I’ve been writing and rewriting the prequel to the Frank Nagler series.
After a lot of back and forth, I think I hit on the idea that will carry the story.
I needed a meme to tie everything together and decided that the serial killer in the story leaves taunting painted red hand prints around the city along with the slogan HAND OF DEATH.
The story takes place 20 years before the opening of THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY. This passage sums up what newly minted Detective Frank Nagler is facing:
“It was about walking the boundaries. So that’s what Frank Nagler did as a young cop assigned to the night shift. Walked the boundaries of Ironton, New Jersey, a city cut in half by the river that once fueled the big iron mills and flattened the central valley like the bottom of a mixing bowl and filled the plain with the belching shapes of commerce.
Walked to the edges of the bowl to where the once shining downtown crumbled to the shells of red-brick factories whose stones stored the sounds of grinding machines and shouting men as if one day they would be released; walked between the dark homes and listened to the drunken rages, laughing kids and loud TVs as the city settled into its crumbling timeless despair.
Stood along the tilting streets of the workers ghetto and saw in his mind again the limping figure of his father, the weight of a killing job bearing him down; leaned on a dusty telephone pole and saw in memory the smile of young and beautiful Martha Shannon as she joyful as a dream greeted every neighbor.
Walked east and west, north and south, kicked awake drunks asleep in the rail yard, stood trackside shaking with the ground as the grumbling power of a diesel punched a hole in the nighttime and slipped away.
Stepped to the rocky, hard hills that defined the city, hills that rose up from the plain like forbidding walls and held in all the good and bad of Ironton and pushed back into the trembling center everything that could save you or kill you.
The hills that rose like judgement.
Nagler walking on, wanted to believe it was about redemption.
And then nine women were killed.”