One of the key “characters” in the Frank Nagler Mysteries is the city of Ironton, N.J. The old mill town has seen ups and downs, corrupt politicians and bad business deals. The changes are both background and motivation for Ironton native Detective Frank Nagler to solve crimes.
But it also has characters like Leonard, a blind man who has been Nagler’s friend for years, since Nagler rescued Leonard from the streets when he was a kid. (You have to read the latest book in the series, THE RED HAND, to learn that story.)
So I present this sample from the third Nager book the multi-award winning THE WEIGHT OF LIVING, as a testament to this weekend’s EASTON (Pa.) BOOK FESTIVAL.
Easton has seen a renaissance of its downtown that has included numerous food and cultural festivals. The Book Festival is the latest, featuring over 200 writers at 22 venues from Friday to Sunday (Oct. 25 to 27.)
Information about the event, with a list of venues can be found at: https://eastonbookfestival.com.
I will be among the authors displaying our books from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the First United Church of Christ, 27 North Third St..
I will be reading from the latest Frank Nagler Mystery, THE RED HAND, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Three Birds Coffeehouse, 226 Bushkill Street.
In this sample, an old mill that as bought by Leonard is examined and the possibilities for use explored. This is a mill that could be located in Easton or any old city seeking a new life.
“The shells of old buildings flanked Leonard’s bookstore like ghosts with gray eyes, silent shades, voices stilled. Dawson filed the thought away for another story.
“Ready?” asked Delvin Williams.
“You bet,” said Dominque.
Del unlocked the front door to the former Gold Wave Manufacturing Co. – the name hid behind the dust on the frosted glass window pane that filled the upper half of the door – and shook the reluctant door open.
“Look at all this stuff,” exclaimed Dominique, the youthful crew chief. “They just left it here.”
His boss, Delvin Williams, just smiled. “Just didn’t need it. The mill closed down, the workers took their tools and what else they could carry, the secretaries took their belongings, and maybe the desk flowers, and the boss just locked the doors.”
“And they left silence,” Dawson said. “Silence nailed behind plywood frames. What was said in that third-floor meeting room when the plant’s production was planned; what whispered gossip slyly swirled among the office staff?”
“Hey, Jimmy, what’s in these old cabinets?” Dom asked, pulling out a handful of old paper files.
Dawson looked over his shoulder. Ledgers, corporate histories on faded green lined paper, precise columns of numbers, unreadable notes in the margins.
“Look at this stuff. Looks like a financial history,” Dawson exclaimed. “With enough of these we could see the creation, success, and failure of this old plant, see its mathematical rise and fall.”
The reporter shifted over to a dusty window that overlooked a broad, empty space that might have been an office and thought, we could just not hear the joyful success or the harsh voices that debated its fate, see the anguish when that last decision was made, the order given. The voices live in the dust.
“This needs to be saved,” Del said. “Have some guys box this stuff up. Maybe the historical society would want it.”
“Got it, man,” Dom replied. “This is the place, you know. I think my granddad worked here and a couple of uncles. This is the place….”
“This is the place, the place of the mas-ter.
This is the place, the place that mat-tered.
Tired fingers moldin’, sweaty brows leanin’
Turnin’ rock into iron and iron into bread.
This is the place where we all gathered
This is the place where the tide is turnin’
The ghosts be talkin’ and we be listenin’
Raisin’ the dead, knowin’ the iron and the bread….”
Then Dom stopped and shrugged.
“Work on it later.”
Del just smiled and grabbed the boy’s shoulder. “Cool, man.”
Dom just nodded. “We can make something of this old wreck.”
“I think you already have.”
Del, Dom and Dawson turned to face the open door, where Leonard and Calista Knox stood grinning.
“I knew this old place had rhythm,” she said.
“It’s more than that,” Leonard said. “It’s a soul. I used to hear it. I’d lie awake at night. Imagine the pounding of metal presses, the grinding of a sander and wheels, the shouts of workers. Feel the hiss as the iron was quenched, the clatter of the loading on trucks, the whine of the rail whistle as a load was hauled away.”
“Them old sounds ain’t goin’ way,” Del said. “They livin’ in the walls, and I believe they just talked to our young man here.”
“Know what I hear?” Calista asked. “I hear the voices of poets rising to replace the industrial crunch; to be or not to be, Lear’s anguish, Ahab’s wail and Pooh’s laughter. All those voices leaking out of the walls.”
After a moment, the group laughed and Leonard said, “Big dreams here,” and nodding to Del and Dom, “and a lot of work to do.”
Del just smiled. “Yeah, Lenny.”
Information on all the Frank Nagler mysteries can be found at: