Sometimes ask myself what I’m spending all my time on. So I complied a list.
“The Swamps of Jersey.” Detective Frank 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 as 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 the letters 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 story is filled with well-drawn characters, numerous intrigues, and is set against a dying city whose condition is an echo of the world we know today.
“Swamps” was born out of an attempt to expand a segment of the first Nalger story, “A Game Called Dead,” which is described below. As that segment took shape, it moved in the direction evident in the story. The key shift came when I was sitting in a park in the New Jersey town that is the model for Ironton, and while watching some children play on a new playground the phrase “There’s more here than meets the eye,” popped up and from that phrase the character of Lauren Fox. After than, the story shifted away from its form in “Dead” to the current form.
“A Game Called Dead.” This is the second “Frank Nagler” story, and the first to be written. Two story lines intertwine: The murder of a college student who was a leading gamer in a video game that students morphed in to a costume-heavy real world version, and the release of a serial killer who was a teen-ager when he was convicted of a series of deaths. That killer has a tie to Frank Nagler, which only the killer and Nagler know.
Since “The Swamps of Jersey” was a rewritten version of one part of “Dead,” and the story left a few things up in the air, those elements must be reconciled within the new story.
“The Game is Over.” This is the third “Frank Nagler” story. Lauren Fox, Nagler’s love interest in “Swamps,” returns.
“Oswald’s War” (working title). Nola Jensen, the sole heir to the estate left by her family, founders of the town of Mount Jensen, Maine, returns after many years during which she was on the run for her role in a Boston hold-up in which a police officer was killed. Tired of hiding and dragging her teen-age daughter from town to town, Nola seeks peace and reconciliation. What she finds is a small town torn by conflict.
New residents from out of state want to turn the rural, lake front town into a version of what they left behind and the natives are resisting. There are fights over land, water and reconstruction that take many forms.
At the center of the story are Nola and her collection of friends she left behind. Chief among them are Henderson, who owns the local diner, “Tender” Johnson, who works in a local paper mill, Dennis LeGrange, a deputy sheriff, and Oswald Neggerson, a poor farmer whose family, he claims, was defrauded by Nola’s family centuries before.
When Nola and her daughter return to Mount Jensen, it is to witness Oswald pointing a rifle at Henderson in front of his diner.
It is a story of cultures clashing, disputes in any form that are as old as the hills and as new as plans for change. It is a story about friendship and love and family, a story about generations: Nola’s daughter Emma and a local boy, Max, are both caught up in the adult events and their own explorations.
It is also a story about the clash of ideas as Nola and Oswald face off.
I see this story as a broad grand tale.
“Somerset” Hadley Chandler is the editor of a local weekly newspaper in Somerset, Maine. One day a local landowner shows him a series of photos taken of some of his forest land. In the last set of photos, the trees are dying and the land is eroding. That begins a tale that centers on industrial pollution, environmental terrorism and the impact on the town of Somerset and its residents. It is both a slice-of-life story that gives Chandler an opportunity to be the center of the action, and a modern story of spying, stolen land and broken trust.
“Welcome to Gokey Manor.” A coming-of-age about Stephen Gardner and his co-tenants of a boarding home, including an Army veteran, a teen-age runaway, students and some young adults working away from home for the first time. This story was written years ago and needs an update, but the basic story holds together.
You may ask why so many works in progress. A thirty-year career in newspapers took up most of the time. Some of these stories have had at least two re-writes and starts. Two, “Dead” and “Gokey Manor” have gone through two full rewrites.
The re-write of “Dead” led to the completion of “The Swamps of Jersey.”
At the same time I completed several shorter works.
I have had four shorter works recorded by a talented voice artist Diane Havens as part of a monthly promotional effort.
Seek the listing, “Recordings” on this site.
Diane has suggested that if I complete a third story with a woman as chief character, it would make a compelling audio collection of stories. I am working on such a story.