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:
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.”
“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.”
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:
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/