKWe practiced often at Ed’s house, in the basement of their home that was his mother’s beauty salon.  It was well carpeted.

We learned songs off the radio, or as Jimmy and I did when we worked as under-age cooks at the Three Rivers Diner, off the jukebox. We would sit at the counter on a break with a pile of quarters and play the same song fifteen times, trying to catch the lyrics.

Sheet music at Woolworths’ was like $3 a page.

We got most of them right, although I only recently learned the actual words to the fourth verse of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.”

The lyric is: I’ve got one foot on a platform, another foot on a train. I’m going back to New Orleans to wear that ball and chain.”

Two things: At 13, I had no idea what that meant. And so it probably didn’t matter that I sang it in a garble of notes that sounded like a lyric.

We once performed the Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” without knowing any of the verses. But we knew the chorus, and marshalled on.

One day Paul Castiglia showed up and with a cherry red Fender and he could play. He became our lead guitarist, and suddenly our song list grew.

We became the Four by Four. Again, just cause.

If early American and British rockers cut their chops at bars, we cut ours at piano recitals and parades. We played from the backs of flatbed trucks, playing once in the rain and got shocked each time our lips touched the metal mics.

That was the times and bar owners were not going to book a bunch of 14-year-olds.

We were lucky that the City of Fulton had an active youth program and a war memorial, which hosted weekly live-music dances.

We played them all.

Fulton is an isolated city, twenty-odd miles from Syracuse and about ten miles from Oswego. There was no public transportation so we all walked everywhere.

In the dry summers the dances were the biggest attraction.

We maneuvered ourselves into being the headliners and claimed the highest risers and best floor space.

But, know what. We were a good band. We played hard, stretched the songs when we could. And in battles-of-the-bands, with out of town bands coming in, we were the hometown favorites.

Eventually I moved away, as was my life at the time.

When I moved from Fulton, the band had become The West Hartley Parkway, a name that reflected the psychedelic trend of pop music.

I wasn’t with the band at that point. We had added a couple new members and there were creative differences.

And they were big, for that small town. Headlining the war memorial dances, and at one point, playing a high school concert when the school’s hallways were decorated with signs like “Follow West Harley Parkway.”

I went to that dance, even though I wasn’t in the band, and watched my friends take over the room.

At one point the audience began to chant my name, which was both gratifying and odd, and embarrassing for Jimmy, I know.
What was I supposed to do, grab to a mic and start a countdown?

I waved and smiled, and later left before the end of the dance.

I’m not Pete Best.

I knew I was leaving Fulton for North Syracuse soon, and that time had passed.

But what a time it was.

A few years later, when I was at Harpur College in Binghamton,  I ran into one of the band guys who had led to my leaving the band. He said he was sorry for “all that band stuff.”

I laughed a little and said, don’t worry that was five years ago.  We were kids.

Jimmy and I talked about that. That end had been hard for him, he said. And it was for me.

Sometimes it seems it is hard to measure the impact your life has, and harder to recall the impacts of other’s lives on yours.

I was a Navy brat, moved a lot, all the time. Attachment can be fleeting.

(Go head, ask me why my cop hero Frank Nagler is an outsider. Write what you know.)

But the impacts last, and I am grateful that Jimmy and Bruce found me on the Internet. I hadn’t forgotten you guys, but our times become part of the world I recreate in fiction.

Thanks for connecting me again to the real world.


A NOTE ON THE PHOTOS: The Oswego Valley News, left to right: Me on drums, Paul on guitar, Jimmy in white shirt on bass, and Ed on guitar. Why were wearing ties, is beyond me.

On the truck:” The elbow at the left belongs to Jimmy’s sister Vicki.



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Warren County ParkFest: June 9, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It’s that time again for ParkFest, featuring, live jazz, an art show, historical displays and films, “Authors Alley” where you’ll meet published authors, a classic car show, food trucks/vendors, and more! It’s all happening at Bread Lock Park, a Warren County, NJ park located on Route 57 in Greenwich Township at a former lock on the old Morris Canal, so-called because the lock tender’s wife baked fresh bread to sell to the families on the passing canal boats.

The event is rain or shine and admission is free. Be sure to bring a lawn chair or blanket.

ParkFest is hosted by the Warren County Parks Foundation and the Warren County Morris Canal Committee, with support from the Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Warren County Planning Department, Land Preservation Department, and Public Information Department, the Explore Warren County Tourism Partnership and other sponsors.

Sponsorship opportunities are available! To get involved, call 908-475-6539 or email and let us know.

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This grand American experiment

I’m reading David McCullough’s 2017 collection of speeches, “The American Spirit.”

In its way, the book is a cry for light to be shed on those thing that can be defined as truly American, beginning with our most famous declaration: “All men are created equal.”

From out modern cynical viewpoint that declaration comes under attack because it should have said: All men, women, blacks, natives, LGBT, tall people, short people, coffee drinkers, tea drinkers, abstainers, lefties, righties, the born, the unborn, and so on.

And, oh, the Founding Fathers were slaveholding rich white men; not all, but yes, most were, especially the Southerners.

IMG_5101Does that invalidate all they started with our War of Independence and Declaration of Independence?

No. They were men of their times, and human, McCullough said.

They created, he reminds us, a government that is based on the will of the people, the first-ever such declaration.

But what the Founders importantly understood is that ideals have a certain permanence, but not a rigidity. Thus: A more perfect union. Not a perfect union.

They also understood that if ideals have a permanence, politics is temporal.

And yet, it is the steady grinding of politics that produces the more perfect union: The end of slavery, women’s suffrage, laws to advance civil, voting and marriage rights, among others.

The timeline of human progress has always been toward more freedom, more tolerance, more liberalism.

Does that change us automatically into a loving, welcoming people?


But it raises the bottom.

We still spew hate, are suspicious of strangers, demand attention.

But we try to be better.

One of the interesting shows on the Travel Channel is created by Andrew Zimmern, chef and food author. While his enthusiasm for cattle testicles eludes me, his shows for the most part are about the egalitarian nature of food.

His best shows venture into The Bronx, Philly, Texas, the Southwest and foreign and U.S. cities to to show how food cultures are transported across political boundaries.

His best shows trace the culture of food in sprawling historical arcs, like the shows on the Erie Canal, the Lewis-Clark expedition, to Cajun country in Louisiana and visits to Arizona and other Southwest cities that show the influence of Mexican and Native American food on our diets. He highlights groups who have turned back to the traditional food preparation methods and how they influence a modern approach to historic cultures.

The programs show in not so subtle ways that being  American is a by-product of being a citizen of the world, and that all the temporary political noise does not erase that.

Three quotes from McCullough’s book highlight his theme: That while we falter from time to time, there is a piece of this grand American experiment that persists.

The first is from the great Maine U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith, the first of her Republican Party to stand up to Sen. Joe McCarthy.

“I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny – fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”

The second quote is from President Ronald Reagan, in his inaugural address: “How can we love our country and not love our countrymen? And loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they’re sick, and provide opportunities to make the self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just theory.”

The third is McCullough’s introductory conclusion: “Many a time I have gone off on a speaking date feeling a bit down about the state of things and returned with my outlook greatly restored, having seen again and again long-standing American values still firmly in place, good people involved in joint efforts to accomplish changes for the better, the American spirit still at work.”

The lines we draw are for the most part imaginary and temporary. We cannot let them become permanent.

That is our challenge.






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