The ‘Weight’ is over. Third Nagler story done (except for the typos, editing and changes)

I was smiling at 3 a.m. today.

I had just typed the last word in the last paragraph of the third Frank Nagler story, “The Weight of Living.”

So it’s done.

Except for the typos, the edits and rewrites, but all that, in the world of book writing, constitutes done.

DEADCOVER715 And it’s not really a draft, because I write and edit constantly. On my reserve hard drive I have maybe twenty versions, and a dozen more cut outs, stuff that got deleted, reused, or never made it at all.

So, yeah, done.

I was smiling because I knew what the last line of the book would be weeks ago and had to maneuver the story and characters through the traffic jam of plot to get to the point when I could add the last sentence.

The surprise is that the line is not delivered by the character I first imagined would do so, nor in the setting I thought. It works better where it ended up.

What’s the book about?
Finding the identity of a young girl abandoned on an Ironton, N.J. street in the middle of a cold March night. It’s a tale that has Detective Frank Nagler reconnect with an old nun whose family has a dark secret, with deceit, and manipulation. It is about some of the most broken characters I have ever written about. It is about their salvation.

That is why that last line made me smile.  In six words the line offered the redemption that all the broken people were seeking.

Some of you won’t like it, and I’m sorry. It’s not a shoot-‘em-up. It’s not about terrorism or cheating spouses, or gambling or zombies  or aliens — all of which are fine; not set in a flashy location, but instead, an old mill, town trying to survive.

?????????????????????????????????????????????Its plot is closer to “The Swamps of Jersey,” with its ups and downs and numerous possible bad guys, than it is to “A Game Called Dead,” which was a race to the end.

But I like it, a lot. It was the hardest of the three Nagler books to write, but that is the goal, somewhat, to present a challenge to yourself.

That said, I’m going to give Frank and the gang a vacation.  We’ve been palling around for the past four years and I have other projects to take on, and other characters calling for my attention. But I have other Nagler stories to tell.

Maybe it will be Smitty, the baseball hero of “The Summer of the Homerun,” http://wp.me/p1mc2c-7x whose rambling untitled tale opens:

 

 “This story starts with me hanging from a tree branch about forty feet in the air after my successful effort to break the one I was standing on.

It was a successful effort.

We needed the fire wood.

Life is about hanging on to something, and at that particular moment I was glad I had that other branch to hang on to. The ground seems awfully far away.”

 

Or maybe it will be Henderson and Nola Jensen and the curious village of Mount Jensen, Maine in a story now titled, “That time the world visited Mount Jensen, Maine:”

“The Diner was shrugged under the last of the gigantic spruce  trees that once stood like a castle wall around the Inn’s property;  tucked it was into the drooping green barrier,  a spy, like some country boy on the roof of the grocery with binoculars watching the New York girls on the lakeside veranda, laying on their  blankets with their bikini tops unhooked, their tight little asses  tanned against the  white bikini bottoms, waiting for one of them to roll over and for one magic second point a pair of sharp white titties to the sky.  Did they not see us on the roof, Henderson always wondered? Did they not know how exotic they seemed to the collection of teen-aged boys  gathered there, grabbing the glasses out of each others’ hands  and yelling, then  ducking when one of them thought one of New York girls might have looked their  way?  But of course they didn’t see us, Henderson knew.  They arrived with their families in long sedans, stepped from the back seat with  shades and ear buds, phone in hand, tight shorts and cut-off T-shirts and stretched, arching their backs like  a cat, then took three steps and lowered the  shades half way and with an  Oh my God, mother, what are we doing here, glanced up and down  the dusty main street of Mount Jensen, Maine with its five houses, old schoolhouse, unpainted church and a grocery store and decided that the two days at the Inn, before their week at tennis camp, were going to be the worst days of their lives.”

 

If you have not read the first two Nagler stories:

The books are  available at the at the following libraries: 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.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton. http://www.clintonbookshop.com/

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta. http://www.spartabooks.com/

For information on independent book sellers visit, http://www.indiebound.org/

Available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

‘The Weight of Living:’ The story of Sarah Lawton

One of the understories in “The Weight of Living,” the third Frank Nagler mystery, is a connection between a 1932 murder and the current case. Can one case help solve the other?

It is a question reporter Jimmy Dawson ponders:

 

 

Jimmy Dawson read the last words on the computer screen and folded his hands in front of his face as if the shield could block out the horror.  “The life of Sarah Lawton” might have been the most difficult story he had ever written.

The jitter of diner noise flitted around Barry’s. A spoon tinning the side of a coffee cup, a cough mid-sentence, “but then he said…”; the slap of a spatula turning eggs, a plate sliding across the counter top, the thump of the cash drawer closing; “Thanks. You bet. See ya again…” ; the rattle of a paper bag, the metal scrape of the door opening; street noise car engine shouted voice, Hey, Ray!  the roar of a bus at the corner floating on the dusty, gassy vapor, a soft clank as the door caught, then vacuumed away.

“She had the gentlest hands, long fingers; elegant.”

That’s what her mother Jeannette Lawton said as she gazed at her daughter in her casket. She used to dig in the dirt of the back yard for that last potato, scraping her knuckles and being cut by the thorns of the brambles.

She tried to cover with a scarf the tan stain on Sarah’s neck, the now-faded rope burn that the mortician refused to cover with cosmetics because he was judging how the young girl died. “What a horrible thing they did to you, my girl.”

And it was horrible, Dawson thought, amazingly horrible, in fact.

The story unfolded in the diary that Sarah Lawton wrote and in letters her family wrote to the church before she was killed and after; letters seeking solace, venting anger. It dripped from notes written by staff at the Appleton home that were found tucked in the books delivered to Leonard’s store and leaked from the hundreds of photographs Appleton saved. Scene after scene, page after page connected.

Those rich soulless men taking the joy and lives of the girls they decided they owned, using them, discarding them; choosing more.

“July 7. More girls arrived today,” Sarah wrote in her diary. “They delight in the grandness of the place, the marble floors, wide sweeping staircase, soft pillows on chairs and couches. They know not that this is the gate to Hell. They know not that soon their souls and dignity will be stripped away, grist for the pleasure of heartless men who will laugh at your pain, the pain they cause and take such pleasure in delivering. Learn you will soon that no one hears your cries. Learn, too, as have I, that it is best to hide your heart to save it. If you show it, they will devour it.”

It was also a story that raised the most anger, Dawson thought.  The powerful, brazen in their authority making no secret that they thought the lives of the poor workers they employed were nothing, and then proving it by taking their daughters for their own pleasure.

And here we are today, Dawson thought, with circumstances so similar only the names have been changed. See what our money can buy? They proclaim. See what lies I can get you to believe?

Sarah Lawton understood this.

“Aug. 12. What do these fine men tell their families of their repeated absences? Do they not carry the stink of our forced union home with them? Do they not carry some scent of me, of my skin they have kissed and fondled?  But I detect you.  Your flowery bodice spray, the sea mist in your hair that your husband carries on his fingers as he touches my mouth. What do you say when those same fingers touch your tongue and you sense the unmistakable taste of me?”

The details of Sarah’s life filled Dawson’s mind.  Daughter an unknown mother, born into a house of incest, rescued by a poor but loving family; then the factory girl, but soon the sexual captive; finally the hero.

Yes, she brought them down, Dawson thought, at the cost of her life. And yet, here is the dusty tale of her brief life at the center of another more current scandal. Her death perhaps the apex upon which the new mysteries unravel.

But none of would end her sadness or pain, Dawson knew.

“Sept 13. No one hears me. My family is distant and thought I am happily working at Mr. Appleton’s factory, when in truth I was a slave at another type of factory. And now, here again, the sterile joyless farm home. How cruel is this circle of time. My mother once rescued me from this place, took me away from these cold quarters. How saddened she would be to find her here again. The smell of death rises here; such is Mr. Garrettson’s desperation. Nothing he can do would satisfy Mr. Appleton’s demand for revenge. Not even the deaths of the two young girls dispatched last week, killed for not being me. What depths we have reached in this world? There is no one to call to, no god, no savior, no friends to speak for me. This is the darkest day.  They will come for me soon. The stiff rope will encircle my neck and the platform upon which I stand will be kicked away and I shall die. And none will know it.”

He touched the computer screen to close the story. I need to let this wash away.

Who else has ever lived a life like that? he thought.

Calista.

The thought burst into his head.

She and Sarah Lawton are the same woman decades apart. The difference is that Calista is walking around, smoldering with rage and shame. That was the look on her face the day those books from the foundation arrived. The hated past, reborn.

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Trailer for “A Game Called Dead’

Thanks Anita Dugan-Moore and Imzadi Publishing

 

The books are also available at the at the following libraries: 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.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton. http://www.clintonbookshop.com/

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta. http://www.spartabooks.com/

For information on independent book sellers visit, http://www.indiebound.org/

Available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Cool review of ‘A Game Called Dead’

Thanks Jane Primerano

 

“The thing about series mysteries is they take some time to get going. You can like the first book, but not be sure there’s enough weight for a sequel.

So, when I picked up Michael Stephen Daigle’s A Game Called Dead the sequel to The Swamps of Jersey I was wondering where it would go. Would it pick up the story? Would it just give curmudgeonly cop Frank Nagler another case? Would it answer the questions about “the woman?” Would it answer the questions about the town?

DEADCOVER715 Of course, each book in a mystery series has to answers some questions, leave others unanswered and raise new ones.

A Game Called Dead does just that.

Frank Nagler is just as curmudgeonly, but maybe more compelling. The town of Ironton, a thinly disguised Dover, is still dingy and damaged. But, we learn it has a college and an independent bookstore. Daigle captures the town-gown dynamic and brings in some terrific new characters. Things aren’t totally bleak for Ironton, in spite of a murder and arson.

Daigle does not just type out another police procedural. He draws the reader into the story, but also into the somewhat irregular heartbeat of the town and its people.

Jimmy Dawson is back. An old newspaperman, he is trying to make it in the new economics of journalism with a hyperlocal website. His headquarters is the local coffee shop to avoid the quiet of the library and NCIS reruns at home. That is so relatable.

New is Harriet Waddley-Jones (a great name for a college administrator) who may or may not be part of the college’s reluctance to admit anything ever went wrong within the halls of ivy.

The initial crime is murder and attempted murder of two students who remained on campus during a break. The reader figures out long before the police do who the perp is, but the why remains the mystery. Is it tied up with a video game played in reality? Does it have something to do with serial murders from years ago or with the political corruption that dragged Ironton down? And are the campus crimes connected with vandalism at the bookstore and the fire at the community center?

The answers don’t come easy to Nagler, but the plot is compelling and the writing is masterful.

If you haven’t read The Swamps of Jersey, start there, but do pick up A Game Called Dead. It’s a great summer read.”

Jane Primerano..http://rackingmuck.blogspot.com/?spref=fb

The books are also available at the at the following libraries: 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.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton. http://www.clintonbookshop.com/

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta. http://www.spartabooks.com/

For information on independent book sellers visit, http://www.indiebound.org/

Available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Summer Indie Book Awards voting has begun (vote for me)

The 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards voting, sponsored  by Metamorph Publishing has begun.

The first Frank Nagler mystery, “The Swamps of Jersey” has been nominated in the thriller category.

Here’s the link to vote: http://goo.gl/PvY6oq.

Thanks  for your support! Voting continues through Sept. 11.

And here’s a new review:

4.0 out of 5 stars for “The Swamps of Jersey.”

Very well written🙂

By Kaila on Amazon.com:

?????????????????????????????????????????????“This was a very interesting story. The writing is very unique and very much its own style. The author is very well written and has an amazing way with words. The imagery makes me feel as if I can see everything going on. The metaphors bring the book to life in a way I’ve not seen often. I really enjoyed the mystery to this story and the characters are fun. You find yourself either thinking there is something weird about them, or you like the characters. I don’t think I found any character I didn’t like though. The suspense was very well done and I love that I didn’t see who the killer was before I found out. That is always a surprise to not know halfway through a book. I really enjoyed this writer and this story.”

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , | Leave a comment

New 4-star review for ‘The Swamps of Jersey’

4.0 out of 5 stars for “The Swamps of Jersey.”

Very well written🙂

By Kaila on Amazon.com:

“This was a very interesting story. The writing is very unique and very much its own style. The author is very well written and has an amazing way with words. The imagery makes me feel as if I can see everything going on. The metaphors bring the book to life in a way I’ve not seen often. I really enjoyed the mystery to this story and the characters are fun. You find yourself either thinking there is something weird about them, or you like the characters. I don’t think I found any character I didn’t like though. The suspense was very well done and I love that I didn’t see who the killer was before I found out. That is always a surprise to not know halfway through a book. I really enjoyed this writer and this story.”

 

The second book in the series is “A Game Called Dead.”

????????????????????????????????????????????? The books are also available at the at the following libraries: 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.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton. http://www.clintonbookshop.com/

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta. http://www.spartabooks.com/

DEADCOVER715 For information on independent book sellers visit, http://www.indiebound.org/

Available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The YouTube trailer for ‘The Swamps of Jersey.’

Thanks to my publisher Imzadi Publishing and graphic artist Anita Dugan-Moore.

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Transitional scenes in ‘The Weight of Living’. The next Frank Nagler Mystery

I’m about half-way through writing “The Weight of Living,” the third Frank Nagler Mystery.  It has been a long haul, but to use a really  bad trucking metaphor (Here’s to you, Dee Fox) I have crested the mountaintop and have begun the long slide to the end.

Here are two transitional scenes.

The first concludes what has turned out to be the first part of the book, which I think I’ll call, “The Long Way.” The second scene opens the conclusion of the story, which I think will be called “The Chase and the Trap.”

Funny how this stuff goes. The story now has more structure than it had before I wrote the above paragraph.

Anyway, transitional scene one:

“It was the nun?”

Jimmy Dawson wiped the coffee from his chin, where it had dripped after Nagler’s announcement. “She orchestrated the whole thing?”

Lauren Fox covered her mouth to suppress her smile. She closed her eyes as a giggle surfaced. “I’m sorry, Frank. It’s just …”

“Absurd,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief, even then, two days later.

They sat in the half-empty Barry’s, the conversation buried beneath the clatter as Tony the cook removed the filters from the stove vents for cleaning. The job seemed to require that each filter had to be banged three times against the aluminum hood above the stove. Even Barry became irritated. “Yeah, Tony. The noise.”

Tony just yelled back. “I could leave this to you and go count tomatoes.”

Barry waved him off. “Ahh.”

He stopped to top off the trio’s coffees.

“Hey, Barry, you remember if a tall, big guy ever came in here wearing a  tweed hat?” Nagler asked.

“Like I remember hats. This whole place is hats. Nobody ever takes ‘em off.”

“I know. It looks like this.” He fumbled with his phone until he found he diagonal photo of the tweed hat that had been left in city hall. He showed the phone to Barry, who squinted at the picture.

“Oh, that hat. Naw, I ain’t seen it.”

“If you do, call me.  It’s a big deal,” Nagler said sternly. He shook his head. I never talk to Barry like that.  “Thanks.”

“A little on edge there, Frank?” Dawson asked.

Nagler swallowed some coffee. “It’s like everyone is in on some big joke and I’m the only one on the outside. We spent hours on the little girl and a nun I’ve known since” he waved a hand back and forth in frustration, “Since dinosaurs walked the earth, was hiding her the whole time.”

Lauren touched his hand, then raised to her lips and kissed it. “Maybe she had a reason.”

“That’s just it.  She said, and I think she is right, something worse is coming. Something tied to the girl somehow, and to the company that owns the Sisters Home. I just don’t know enough.” He glanced up at Dawson and Lauren. “And I don’t know who to trust.”

Lauren put on a fake shocked face. “Not even us?”

Nagler laughed, the tension broken. “Yeah, okay, you two.”

“The church doesn’t own the Sisters Home?” Dawson asked.

“They sold it and leased it back from some company,” Nagler said.  “Sister Katherine gave me a list, some holding company their lawyers are looking at.”  He pulled the list from his jacket’s inside pocket.  “Here it is.”

Dawson whistled.  “Lotta names.”

“Yeah, she…”

“Look at this one.” Dawson held up the paper and pointed at a name.  “Mine Hill Foundation.” He nodded to Nagler.  “That’s the company you suggested I look up.  And I did. It’s a mess.  Have a story set to go out tomorrow. Give me a copy of this. I’ll see if the church lawyers will talk and I’ll add them.”

“That’s the company that owns the old theater, Frank. Remember?”  Lauren said.  “I looked up their tax records and permits.  It’s in Jimmy’s story.  They have flipped that building back and forth half a dozen times in a decade.  There’s about thirty code and health violations, ten of which are serious. A history of late tax payments. A whole basketful of stuff. But no one can find them. The city must have send fifty letters and conducted a dozen inspections. Let me see the list.” She scanned the names. “Oh, yeah, damn, here’s one of the companies. And… here’s another, aaanndd… oh wait, here’s the one that sent that foreclosure letter to my mother. Son of a bitch!”  She looked up at Dawson, who was grinning and over at Barry, who smiled and returned to wiping the counter. “What?”

“These guys are first-class crooks, Frank. First class,” Dawson said. “No wonder the sister warned you. Watch your six.”

“Yeah, you too,” Nagler said.  “I’d image that having their names plastered all over the Internet might piss ‘em off.”

Transitional scene two:

Del hunched near the wall, holding his head; a low moan, the puzzle in his eyes wrapped in a torn face, wet with tears.

“I knowed these men,” he said softly, “From my time on the railroad.  Not these particular men, but their type, the showy I’m-richer-than-God men, swilling they drinks, yelling out, Hey waiter, Hey boy, another round; taking, taking what they wanted, everything they saw, telling the world and all us little folks to get outta they way.  And I saw them when I was on the street, mind all jumbled, veins on fire. Stepping over me. I been spit on, kicked, pushed aside and ya just want to be recognized as a human being. Is that asking too much?  Then you see what’s in them boxes, you see how deep the poison goes, how strong is the wrong in what they doin’ and your soul cries out for justice and you just wanna bring ‘em down.”

He wiped the tears from his face, replacing the sorrow with anger and determination. “I heard you sayin’ there’s more like them today, doing the same thing. You gonna bring ‘em down, Frank?”

Add Del’s voice to the chorus. Sister Katherine’s righteousness, Calista’s fear and deep pain, Lauren’s sorrow, the cries of the community center kids, pushing back against the weight of the world, even Bruno Hapworth’s twisted self-pity; and the ancient silent pain of Sarah Lawton, the voiceless faces of those girls in the photos. Bring them down, Del? I want rip open their smug world, find the key that brings back the voice to that little girl we found on the street, soothe the wounded souls, end the pain in one, loud exalted scream: No more! Maybe in that we are made whole, maybe in that smiles return; maybe I heal.

Nagler reached over to Del and pulled him to his feet. He wrapped one arm around his friend’s shoulder

“Yeah, Del. I’m gonna bring ‘em down.”

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Up close with a Nazarath, Pa., book club

The plastic gloves filled with popcorn with a ring on one finger hanging from the fireplace was the sign that I was in the right place.

So all I can say is THANK YOU to Cindy Dauscher and the other members of the book club that meets monthly in the Nazareth, Pa. area.

And I hate to pull a Sally Fields here, but you really liked it, the book, that is, “The Swamps of Jersey,” the first Frank Nagler mystery.

?????????????????????????????????????????????These woman read the book carefully, came to the meeting with notes and questions and a list of characters … and Cindy even said the buffet was like eating at Barry’s, the coffee shop where Detective Frank Nagler and reporter Jimmy Dawson hang out.

Talk about positive feedback!

I was  questioned repeatedly about why such a character did this or that, how the story was developed, details of what was the source of information used in the story, and what was the inspiration for shopworn Ironton, N.J., the setting for the book.

It was gratifying to hear them react to Frank Nagler, the central character. He is presented at a grumpy, lonely middle-aged man who was once the most famous cop in Ironton, a stature he disliked.

The lofty statue resulted from Nagler’s efforts to capture serial killer Charlie Adams. But as Nagler said often it was also the work of Detective Chris Foley who helped capture Adams.

What I appreciated was that they  questioned Foley actions and motives in “Swamps” right from the start, seeing the tension that was established when the two men met at 3 a.m. in the rain in the Old Iron Bog to investigate the opening crime of the story.

They didn’t like Chris Foley, and know what, you’re not supposed to.

I was pleased to see that they liked reporter Jimmy Dawson, Nagler’s long time friend and nemesis, and who acts as an in-story commentator, and especially Bartholomew Harrington.

Bart was a character of necessity. I needed someone to carry the subplot of economic desperation seen in Ironton. Bart became a fun, larger-than-life addition.

When I presented them with copies of the second book in the series, “A Game Called Dead,” they demanded to know if Lauren Fox reappeared.

DEADCOVER715Lauren is Nagler’s girlfriend. In “Swamps” she lingers at the edge of the story. They weren’t  happy when I told them that she was as much a plot devise as a character, but they appreciated that it was Jimmy Dawson who tells Nagler to “go find her.” And they were happy that the end of the book presented the chance that Frank and Lauren would get together.

But it was the popcorn hand that was the topper.

The plot in “Swamps” is complicated and at times deliberately murky. I wanted  readers to follow Nagler’s thought and processes as he investigates.  But one has to drop some hints.

The discovery of the hand in the bog by police divers is one such moment.

I’m glad that moment stuck in their minds.

I don’t write this to say, hey look at me.

It’s written from the perspective that writers don’t often get such detailed, important feedback from readers, especially in  person.

I am gratified they took such care reading the book, and yes, it is some validation of my attempt to write a story with solid characters and other trappings.

Writers try to create an emotional and intellectual hook for readers.

The book club members in this case told me it worked. THANK YOU.

I am humbled.

 

“The Swamps of Jersey” was published in 2014 by Imzadi Publishing. The sequel “A Game Called Dead”  was published  in 2016.

 

Available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

 

Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton. http://www.clintonbookshop.com/

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta. http://www.spartabooks.com/

For information on independent book sellers visit, http://www.indiebound.org/

 

The books are also available at the at the following libraries: Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Parsippany-Troy Hills Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System.

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Where did all that pain go, Jimmy? Why does it weigh so much?

In the next Frank Nagler mystery, “The Weight of Living,” the detective faces events that eat at his soul. The story is about turning that darkness into lighDEADCOVER715t.

Here is some of the darkness:

The city hall parking lot was dark except for the sporadic light coming from the single street lamp still in operation — The light flickered to life, blinked three times and then went dark, only to repeat the sequence. The other six lights had been taken out of service to be rewired five years after the flood had turned the downtown into a temporary lake. The lot was a mess of rocks, poles, wire spools and equipment.

Nagler walked cautiously to his car, head swiveling, scanning whatever he could see in the temporary light. He illuminated each tire with a flashlight, then the trunk and the hood and peered into the vehicle. It was awareness not just bred by the black SUV that was recently following him, but a lesson learned after Tom Miller a couple years back tried to kill him by blowing up his patrol car.

That event had changed him, Nagler realized later, not so much because the attempt on his life, but the understanding how vulnerable all those in his circle were because of his job. Besides, the sneakiness of it had just pissed him off.

The shudder had grabbed his spine about a year ago the day he was investigating the murder of a wife by her husband.  The man had plundered their meager savings and pledged their home to bookies to settle gambling debts, but when the vig became greater than his ability to pay, he blew her up in her car for the life insurance.

?????????????????????????????????????????????In memory that day Nagler felt the concussive blast caused by Miller’s bomb, felt the smoke fill his lungs as he rolled on the asphalt of the city hall parking lot to escape the next shock; and then at the new scene he sucked in the dirty taste of burning rubber and plastic, felt the adhesive smell cling to his nostrils and  throat, the acid haze cover his skin like grease and watched as the cooling metal of the car’s roof transformed to a muddy rainbow.

Nagler remembered how he had felt himself withdraw, as if he was watching the whole scene on film. The weeping husband had already confessed, sitting in the back of a patrol car banging his head against the driver’s headrest. He had already told Nagler how he had watched from the front steps as his wife entered the car, adjusted her seat belt, blew him a kiss and started the engine, and as the car exploded, stared in her last seconds of life at her husband with tear-filled horror just before she was engulfed screaming in flames. This the husband related to Nagler in a twisted-face, hair-pulling drama, the plea I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I wish I hadn’t done it delivered with cold, hard eyes; elaborate fakery. And Nagler coldly thinking, what an asshole.

And then later with Jimmy Dawson at Barry’s staring at a coagulating cheeseburger and asking Dawson, “When do you reach the limit, Jimmy? Haven’t you ever asked yourself that question? Maybe sitting in one more courtroom watching a sad sack confess to a crime he can’t recall committing because he was so high he thought he was flying; standing there, shrugging in agreement with his public defender, and then with a yeah, okay accepting the judge’s word  that two years  at the county lockup was about right for stealing that forty of pig-swill beer and a pack of smokes from the liquor store. Or that last time you sat in a city council meeting watching them pass some rule that you knew was so wrong you could feel the damage to the city happening while they were voting on it?  Haven’t you ever just said, ‘Fuck it, I’m done.’ “

“When?” Dawson had asked.

Nagler had smiled sourly.  “This afternoon at that car explosion. I wanted to grab that little jerk by his collar and smack his head against the front door three or four times. He walked into that bookie’s back room with the word Sucker tattooed on his forehead and they took him for everything he was worth and his wife paid for it. And, know what, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.”

He picked up the cheeseburger, contemplated the cold meat, stiff cheese and dropped it back on the plate.

“The state will send him to prison for life, and the relatives will stop visiting her grave and say it’s good they didn’t have kids, and rain will wash it all way. No one will learn anything because even while we are speaking one more clown is sitting at his computer on one of those sports sites convincing himself some rookie shortstop hitting a buck-twenty is going to become Derek Jeter overnight and save his happy home.” Nagler had sighed and pushed the cheeseburger way. “I just get so sick of it, want it to be more than it is, but it never turns out to be anything more. That woman died horribly for no reason  and all I can do is call in a crew to sweep up the mess.”

Dawson had left it at this: “You’ve always made it matter, Frank. Always. Calmed the victims’ families. Took away part of their pain. More people appreciate that than you know.”

In the dark parking lot, Nagler smiled at the  comment. Dawson always said stuff like that, for public consumption.

And now Dawson’s being followed, Nagler thought. Is that my fault?

All because of a little girl found in a Dumpster.

Nagler paused  by his car, the air still, the city in his immediate area, tranquil. His sore left foot, stung by a half-stumble off the dark curb, ached with each new step.

Was that a sound? The broken streetlight flashed three times. What was that?  Nagler scanned the darkness with his flashlight.

Was that the muffled rumble of a car engine idling? Or the crack of a broken heart?

Where did all that pain go, Jimmy? Why does it weigh so much?

 

 

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