Howard Newton explains political corruption in ‘The Swamps of Jersey’

Howard Newton in my mystery, 2014’s “The Swamps of Jersey.” understood exactly what’s going on in Washington, D.C. these days.

Newton is a former mayor of Ironton, N.J. He’s an old style ward heeler,  favor collector and dispenser of the political goodies. He dresses up his corruption in populism.

Newton: “So they set up an alternative way of doing business, because, hell, they had no money, but mostly they knew they could not trust the mill owners or the bosses or the bankers, the landlords or anyone who had control over their lives. So we all did favors, and some of the favors got big.  It was how we fought back against a system that was killing us, one in which if we played by the rules, we had no chance to succeed.”

The first Frank Nagler mystery. Available at Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Wal-Mart

The old man placed the cigar on an ashtray, stood up and put his hands in his pants pockets.

“Did that make us corrupt?  Don’t think so.  Made us traders.  Trade something, get a little extra for it when you trade it again. It was all so small time.  But you know what?  People didn’t lose their homes to the banks.  If they got behind somehow it was made right.  And when they got hurt on the job and the factory boss threw them out, their kids got fed, and the house got fixed.  Then they did a little work for you.  Look at that flood last week.  Those people will be paying off those repairs  for years because the insurance companies who sold them home insurance didn’t tell them that it didn’t cover  water damage.

“What’s it mean when a lobbyist for the oil business sits in a committee room and helps a Congressman write a bill about oil regulations?  Or when the bankers cook the books in a way that even other bankers can’t figure it out? The U.S. Supreme Court gave human rights to corporations and said that money is free speech; said big companies can cheat women out of equal pay. The big stores pay so little or schedule employees so they work a little less than full time so they have to get health insurance from the government.”  Newton pointed a finger at Dawson.

“That’s corruption, Jimmy.  Big time, in your face, stop us if you can corruption and they have the money, the lawyers and the rules to make it stand up.”

Clouds overhead shifted and Newton was suddenly standing in full sunlight; like a bat he shuffled back into the shade of the patio.

“They make rule after rule to shut that door of opportunity for the little guy. Get their hands around the throats of the middle class and squeeze.  They make deals that only benefit themselves and their money men.  The cut taxes for the rich and screw the poor.  Remember that congressman who wanted to get rid of Medicare and let the insurance companies run it?  That would put old folks out of their homes, take food from their mouths.  These assholes act like the Great Depression happened to somebody else.

“They won’t be happy till they grind everyone else under their wheels, the grinning bastards.  Eisenhower said fear the military-industrial complex.  These guys make the military-industrial complex look like a carnival, such is their immeasurable greed.”

 

“The Swamps of Jersey,” and  the sequel, “A Game Called Dead” are available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

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

 

 

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Join me at the South Jersey Book Expo, March 11

I’ll be attending the South Jersey Book Expo on Saturday, March 11.

The event is sponsored by BrokenBars Publishing. The event is at the Deptford Mall, 1750 southjerseyDeptford Center Road, Deptford, N.J. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the first floor rotunda.  I have a feeling you can’t miss it.

I’ll have for sale copies of the two Frank Nagler Mysteries, “The Swamps of Jersey,” and “A Game Called Dead,” published by Imzadi Publishing. “A Game Called Dead” was a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Book contest.

 

The stories detail the lives and investigations of Ironton, N.J. detective Frank Nagler.

Here’s some comments, since this post is, after all, a sales pitch.

On “The Swamps of Jersey:”

“Synopsis: Detective Frank Nagler is like Ironton NJ – worn down by life but certainly not beaten. Nagler is faced with a body dumped near the swamp that was supposed to be turned into a mall. This body, however, has no head or hands, making solving the crime much more difficult. Adding to the difficulty is the possibility that Nagler’s former

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY

The first Frank Nagler mystery. Available at Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Wal-Mart

girlfriend may be involved either as a perpetrator or a victim in a political cover-up that may relate to the murder. Review: This was an interesting story with a nicely convoluted story line. The characters are also interesting in that they cause an emotional reaction – either you like them or you are suspicious of them.”

And:

“A classic cop/reporter story written with plenty of clues, enough to keep you guessing until the end.”

On “A Game Called Dead:”

“Loved “A Game Called Dead”. I was so enthralled I literally could not stop reading until I finished it. I was eager for this book after reading Mr. Daigle’s first book in the series, but now I can’t wait for the next one. Highly recommend both of these books to everyone.”

 

deadawardpic “We aviDEADCOVER715d fans of Detective Frank Nagler, introduced in Michael Stephen Daigle’s “The Swamps of Jersey,” rejoiced to find him featured in “A Game Called Dead.”  This intricately woven thriller is dominated by an Internet  crime game that comes to life. The game will end only with the death of the one searching for the perpetuator of the game and the crimes. Breath-holding moments keep readers riveted on the outcome for their hero. — Alice Marks, author of the suspense novel, “Missing.” (A wonderful story, BTW.)

 

The last comment is from author Devorah Fox, whose writing is so good it both invigorates me to write better, and terrifies me that I cannot:

I greatly enjoyed the first Frank Nagler story, “Swamps of Jersey.” The writing is superb, settings so vividly portrayed as to be nearly palpable. The plot is engaging and the main character captivating. I was thrilled to learn that a second Frank Nagler story was in the works and couldn’t wait to read it.

In “A Game Called Dead,” Frank Nagler is still intriguing, a man whose sense of morality drives him to soldier on despite his deep personal pain. I may have actually hit on one of the clues well before the book ended which didn’t at all detract from the reading pleasure. The story isn’t so much a “whodunit” as a “why they dun it,” and the wide-ranging effects of the crime. I was rooting for Nagler to solve it because this very private person reveals himself in the how and why of his detective work. The only question I had left when I was finished was “when’s the next Frank Nagler book coming out?”

 

Here’s also a hint at what’s next: “The Weight of Living,” due April 25:

 

weightcover2-2-17“The Weight of Living didn’t disappoint. It presents a mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. The crime involves stones that many influential people would like to see unturned, stones that have kept secrets buried for generations. Despite grave opposition and at personal cost, Nagler, driven by his moral code, compassion, and commitment to help the helpless, keeps digging until he and his worthy cohorts have uncovered the truth. I sincerely hope this series continues.”

The first two Nagler stories are available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

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

 

 

 

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Cover for ‘The Weight of Living’ is ready

I am so lucky to have the talented Anita Dugan-Moore designing the covers of the Frank Nagler Mystery series.

weightcover2-2-17 Here is her cover for the next one, “The Weight of Living,” due April 25. My publisher is Imzadi Publishing of Tulsa.

 

 

 

The first two Nagler stories — “The Swamps of Jersey,” and the award-winning “A Game Called Dead,” —  are available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

The first Frank Nagler mystery. Available at Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Wal-Mart

DEADCOVER715 

Author Devorah Fox commented on the Frank Nagler series.  Find her on Amazon and other sites. Fantasy, (The King Bewilliam series); and   wicked-good detective stories, lately, “The Zen Detective,” and “Detour.” :

“I greatly enjoyed the first Frank Nagler story, “Swamps of Jersey.” The writing is superb, settings so vividly portrayed as to be nearly palpable. The plot is engaging and the main character captivating. I was thrilled to learn that a second Frank Nagler story was in the works and couldn’t wait to read it.

 

In “A Game Called Dead,” Frank Nagler is still intriguing, a man whose sense of morality drives him to soldier on despite his deep personal pain. I may have actually hit on one of the clues well before the book ended which didn’t at all detract from the reading pleasure. The story isn’t so much a “whodunit” as a “why they dun it,” and the wide-ranging effects of the crime. I was rooting for Nagler to solve it because this very private person reveals himself in the how and why of his detective work. The only question I had left when I was finished was “when’s the next Frank Nagler book coming out?”

 

The Weight of Living didn’t disappoint. It presents a mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. The crime involves stones that many influential people would like to see unturned, stones that have kept secrets buried for generations. Despite grave opposition and at personal cost, Nagler, driven by his moral code, compassion, and commitment to help the helpless, keeps digging until he and his worthy cohorts have uncovered the truth. I sincerely hope this series continues.”

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/

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

Frank Nagler mysteries as dystopian saga

Is my Frank Nagler mysteries series actually a dystopian saga? It’s a thought.

Granted, I don’t have beautiful, heroic teen-agers running through carefully staged ruins fighting the evil establishment and seeking to create a new utopian society.

Dystopia is generally defined as a situation of chaos and hopelessness.

So, three books into the series, a pattern is evident: The stories have evil, a city in social and at times deliberate economic chaos, terrorism, death, a sense of hopelessness among the citizenry, streets filled with protestors, and empty broken building, piles of  debris left by a terrible storm and ignored by an uncaring city government.

And the stories have a troubled hero — Frank Nagler.

This discussion, well, internal debate, comes as I plan the next two Nagler books.

One is a prequel involving the initial Charlie Adams serial killer story, and the cancer death of Nagler’s wife, Martha.

This one has a working title of “Lock Down,” which reflects the city’s response to the killings, and Nagler’s response to Martha’s death.

The second is the untitled fifth story in the sequence, an immediate pick-up of the story from “The Weight of Living,” due on April 25.

So, here’s the argument:

CHAOS:

coverquotes2

From “The Swamps of  Jersey:” He had not seen the sky for days, felt the heat of the sun, wore dry shoes or walked outside without that raincoat since the storm blew in and sealed the hills above the city with a dense smothering grayness, a swirling menace of thunder clouds and shrieking winds that pounded the city with an apocalyptic rain that sent the Baptist preachers howling to the hills about sin and damnation.  It emptied the grocery store shelves of everything but a few cans of cream of mushroom soup,  and locked the residents in the top floors of their homes as the river crashed its banks, flooded streets and rearranged the city landscape like a madman with an earth mover.”

From “A Game Called Dead: “The momentum for repair was lost in the political scandal that followed the flood and sent Mayor Gabriel Richman, ex-mayor Howard Newton and police commander Chris Foley to jail. …. The result was blocks of holes, homes and businesses empty and detours blocking broken bridges. …. the city looked like the Twentieth Century never happened, the modern sheen scrubbed off, the red brick, the rusted steel frames rising, cast scarlet by a setting sun, the rattle and hum of life diminished.

From “The Weight of Living”:  “There was noise and light when I was a child, Nagler thought from the back porch while wearing a t-shirt and boxers, the sound of labor and prosperity, as ephemeral as it was.  We labored; they prospered. Ten thousand more nails, a thousand wheels, a million bolts and pins, the pieces that connected this to that, and each of us to another, all lighted by the yellow-orange glow of hot iron, driven by the hellish hiss as it cooled. Then it all cracked, rusted, fell to disuse and from that grew the silence. And from that silence emerged the Warren Appletons of the world, and perhaps the Tank Garrettsons. The smiling face of shysterdom.”

EVIL:

“From “Swamps:” “Because that was what Howard Newton could deliver: services.  Help with a permit, a building inspection, working papers for some underage kid, a job in the road department that suddenly was opening on Thursday; a little environmental clean-up problem at your auto repair place.

It was the whole subterranean wink-and-nod culture that laughed in the face of the U.S. Attorney and his gang of sixty saps who managed to get caught.  They all knew how the game was played but just got so full of themselves they thought no one would ever notice.

Howie Newton had been doing it all his public life.  A little at a time.”

DEADCOVER715 deadawardpic From “Dead:” “What is it going to take for you to realize how this game called dead is played?  I am trying to teach you. And the longer it takes, more people will die.

Each death is a lesson and a clue.

And at some point they will blame you.

Is that my goal? To discredit you, to leave you shamed and wounded?

It is one of them. You’ll soon understand the others.”

From “Weight”: “These are lives that are already ruined, Detective Nagler. Alton Garrett?  Calista… that is not her real name but for the life of me I cannot remember what name I gave her… Daughter. Niece. Wife.  The same.  She is family, Detective Nagler.  Family is flesh, and flesh is a commodity.  I create flesh, and I can destroy it.”

HERO: From “Swamps:” The ancients knew what to do with rain like this, he thought wickedly, squinting into the horizontal blast of water.

Conjure an honest man with a ship and spin a parable about the wages of sin.” 

From “Weight.” Lauren Fox: “I know you hurt. We all do.  I … do,” her voice cracking. “But I can hurt in the privacy of my room where no one will see it. But we need you, Frank. It’s not fair, but you don’t get to hurt in private. You have to hurt in front of all of us.” Lauren sighed deeply and closed her eyes tightly. “This is a hurting place and we need Frank Nagler to stand up for us…

That’s what this city feels when it sees you, Frank. It sees Charlie Adams in jail and Gabe Richman and Chris Foley and Tom Miller, all gone.  It sees you and finds the strength to go on.”

The previous Frank Nagler books are, “The Swamps of Jersey” and “A Game Called Dead.”

They are available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Free downloads and a special reading

cover13-page-0 Available for free downloads in several formats on Smashwords are the following:

 

“The Summer of the Homerun,” a short story about baseball and being a teen-ager.

 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/299057

 

Sample: “The ball seemed to be something other than an object struck by a wooden bat and sent sailing through the air over the park; it was more like a bird, something with an intelligence of its own, or like time itself moving as we  stopped to gaze and wonder.”

 

“The Resurrection of Leo,” a short story collection. The main story is about a lonely man who learns to love again.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/282799

 

Sample: “Then I saw Helena, now resting on the bed. She was enraptured with the baby John, lost in his miracle and their survival amid the blood-soaked towels and sheets and the mess of his birth. She was both crying and laughing at once.

“He’s here,” she whispered; discovery begins.

I moved closer and like an ancient touched John’s small astounded face with a warm cloth and watched as he in confusion experienced water for the first time and learned of it.

“I …”

“Say nothing,” she commanded.

But after a minute Helena gave up the baby John to me and I held him.

For that moment and evermore, I am.”

 

And a bonus. A reading of one of stories in the Leo collection, “Weight,” by fantastic voice artist Diane Havens.

 

 

Sample: “The heart holds the heaviness of love and affection. It is where the joy of that first reaction rests, trapped in the blood, gaining weight until like some awakened seed it fills all of us. It is the moment of the first glance, the first touch and kiss, the instant of innocence and promise.

It is also where the bitterness of ending hides, cozied in some trapped corner, hoping to stay out of reach; seeking to become lighter.

In the mind love is one more electron flashing across a synapse, an idea triggering another electron to react and move; it is where we reason away all that happened at the end, categorizing coldly our actions to make sure the face we see in the mirror the morning after carries no stain of blame, no remorse, nothing but survival, having in some twisted logic claimed victory.

Love in the mind is weightless; only in the heart does it have weight.

I awoke that morning weightless; you were no longer in my heart and I wondered why.”

 

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

Light burst from darkness

Light burst from darkness.

Light burst.

BURST!

From nothing

And spilled everywhere like so many little gems of everything.

 

Burst.

The sound a cosmic slap; blew up and out and over and down;

Burst, ruptured, exploded joyous

And light running out, accelerating.

Light, then you; light, and breath and sounds, then touch

The spark in your eyes as you walked toward me, the glitter dazzling; the static of your skin, friction to warmth.

Light

Burst

And blew us over. Rained on us, soaked us in the questions of uncertainty, clues to be puzzled, probed, tasted, thrilled.

 

NO you can not be gone

Can not

Be gone. Can not be gone. Can not.

 

Light burst; flowed past

Filled the dark.

 

Light.

Left voids, swirling sucking voids

That darkness filled.

Left voids

Stole sounds, left empty air

Left hollows

Took words and voices

Took words and voices to fill distant voids with cries no one can hear;

Voids wrapped,  walled in bruised hearts, wrapped twice, thrice so no sound or light escapes.

 

Light burst

The sounds of tearing

The sound of breaking apart

Light burst

Burst.

Left a hole.

Burst;

Left a hole with nothing but crushing vacuums

Where we hold to our silences alone.

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

American carnage

In order to see the doom we are facing during these trying times, one must venture out to find it. The American carnage is everywhere.

So drive I did along roads crowded with those fleeing with their families for anyplace but here. North and south they drove, west and east, seeking borders to cross before those borders are closed.

Because a wall is a blockage from either side.

And there they were, the desperate Americans, crowding shopping centers and grocery stores, jamming sidewalks in downtowns, red-faced in endless traffic, sensing no way out. Hoarding winter clothes and the last of the summer  gear at half price; loading the last 24-pack of toilet paper, the final six-pack of paper towels into their four-seat SUV with wi-fi and surround sound; hauling out the last of the three-for-one canned soup, the last loaf of whole wheat bread and the final brick of Velveeta because it has been a long winter  in the years of our nation’s collapse.

And there they were lined up for miles to grab the last parking space at the massive farm where they ran from the howling mobs hauling pumpkins and corn stalks, and bags of the last fresh tomatoes of the season because they know that if they know that if  the debacle continues they will be scratching at barren fields, pawing at the cold dirt for that last potato and recalling the Irish potato famine or the  last scene before the intermission of “Gone with the Wind,” when Vivien Leigh declares, “I will never be hungry again!”

And they look for a savior, someone who says, “Only I can fix this.”

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? They turn their lonely eyes to you.

And the misery of them huddling at the corner taco stand, waiting in line for an hour, wondering all the while why there are not more, why every corner is not so adorned with the promised taco stands while the population goes hungry, texting their anger across the internet with scowling selfies.

And everywhere they crowded the groomed fields to watch their children play sports knowing the games are just practice for military exercises; knowing that only becoming Jennifer Lawrence armed with a bow will provide the measure of safety their off-spring will need to survive the impending attack.

And oh, the garage sales. The horror. Frightened countrymen selling their possessions for mere pennies, converting their goods to cash because only cash will have meaning after the fall.

So we prepare for the American Apocalypse.  We feel the doom descending.

And then we remember that it’s a Saturday, and that’s what we do in the old US of A on a Saturday in the richest, safest country in the world.

We worry whether that bran muffin is gluten free.

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Plotting the next Frank Nagler stories

Since completing the third Frank Nagler story, “The Weight of Living,” due to be released April 25, I’ve been thinking about what’s next for Frank and his guys.

In “Weight” Nagler searches for the identify of a young girl discovered one cold March night in a grocery store Dumpster.

DEADCOVER715 deadawardpicShe is shoeless, wearing a tank top and shorts and does not speak.

The search for her identify introduces Nagler to a family with a deep and dark history, and brings new threats to Nagler and his circle.

To those few who have read the manuscript (Thank you!) it is clear the story ends somewhat abruptly and leaves some issues unresolved.

While in a series such as this, some things are always unresolved and provide lead-ins to the next story, even I knew this was more abrupt than usual.

So what to do next?

What I’m going to try to do is bracket the three existing books, “The Swamps of Jersey,” “A Game Called Dead,” and “The Weight of Living.”

Anita Dugan-Moore, the talented artist who designed the covers for the books, suggested that she’d like to read the original Charlie Adams serial-killer story, a case that haunts Nagler throughout the series.

That would a classic prequel, since that case took place in story-time, twenty years before the current series. It would include the hunt for Adams and the death of Martha, Nagler’s young wife.

That story would also delve into Nagler’s anti-social, nearly depressive personality.

It will be a challenge to write that story, since some of the details have leaked into the other stories.

?????????????????????????????????????????????But writing is about challenges.

Anyway, I have a working title: “Lock Down.”

The title suggests what happens to both Nagler and the city of Ironton.

The story beyond “The Weight of Living” I’ve figured out, has to start almost immediately in story time after the end of “Weight,” and needs to address the emotional cost of that story.  I haven’t chosen a crime scheme, but it will have to be something unique to the series.

Again, I at least have a working title, or at least, a concept:  “Breaking the Darkness,” “Escaping the Darkness,”  something, something The Darkness… you get the idea.

The third book in the series, “The Weight of Living,” will be published by Imzadi Publishing On April 25.

The first two Nagler stories are available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Ringling circus setting in ‘The Weight of Living’

My Frank Nagler mysteries are set in Ironton, N.J., a fictional Dover and Morris County. In the third book in the series, Detective Frank Nagler ventures  into other parts of the county, including a visit to the  former Ringling estate in Jefferson, where the carriage house remains, and on the nearby county golf course, stone foundation of former elephant sheds can be seen.

The 1,000-acre estate was build by Alfred Ringling, one of the founders of the so-named circus, which has announced it will close after 146 years.

jefferson_elephantbarn

I used the setting for something different, but with a nod to its history.

Information on the Ringling site can be found here: http://www.njskylands.com/hs_jefferson_081

The site features a story and photos by Robert Koppenhaver, hereby credited.

There is the scene:

“You the cop?”

“Yup. You George Dickinson?”

“Be so.”

“Then we know who we are.”

“That’s a fact.”

George Dickinson claimed to be a distant relative of the old New Jersey governor on whose family’s land iron ore was discovered, boosting a centuries-long industry that put Ironton on the map. While the forges and mills filled Ironton’s sky with black smoke, miners cracked open holes in the ground in the northern hills to drag out the ore.

The forested hills were deeper and darker than Nagler recalled, as if the sunlight skipped over the tops or was absorbed by the dense forest. Nightfall would come early here, he thought. Steep-sided valleys carved by glacial water and ancient rivers split the hard-rock hills into segments that made up a mining district that ran to eastern Pennsylvania and produced iron ore, zinc, slate, coal, and limestone.

That’s all gone now, Nagler had thought as he drove through the beautiful yet unsettling landscape; overgrown, collapsed on itself, the history of industry and struggle worn down through time; it was a closed-in and moody place, perfect, he decided, for the twisted visions of Remington Garrettson.

….

 

There was some dispute about George Dickinson’s ancestral claims, but Nagler didn’t care. He had lived in the area for eighty-five years and his family settled in these hills before the Revolution, whether it was the right Dickinson family or not. Besides, Nagler thought, how could you not like a man playing golf in a lime-green shirt, red knickers, a white hat and shoes and knee-high argyle socks?

 “I play every day since they turned that chemical dump into a golf course.” Dickinson winked at Nagler. “That was a pleasant change. But I had played here as a kid. There was a little course of water and I used the old sheds as a green.” …

 

IMG_5189 “Those walls the remains of the elephant sheds?” Nagler asked.  He nodded toward a stone framework at the edge of one of the golf holes.

 “That’s it.  Can you imagine? Old Ringling had about a thousand acres for himself, built that mansion down the road that’s now owned by the church, and had lions, tigers, and elephants and what-all here. They used to drive the elephants down the valley road to the train stop. What a sight!”….

 “Just wondering. Beautiful spot. Can see why folks settled here. How many people lived up here?”

“Few hundred, scattered.  The end of the mining cleared it out pretty much. When Ringling was here in the Twenties, there was the start of a lake settlement.  When old Remington lived here, weren’t many others. He managed to find the one flat spot of land up on the mountain, worked a stand of apple trees, and then by luck after a washout, found an iron vein right near the surface. There’s two versions. One, he worked it hard for a couple of years, set aside some reserves and fixed up the house and all; and the second, that he barely made a go of it. Truthfully it’s somewhere in between. Mind if I play through here? There’s a foursome three holes behind me. They let me play as long as I don’t hold up the paying customers.”

Nagler smiled. “Swing away.”

Dickinson settled the ball on a tee and pulled out a driver with a head the size of a grapefruit. Nagler recalled a line from Jimmy Dawson, who said in other sports the players took steroids, but in golf it was the equipment that grew.

Dickinson took a smooth swing and the ball jumped out maybe a hundred and fifty yards, driven less by the power of the swing than the size of the metal clubface.

 

….

 

“So where’s the old Garrettson place from here?” Nagler asked as Dickinson lined up another shot: He topped it and the ball bounced out about thirty feet.

“Maybe a mile south.  The old mining camps, where the real money was, were about three, four miles southwest of here over the mountain. His place is at the edge of the fields. No one looking to make real money would have opened that vein.”

“Anything left there?”

“Yeah, heard hikers say there are some buildings, roofs caved in, windows shot out.  There’s a hiking trail that heads up that way. It’s generally smooth since all the rocks have been picked out.”

“I heard there was something called ‘Garrett’s Way?’”

“It’s an old creek washout. He used it as a way to his place.  Heard he blocked it off half way up with blowdowns.”

Dickinson took another swing and with an iron drove the ball cleanly down the fairway.

“All I heard about Garrettson was that he was crazy. People would see him on the valley road with a shotgun yelling at something, probably God. They had learned to stay away. I mean, Detective, they weren’t stupid. The wife dies when there were three kids. Then there’s ten kids and no new wife? Just wasn’t anybody’s business, I guess.”

 

The first two books in the series are “The Swamps of Jersey,” (2014) and “A Came Called Dead,” (2016). His book was a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Book contest.

 

 The first two Nagler stories are available at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

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/

 

 

 

 

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

Hey, Congressman, time for a more perfect union

This is a letter to my Congressman, Leonard Lance of Hunterdon County, N.J.

I’ve been disappointed with your voting record for a number of years, and after writing this I can’t even threaten to stop voting for you since I haven’t voted for you in more than a decade. If you had maybe worked harder as a state senator to help build the new high school my kids would have the opportunity to attend, maybe I would have voted for you. But you didn’t and as a result they attended a high school built for 900 that served 2,000 kids and had 33 trailers, a condition that somehow failed for years to move you to action.

But, they, like many other Phillipsburg kids, overcame your indifference and are doing well.

Part of the reason I didn’t vote for or against you, of course, is that I was gerrymandered out of your Congressional district, and used those years to vote against Scott Garrett, a skinflint so skinflinty he voted against refunding Head Start, as if that few million dollars used to help three and four year olds learn to read would threaten the national interests.

But you’re back, and judging your Congressional voting record, I shall have the privilege of voting against you again.

Which, in a narrow political sense, means that you have no reason to listen to me, especially regarding your persistent opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

I understand, you have taken your principled conservative stance against the ACA because government has no place in running the health care system, and you don’t like the notion of shifting wealth around from the wealthy to the less well off because it seems like socialism, or some nonsense.

And because it was named after, you know, a Democratic president.

And I expect that you will vote with your fellow GOP cowards to repeal the ACA, without a replacement, even though every constituency from doctors, hospitals, insurers, medical device makers – the real money guys — even Republican governors, and of course patients, have said it would be a bad idea.

 

Our founders said the country was created to ensure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In modern, more complicated times, that sense includes being able to receive health care when needed and not have to trade food for medicine.
We have created a complicated health care system, but threatening its existence should not be a front-burner cause; this is an area that because of the nature of aging, calls for great care. And your party so far has not shown any.

Ensuring that all have access to a reasonable level of health care can be seen as part of what the founders called making “a more perfect union,”  a wonderfully open-ended phrase that means we solve the complications of a diverse society as they surface, be it, racism, slavery, voting rights for women, and in these modern days, rights for the LGBTQ  community, the disabled and the elderly; it means seeking remedies that come from economic displacement, educational shortfalls, and providing opportunities for all.

Now is that time, Congressman.

 

You do realize that you and your 307 other Republicans in Congress are about the only people who might think repeal is a good idea. That’s a mighty small minority.

And you will make that vote even though after seven years, your party does not have an alternative, which is just, for lack of a better work, irresponsible, which is not the word I was going to use, but, I’ll be polite.

OK, stupid.

Let’s look at that has happened since the ACA was passed. And, yes, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than what was in place before.

Yeah, millions more people got health insurance, many through the Medicaid expansion.

Opponents like yourself presume that means more money is being spent on healthcare

Actually the size of the pot of money is about the same.

What the ACA did was  create more private health insurance customers by in part better using state (and federal) tax dollars to support the private health market.  The feds did not write the policies, the insurers did. It’s not perfect.

That was the beauty of Romneycare in Massachusetts:  It took state taxes used to pay charity care to hospitals for treating the uninsured into HC premium supports, which helped people pay for their own health care.  In New Jersey, that change has meant the state budget support charity care had dropped from over $1 billion less than a decade ago to $352 million this year.

State officials said more than 700,000 New Jersey residents have obtained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act took effect, reducing hospitals’ claims for uncompensated care.

That said, this is not a perfect trade-off, but a transitional one.  More need to be done here.

Just as important is the organizational shift taking place in the HC businesses. Hospitals and doctors and others, have taken steps worth millions, to realign care from a fee-for-service model to one that pushes prevention and outpatient care.

I spent a couple weeks last month speaking with people engaged in making that model real on a street and granular level.

It was a story on the Union County (NJ) health care assessment, a requirement of the ACA. All counties have done them.

The folks I spoke with  are dealing with health care on a basic level far beyond the effort being made in the ossified atmospheres  of Trenton and Washington, D.C.

You should speak with them, Mr. Congressmen, to see how much work is being done to improve the delivery of health care and how important your constituents understand the ACA is to their lives.

Because health care policy goes beyond your narrow political view and includes access to transportation and good, fresh food, education and screenings, sidewalks that are safe so senior citizens can safely exercise; they spoke about how nonprofits are working together to provide staff and meeting rooms to educate people about their health, and to gain understanding about how the system is failing to reach those in need; how these efforts overtime begin to bend down the curve of HC costs.

That is the real change in the ACA era, not your worry that rich people are being taxed to support a public good.

When has than never been true, Congressman?

Besides, the rich have enough money.  Despite your party’s complaints about the Obama economy, your rich constituents got richer. Using the stock market as an imperfect marker, it is tickling 20,000, three times higher than eight years ago, and I imagine your smart, rich constituents took advantage of that.

But, I know, you represent a well-off district. The median home value is $429,800, higher than the NJ state average of $299,500. One with a median income of $101,000, again higher than the state median of $72,220.

But, using the measurement in the ALICE report by the United Way of Northern New Jersey, as a yardstick,  about one-third of your constituents qualify as the working poor.

Here are some of that study’s key finding:

ALICE households are working households; they hold jobs, pay taxes, and provide services that are vital to the New Jersey economy, in a variety of positions such as retail salespeople, laborers and movers, customer service representatives, and nursing assistants.

The average annual Household Survival Budget for a four-person family living in New Jersey is $61,200, an increase of 19 percent from the start of the Great Recession in 2007, driven primarily by a 17 percent increase in one of the budget’s largest costs, housing, and even larger increases in transportation and health care. The Household Survival Budget for a family translates to an hourly wage of $30.60, 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year for one parent (or $15.30 per hour each, if two parents work). The annual Household Survival

Budget for a single adult is $27,552, an increase of 18 percent since 2007. The single-adult budget translates to an hourly wage of $13.78.

Why are you working so hard to make it more difficult for this group to help themselves?

It’s been sad to watch your career drift from being a smart Assemblyman to being a Congressional back-bencher.

In that time your district has changed, and needs have been revealed that don’t appear to matter.

The largest employer in your western district moved out as part of an industry merger; your district is home to one of the busiest, more deadly federal highways in the region, some of your towns are losing population because in part of  reactionary zoning put in place decades ago; and many of your older, important towns are struggling with redevelopment issues in an effort to remain viable.

These are solvable issues that need your attention, and one that your, old, bolder self would have tackled.

You once did, when you stood up to Christie Whitman’s effort to borrow $3 billion from the pension fund, an act that cost you a committee chairmanship.

But you voted against that move, and you were right to do so.

Where’d that guy go?

One of the wisest things I was ever told by an officeholder was said by former Morris County Freeholder Gene Feyl, who said that every person in office needs to be ready to cast the vote that would end their career.

You can face that moment and vote against the party leadership to screw up the nation’s HC system, harm millions of U.S. citizens, and thousands of your own constituents, and potentially cost many companies millions of dollars, or you can retire to the back bench and disappear.

And know what, the vote will not cost you your seat. You are in one of safest GOP districts in the state. They might yell at you or challenge you in a primary, but you’ll win.

 

 

 

 

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