Nagler 6: Introducing Annie

Work in Progress, Book Six in the Frank Nagler mystery series, so far titled NAGLER’S  SECRET, will have a new role for Annie, the young, silent girl whose mystery was central to the third book in the series, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING.

Here’s a peek:

Leonard’s fingers jittered on the table to the rumble of the jackhammers tearing holes in the street for new gas lines  just outside his window. He closed his eyes and absorbed the motion as the building vibrated to the concussive burr-rupp of steel on concrete; the sound made his back hurt.

Photo by Dave Norton

The book store had quieted after the raucous lunch crowd cleared Barry’s counter and dragged their loud chatter to the street. Leonard had come to know the regulars as they greeted him on their way in or out, not just by voice, but by  their height as measured by how far above his seat  their voice seemed, by their footfall or the size of their hand on his shoulder as they greeted him.

He had never seen any of their faces, but would be able to pick them from a crowd if he had to, his blind boy’s survival skill.

He smiled as he honed in on cook  Tony’s mangled version  of “My Girl,” now competing with a syrupy Musak version of  “Uptown Girl” that leaked from the ceiling speakers.

That’s how calm life in Ironton had been for the past eight or nine months, Leonard thought. No terrorists blowing up buildings, or taking rifle shots at the local cops. No fascists trying to rewrite the city charter or rig elections.

Time, he thought, to  concentrate on the  anarchy of Tony’s vocal selections.

“Tony, my friend,” Leonard called out, “If you are going to sing the classics, please at least learn the words.”

“Everyone’s a critic. Ya want lunch there, Len?”

“Thank you. The usual, chicken salad on wheat, lettuce and tomato.”

“Want I should toss on some hot peppers, ya know, get you outta your comfort zone?”

“I’m comfortable where I am,” Leonard replied.

Tony returned to singing offkey, filling in the gaps with the clatter of a dish or two.

“Annie,  could you deliver this to Mr. Consistency? Thanks, kid.” Tony yelled to Leonard. “Comin’ you’re way. Thrill a  minute.”

Annie crossed the wooden floor with practiced stealth, her feet sliding rather than stepping  and her arrival at Leonard’s side with a kiss to his forehead mildly startled him. 

“Brought you an iced tea,” she said.

He smiled and said thanks as he inhaled her aroma, a mix of strawberry shampoo and cooking grease.

“Busy today,” he said, listening as two chairs were shifted. He imagined Annie draped across one chair with her feet resting  on the arm of another.   “Feet on the floor.”

“Ah,” Annie said as the chairs shifted. “Spooky how you know that. I know, I know, blind and all that. You need to teach me how.”

“I’d say you already know how. You get around rather quietly.”

“Speaking of feet,” she said in between sips of her soda, “Mine are killing me. It was super busy.  If this keeps up, I’ll be able to afford my own place by Christmas.”

She laughed and Leonard listened as her voice chimed off the ceiling  and the thick window glass. “And how will you get around town, Miss Fourteen-year old?”

“I’m only moving next door.  Isn’t that why you remodeled the top floor of that warehouse into a fabulous loft, so me, your fabulous daughter, can lead  my fabulous life in style?”

“I just rented it  to a law office,” Leonard laughed. “Maybe they can rent you a couch.”
          “You’d do that to moi? I wonder if Uncle Frank and Lauren have a spare room.”

The door behind Leonard rattled open.

“Hey, Uncle Frank. Leonard’s kicking me out. Can I crash at your place?”

Detective Frank  Nagler closed the door and leaned against the frame with a dramatic sigh.

“That’s twice this month, aw, Leonard. Well, okay, Annie, but you’ll have to do chores, I mean Lauren and I are rather busy.” He yelled to Tony. “Got any coffee that was brewed today?”

“Wise guy,” Tony yelled back.

Nagler thumped into a seat at the table and cradled his head in his hands, wiped his hair back and grabbed Leonard’s hand while Annie reached for his other one.

“I already do chores,”  she leaned in to Nagler and whispered. “Slave wages.” She rolled her eyes.

Tony arrived with a pot of coffee and a cup, which he filled.

Nagler inhaled half the cup and nodded thanks.

“You sound exhausted, Frank,” Leonard said.

“Sound?” Annie said, “You should see him. No offence, but you need a shower.”

“Yeah. Was on that search of the Dickerson reservation. Looking for a kid. Eighteen hours.”

“Did you find him?” Leonard asked.

Nagler shook his head.  “Adding  more searchers. He was ten, eleven, a foster kid.”

Annie flipped over her phone and began to type.

“Yeah, a couple guys mentioned that at breakfast.” She scrolled through the search results, then shrieked.  She pointed the phone toward Nagler. “I know him, well, knew him. Oscar. He was no foster kid. He was at that same place Leonard and  Calista got me out of.  He probably escaped.”

Nagler glanced at Leonard, whose blank face  said he was hiding information.

He turned to Annie.

“Why would he escape? I thought that place was a protective home.”

The girl stared at the table for a moment then flicked her eyes toward Leonard.

“Don’t look at him,” Nagler said.

“It was a bad place,” she began, “Run by…”

Leonard interrupted her. “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you all of it, Frank. You were occupied subduing the Dragony. We had meant to tell you all, but …” He shrugged.

“That was nine months ago,” Frank said. “Any time since…”

“I didn’t want them to tell you,” Annie said. “I didn’t want to make you sad again.”

“And you didn’t want to live through it again, right?” Nagler asked. What didn’t they tell me? He cupped one of her hands in his. “I know. But you all, including Calista, have to fill me in  on the whole thing. Especially since we now have a missing kid.”

Annie offered a crooked grin, trying to lighten the mood. “Is this how you treat criminals, Uncle Frank?”

“You’re not  a criminal, Annie. But you might be in danger. Tell me what you know about Oscar.”

The Frank Nagler Mysteries are: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; A GAME CALLED DEAD; THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; THE RED HAND.

Coming this call: DRAGONY RISING.

Catch up with the award-winning Frank Nagler Mysteries at:

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (Search by book title)_

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Thing You’re Never Supposed to do on the Internet: Part 2

A quick story with a little mystery.

Part 2: Jack finds out who sent him photos of the green door and what’s behind it.

The dream at 2 a.m.

It was May, senior year. The trees had just filled out and street lights glowed through leaves with a soft green patina. Graduation  was a month off, Alice Cooper pounding in  his head – “School’s  out for summer… School’s out completely…”  There he was beer buzzed, running down streets with dark houses, angry, jumping at tree trunks, stopping in an open field yelling, “How could you?!” Running, trying to outdistance the loneliness, the rejection; running through what? Tall red grass? Something sticky and wet, which made no sense. Then just before he woke up in a sweat, her face, Jenny Nelson’s, and in the fuzzy background  a growling voice, “Hey loser, get out of here. Who invited you, anyway?”

Jack Digger started at the ceiling, eyes wide, mouth open. Running through tall, red grass? Some shrink would love to analyze that image.

Where did he end up that night? That wasn’t his crowd, the football crowd. Team jackets, a couple new sports cars, talk of scholarships. Jenny had just invited him to the party to be nice, he supposed. They had been friends for years, sharing classes, bus rides on school band trips. She had seemed different, a member of  that crowd,  but somehow apart. And suddenly she wasn’t. What had she said at that party? Maybe she was just a little high. Whatever it was, it ripped through him and he called her something nasty and on the way out kicked over a beer keg, which got him  chased by half the guys, but they were too loaded to run for long.

“Oh, man. Triggered by Todd saying her name,” he said to the ceiling. “Aren’t you supposed to forget that stuff after thirty years?”

He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair. No falling back to sleep after that.

He opened his computer and searched for Jennifer Nelson, Greenside, N.Y.

Sure enough, she was dead. A week ago.

“Murdered.” Someone hated her.

Jack searched for a news story about the murder and found several, including one in the New York Times filled with background information.

 “Some people just want to be a big deal.”

He hopped out of bed and wandered to the kitchen trying to walk and read the computer screen at the same time. He kept reading while he filled the Keurig with water and brewed a cup of Ethiopian.

“Oh, look at that … did go to old MIT, degree in something about biomechanical DNA analysis, use of water by plants… Really? Couldn’t find anything more pretentious? ...  Reading: “Break though study, patent applied for… who’s this guy? “(Jennifer) was  leading the grain industry to a new tomorrow, one diametrically opposed to its past… and preparing it  for the hard choices that will need to be made in a world facing climate change…”

Saving the world, were you? Couldn’t even save yourself.

           “What’d they say about her death? She had moved back to Greenside three years ago…Look at all the things people do when  you’re not looking?” Reading: “She started  a company to grow organic vegetables using experimental farming techniques. … In the shuttered Greenside Frozen Foods Company complex. She was found stabbed to death in the refrigerated warehouse … workers returning to work on Monday found her in the produce section, behind some pallets, under a tarp, police said. She hadn’t been seen in the office for a week; her secretary said something about a conference in Colorado. The medical examiner said the cold would make a precise determination of her day and time of her death challenging, but he offered an estimate.”

          That’s what I thought.

Jack sipped his coffee and scrolled through the few other stories about her death. One had a photo.

“Oh, that’s her husband, no, ex-husband, Mark Maguire, that jerk quarterback. He threw me out of that party. They’ll think he did it.  Cops always like spouses as suspects, ex-spouses even more. Wonder what the divorce settlement was like? Maybe she only gave him a cut of the arugula.”


         That was some complex, even half empty, he recalled. Some company. Green packaging, had a big green vegetable as a mascot. The company cars were green. The doors are still green.

He let that idea settle before he closed down the search engine. It felt satisfying. No, felt complete.

His mailbox  held more than twenty new messages.

“I’m sorry, Jenny. Business calls. Rest in peace, Blondie.”

With his finger poised on his mouse to open the mailbox, Jack waited for a flicker of sorrow to emerge.  All he heard was Todd’s dismissive voice: “You can really be a jerk sometimes.”

Jack smiled. “I know. Ain’t it great?”

He opened the mailbox and recognized a familiar name.

He downloaded the file and saw a photo of bloody knife.

With glee: “Perfect.”

His phone rang and Jack saw it was Todd.

“Todd, it’s four a.m.”

“I know. When was the last time you were in Greenside?”

“Why would you ask that?”

“It was a two weeks ago, class reunion. Your first in  decades. You called me about a weak computer link because you were in some fleabag motel with bad wifi. Remember what you told me, gonna make them finally pay attention to you.  How’d that go?  Not like you planned, huh? Did she call you a loser again?”

“You don’t know that, Todd.”

“Jack, I do. I set up your system. I can track you anywhere, and I know you sent the green door photos and the one of the bloody knife to yourself. How many more are there, Jack? What are they, trophies? Christ, Jack. Did you take one of her dead body?”

“Todd…”

“You do know the absolute last thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet is post evidence of your own crime. I’m hanging  up. I have a call to make.”

“Todd, don’t hang up. I can pay you.” The ice hardened in Jack’s voice, words like gravel. “Don’t make … don’t make that call, Todd.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Thing You’re Never Supposed to do on the Internet: Part One

A few weeks ago, someone using a computer in the Caribbean resort island Sint Martin, dug out a post from my website archive about the fight between the  Phillipsburg, N.J. town council and the town library.

That prompted the thought about how sneaky (and/or) potentially corrupt the Internet can be.

And that thought prompted this exercise in quick fiction.

PART ONE

After struggling for years to develop an Internet niche as an investigator,  Jack Digger hatched a block-buster blog that in a non-threatening, technologically simple manner advised the millions  befuddled by basic computer commands how not to get scammed.

So he  knew better than to open that email file.

He called the blog, “The first thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet.”

That had become the phrase he repeated to his subscribers  after they told him they had opened a suspicious file from an unknown sender and had to pay their way out of it, either in actual cash  or for new software.

After a session with a client, he would ask himself  this question: What are you hiding?  You only pay when you get caught, and you only get caught when  you’re fishing in the deep end without a clue.

Subscribers received his list of ten things never to do on the Internet. He advised them to print it out and tape it on the wall directly above  their desk as a daily reminder. He actually thought they should tape it to their forehead so it would be the first thing they saw each morning, but he didn’t tell them that.

The address of this particular message seemed familiar, even if it did contain  seventeen characters and a clearly random made-up name.

As had become his practice, he copied the address without opening the actual message and stored it in a separate file of offending  internet codes.

“Look at that.”

No wonder it  seemed familiar: He had already copied the same address into the file.

He searched his  “deleted” folder and there it was — twice, once from two days before and again four days before that. Someone thinks they’re important.

Intrigued, he did  the first thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet and opened the file.

His computer screen did  not explode with threatening messages.

The file contained a code for a photograph.

So he did the second thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet and opened the photo file.

It displayed a scratched-up green metal door framed by red bricks.

Every place he lived had brick buildings and he was sure that more than  one of them had green doors.

More deeply intrigued, and again  breaking his own rules,  he did the third thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet and downloaded the file to his computer desktop.

The door  in the photo didn’t seem to be as much scratched as attacked.

What had appeared in the miniature version as scrapes, in the enlargement were punctures, holes with torn edges, like knife wounds. Really big knife wounds. Somebody was angry.

He scrolled the  photo up and down and side to side, even tipping his head at an angle as if that that would clarify the image. He laughed. “Dumb.”

He punched “Todd” on his phone and waited for an answer.

Todd Fleming was a high school friend and tech whiz who had set up his website.

“What did you open on your computer this time?” Todd asked, his voice both smarmy and disinterested. In Todd’s view the codes were never wrong, just the  humans who tried to manipulate them; everyone but himself, of course. “And who do you need to pay a thousand bucks to so they’ll release your computer?”

“No one, this time,” Jack said.

 Todd had extracted him from a couple ransomware attacks, so the question was legitimate.

“It’s this photo of a green door in a brick building I was sent. The door seems to  have  been attacked. It’s full of holes, and there seems to be lettering and maybe a number.”

“And you want to read the markings. This door is meaningful, how?”

Jack fluffed out a dismissive breath. “Someone sent the photo three times in a week like I’m supposed to know where it is.”

“Well, means something  to them. I’ll dig around and see who sent it. Meanwhile, play with the contrast settings, the clarity, blow out the color and light factors to the extremes, both high and low, and maybe with the right combination of all that, you’ll learn what’s written on door number one. If that doesn’t work, for a few grand, I can sell you some software I developed for the government. You can determine what year the door was painted and whether the painter was right or left handed.

“Really?” Jack asked with rising concern.

“No, idiot. All it really does is syphon money from a bank account. Just like your website.”

Jack snapped back. “Hey, watch it. You’re well paid for maintaining that syphon.” Stunned and irritated: “Yeah, okay, never mind, but thanks. You don’t have to search for the sender. Not a big deal.”

“Hey, Jack, did you hear about Jenny Nelson?”

The name stuck in his ear. Jenny Nelson. Blonde, cheerleader, smart, probably went to MIT. Jack’s first high school crush. Didn’t end well.

He might have been interested,  but the brief exchange with Todd soured his mood, and he became defensive.

“Don’t tell me. Blondie got picked to fly to Mars?”

“She’s dead, man. Just thought you’d like to know. You can be a real jerk at times, Jack. Forget about it. Gotta go.” He hung up.

 Aw, Todd, Jack thought. “I’m sorry, okay?” he said to the empty room.

I’ll be sorry later, he thought. Time to go to work.

He opened his website and saw a  dozen customers lined up with questions.

He laughed at question number one: “Should I open a photo file from an unknown sender?”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us at the Flemington Summer Book Fest, May 27-30

Another week, another way to celebrate great writers.

Also, it’s a another chance for readers to meet Ironton, New Jersey Detective Frank Nagler.

This week is the fabulous Flemington Summer Book Fest.

The Flemington Summer Book Fest runs  from Friday, May 27 to Monday, May 30. A wide-ranging event  at 24 Central Avenue.

I will  be part of the Local Writers Showcase  from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, May 29.

Info at: Flemington Summer Book Fest

I’ll be joining many New Jersey authors and artists, food vendors, musicians, crafters and organizations at this long running event.

I’ll have for signing and purchase the award winning Frank Nagler Mysteries.

Kirkus Reviews called Nagler, “One of  modern fiction’s expertly drawn detectives.”

All the books are available in paperback and e-book formats.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY is available in an audiobook read  by Lee Alan.

And A GAME CALLED DEAD, and THE RED HAND are available in audiobooks, read by Dane Petersen.

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Online Bookstore: Books, NOOK ebooks, Music, Movies & Toys | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com) (Search for individual titles).

Next up:

June 11:

Warren County Park Fest.  11 a.m. to  5 p.m. at Breadlock Park, 2627 Route 57, Stewartsville.

Event webpage: http://www.warrencountyparkfest.org

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three upcoming festivals

Festival season is off and running this week.

I’ll be joining many New Jersey authors and artists, food vendors, musicians, crafters and organizations at the upcoming events. I’ll have for signing and purchase the award winning Frank Nagler Mysteries.

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Online Bookstore: Books, NOOK ebooks, Music, Movies & Toys | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com) (Search for individual titles).

The events:

Saturday, May 21:

Randolph Arts in  the Park, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Saturday, May 21 at Veterans Community Park,. 100 Calais Road.

Info at: Township of Randolph: Parks & Recreation: Special Events (randolphnj.org)

Sunday, May 29

The Flemington Summer Book Fest runs  from Friday, May 27 to Monday, May 30. A wide-ranging event  at 24 Central Avenue.

I will  be part of the Local Writers Showcase  from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m ., Sunday, May 29.

Info at: Flemington Summer Book Fest

June 11:

Warren County Park Fest.  11 a.m. to  5 p.m. at Breadlock Park, 2627 Route 57, Stewartsville.

Event webpage: http://www.warrencountyparkfest.org

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE STORY OF DEV. The end.

“This is the sun. Think of me. We are together in  the sun.”

This is the end of  the story of Theo, Dev and the Cherry Street School, called  THE STORY OF DEV.

They came for Bobby Danforth and his friends during the school day, Sergeant Ellingwood and three officers.

Jacob pulled Theo out of the  crowd of silent students huddled along  the sidewalk to the side wall and said he had been told by his parents that the authorities were going  to make a display of Bobby’s detainment.

“There was a big discussion at city hall about this,” Jacob said. “The family has allies, but the police chief said he would resign if nothing  was done this time, as did Sgt. Ellingwood and Mr. Younger. The family promised they would handle it, but the chief took them into the back room alone and played them part of Dev’s tape.”

“Howdja  know that?”

“My father’s on the town council, so he was there.”

“Wow.”

Jacob blinked away tears and took a deep breath.

“There were twenty-two.” He took several halting breaths, eyes wide staring at the ground.  “Twenty-two kids, Theo. Beatings, thefts, threats, and sexual assaults.” His voice gained weight.  “Including me.”

“I thought there was something, but…”

“It was a year ago.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Jacob.”

“But I do. I’ve already told my therapist, my parents, the police, and I thought I should tell you because you made me stronger.”

“No…I just,”

“The three of them. They cornered me behind the library and put their hands in my pants and made me kneel in front of Bobby…”

Jacob turned to face the school wall, his head in his arms, shoulders shaking,   and wailed.

All Theo could do was put a hand on his friend’s shoulder and say, “I’m so sorry.”

****

The bricks were wet and cold. The sun had yet to poke above a tree line still shrouded in the mist of a morning shower.

In a while, Theo thought. One shot, the only shot. From the front, over the fire escape, across the rear door with no footholds, along the playground side, hanging in mid-air, then the last turn to the front door, a quick jump to the ground.

Done.

The wall crawl.

Of course, no one would be there to see it, not even Jacob, whose mother grounded him after learning about the betting scheme.

He pulled Dev’s  letter from his pocket. He had been carrying for weeks.

“I think you knew I was leaving,” she wrote. “If I saw you, I maybe would have stayed or just made this harder. I’ll hitch  a ride on a truck making a produce run to Buffalo, where I’ll take a bus to New Mexico.  I have an open invitation  to stay at the home of my mother’s brother, a tribal leader. We are the people of the sun, T. There was too much darkness. I needed to get back to the sun, back to my home. You are in the light I see each morning  when I look to the east. I will always see you. T.”

At the bottom of the page she had drawn a spiral with radiating spikes.

“This is the sun. Think of me. We are together in  the sun.”

He leaned his head back against the cold stone wall and for the first time since he read that letter, he smiled. Dev’s warmth filled him.

He pushed away from the wall and crawled up the side of the fire escape. At the top, he looped his left arm around the frame and leaned out as far as he could. He pulled a nail  from his back pocket and scratched away at a brick until he had carved, “Dev. Sun girl.”

He crawled down and walked to the front of the school.

One last wall crawl. For Jacob. For Dev.

He glanced up at the three-story building. It no longer seemed so large and foreboding, and he no longer felt small. He jumped to the top of the cement foundation and slipped his fingers between the bricks. “Got this.”

As he maneuvered around the corners, he replayed the  report he gave Mrs. Adams’ class on the Louisiana Purchase.

“Before I begin, I want to thank my friend Jacob Sheridan for his help with the historic research of all of your names. His family name was Swartz, and was changed to avoid harassment. Many of your family names changed, too. The handout explains what we found. We all were someone else, and there’s no reason to hide from it. My name is Theophile. You know me as Theo because I was ashamed to use my real name. You can call me ‘T-ao.’ My family is from Louisiana. We are French and my last name is pronounced ‘Du-boi.’ This report is about the girl who gave me the courage to use my real name. Her name is Andrea Duarte. This is the story of Dev.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Love me some Frank Nagler’

Some new top reviews for the Frank Nagler Mysteries.

Thanks to all the readers for taking the time to drop a review.

5 stars Love Me Some Frank Nagler!

Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2020.

The third book in the series won’t disappoint. Frank Nagler has a serious challenge – he’s the one with the target on his back. He’s not sure why, but “A Game Called Dead” is using the internet to play this game with the seasoned detective in Ironton, N.J. The cruel opening murder scene is only the tip of the iceberg! Well developed and as always, the author keeps you on the edge of the seat!

A GAME CALLED DEAD. Frank Nagler must track down an Internet terrorist whose past intertwines with his own. Paperback and ebook and audiobook. A Runner-Up in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Best Indie Book contest.

4 stars

 A good and entertaining story

Reviewed in the United States on April 24, 2022

A well crafted and convoluted story-line with a use of metaphors not often seen in writing today. This is a different type of mystery where the reader feels as though they are unraveling the mystery along with detective Nagler.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY. Paperback, ebook, and audiobook

 5 stars Page Turner

Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2022

I enjoyed this story. This story kept me on the edge of my seat. I kept turning the page to see what was going to happen next.

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING: The discovery of  young girl wearing summer clothes on a bitter March night leads Frank Nagler  into a search through a dark history that has surprising connections to his group of friends. Paperback and ebook.

First Place for Mysteries  in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Award contest;  Notable 100 Book, Shelf Unbound 2018 Indie Book Awards; Named a Distinguished Favorite, 2018  Independent Press Awards; Distinguished Favorite in the 2018 Big NYC Book Contest; Finalist in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards.

Named A Gold Star Award winner in the 2020 Elite Choice Book Awards

5 stars Great storyline

Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2020.

We all are ordinary person until we do something really great. This book contains a story of an ordinary guy who became a great detective. That’s the reason I’m giving 5 stars.

THE RED HAND: Frank Nagler’s beginning, a struggle in a terrorized city with a serial killer and a personal battle as his wife fight for her life. Paperback, ebook audiobook. Distinguished Favorite in the 2019 Big NYC Book Contest; Second Place winner for mysteries in the 2019 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards;  Notable 100 Book in the 2019 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Awards;  Distinguished Favorite  in the 2020 Independent Press Awards; Nominee in the 2020 TopShelf Book Awards

COMING THIS FALL: Dragony Rising, a new Frank Nagler Mystery.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DRAGONY RISING: ‘WOW! Great story! So much going on and it all ties up.’

It’s been an exciting few days as I comb through the manuscript of DRAGONY RISING, the next Frank Nagler Mystery.

I got the edits back from my publisher, Imzadi Publishing, after our copy editor Katherine Tate completed her work. Kate brings to her work the sharp eye of an editor and the voice of an accomplished author. Frank is in good hands.

The title of this piece is the comment she left at the end of Dragony. (THANK YOU, Kate!!)

It is gratifying to hear her enthusiasm, but also exciting because it means my effort to pull together  a 5-book subterranean story apparently worked.

Readers of the series know the books tell the story of the city of Ironton, N.J., a troubled manufacturing center, and the investigations of Detective Frank Nagler.

Each book has its own crime story and Frank Nagler deals with sets of trouble in his person life.

But underneath each separate story has been the long-running saga of historic corruption and manipulation that I decided to bring to the surface in DRAGONY RISING.

The under story comes to life as Frank Nagler battles the Dragony, a shady organization of  thugs, politicos, financiers and followers. The organization traces its beginning   back to the iron mining days of  Ironton and in modern times has it tentacles into all parts of life in the city.

Of all the Nagler books, DRAGONY RISING has the strongest sense of being ripped from the headlines, as they say.

So in order to prepare yourself for DRAGONY RISING, due later this year,  I strongly urge you to read the other four books in the series: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, A GAME CALLED DEAD, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING and  THE RED HAND.

You can read them in order of  publication  starting with THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY.

Or you can read them in the chronological order of Frank Nagler’s story and begin with THE RED HAND,  a prequel to the series. In this sense. DRAGONY RISING chronically follows THE WEIGHT OF LIVING.

Kirkus Reviews called Nagler, “One of  modern fiction’s expertly drawn detectives.”

All the books are available in paperback and e-book formats.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY is available in an audiobook read  by Lee Alan.

And A GAME CALLED DEAD, and THE RED HAND are available in audiobooks, read by Dane Petersen.

Available at:

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Online Bookstore: Books, NOOK ebooks, Music, Movies & Toys | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com) (Search for individual titles).

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glow

There’s something I’ve been trying to say

But the world get really loud sometimes.

The idea rises when the yard is quiet and what sounds like your voice whispers through the flowers or when the rain raises the lavender  and the rose’s soft scent hovers.

When the sunlight  silhouettes your face and you glow.

For that moment I don’t actually have to say it because you take the words from me, taste them and give them back.

Those things you know

That I wish you’d teach me.

Because one day you might stop.

One day the sky may be empty.

One day the road may be dark.

One day.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hey, Americans, we all are apparently ‘sour and angry’

I returned today from  supporting the local economy to  read a headline on Politico.com that said we are all “sour and angry.”

Of course, Politico, based in Washington D.C, is a political website and no matter the day of the week, everything on that site is sour and angry. Because our politics must be sour and angry because someone is always losing  and they are annoyed about it and need someone to blame and there always is trouble in River City.

So I’d like to report what I saw of us, out among the sour and angry Americans.

A good number of them were doing 80 in the interstate, apparently burning off that sourness and anger by speeding. The one guy who maybe had a right to be sour and angry was the one guy who got caught, which is the risk of speeding past the state police barracks.

At the home center those sour and angry  Americans had loaded up their double-wide pick-ups with lawn furniture, cement, grass seed, bricks, and tools so they could  express their sourness  by adding a patio and raising their property value.

Other sour and angry Americans were eight deep at the paint counter, because nothing seems to express dismay more than brightening a long-unpainted room.

And even more of them were lined up ten-deep at the gas station, where the price of gas dropped 20 cents in the past 2 weeks,  to fill up their double-wides because clearly absolutely nothing  expresses sourness and anger than by purchasing more of the one thing you complain about the most.

Of course my own neighborhood was not able to escape this wave of unhappiness.

Neighbors across the street are expressing their sourness by remodeling their kitchen while next door to them the anger was palpable as the family remodeled the cellar of their  McMansion probably to give  their sons a place to burn off the energy.

And next to them you could feel the sourness as you walked  by during the renovation of the first floor of the 100-year-old house.

And you had to admire the effort  by the owners of the oldest house on the street who made a point of letting the powers that be know their anger  by bringing up to code the electrical and plumbing  systems in the 125-year-old house. Bully for them.

But the big thinkers say we are all sour and angry.

So I returned to read this:

“The big run-up in gas and food and home prices has really caused great hardship for many households,” said Richard Curtin, a veteran economist who has run the University of Michigan consumer survey since 1976. “And the Biden administration made a critical error in saying it would be transient and people should just tough it out. It wasn’t transient. A lot of people couldn’t just tough it out. And it caused a big loss of confidence in [President Joe Biden’s] policies.”

Which is not untrue.

But, no mention that the “big run-up” in gas prices began two years ago when the world’s largest oil producers, including the U.S., cut production 10 percent.

And no mention that a severe and continuing drought in many of the U.S.  food-growing regions kicked up prices five years ago.

All of which was made worse by Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. 

Stories like this  a just part of the daily  churn of the news business: So and so is still in office? Find something to complain about.

And the big thinkers do love to complain.

So this in that same article: Mark Zandi, who has been a leading American economist since the Revolutionary War, it seems,  said Americans have never seen gasoline prices rise so fast so quickly.

Really?

In 2008 the average price of gas rose a  buck in 20 seconds and everyone traded in their pick-up truck for a Prius.

And then there was  the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s when there was no gas and we all waited line for hours to get  5 gallons.

But according to the economists, it’s worse today than ever.

Because in the prediction business, it has to be worse.

Worst sells.

Know why they get those results?

Because they ask a question like this: “Last week gas prices rose substantially. Does that  bother you?”

Unless you’re John D. Rockefeller, you’re going to say Yes.

And in today’s click-bait online  news business, bad news sells.

In the old print days, the axiom was, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Today, the business I grew up in is a hedge-fund addicted crack head street walker who will say anything  for a buck.

Yes, to simplify, today unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, the lowest its been since 1968, when the Beatles were hanging around in an aircraft carrier of a movie studio waiting for Peter Jackson to show up to make sense of all their musical noodling.

In the day, newspapers would run that story atop Page One and reporters would be sent out to interview new shopkeepers,  and people buying goods, workers just hired, who bought a new car, put their kids through college.

And yes, there was a certain cheerleading  hokeyness to it,  but it was something we all shared because we do share good times and bad.

But today, we want the truth, so  the story is written as if something is wrong that all that many people are working.

You know who should be sour and angry (besides the Ukrainians)?

Teachers, and public health officials, doctors and nurses, firefighters  and cops, and that said I have no patience for those  among these groups who declared wearing  a mask or getting a shot  violated their rights when it is that posture that threatened the health of the people they were  paid to serve. Ya got vaccinated as a kid, that’s why you’re alive today.

Want tough, snowflake, try running a live shooter drill for fourth graders, terrifying them for an hour and then telling them that it was just a drill and everything is fine.

Welcome to the new normal.

And if you don’t hate it, you’re  not breathing.

There is so much to do, and we waste all this time.

We need better job training, a complete health care system, help for care givers and the working poor; higher wages, more affordable housing. Fix the roads before they fall into the rivers. Clean up the rivers before everything in them dies. Build more parks. Make life better.

We’re the richest fucking country in modern history, so we can do it.

Sometimes I think we are sour and angry because it’s easier.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

New piece: THE STORY OF DEV. Police visit Theo’s house looking for Dev

New segment of THE STORY OF DEV. Theo is plowing through his presentation on the Louisiana  when he gets a visit from Office John  Ellingwood.

A knock at the side aluminum storm door pulled him away from the table. Theo edged behind the  open kitchen door to see who it was.  They’d never had a visitor.

The storm door squealed open. Another knock, this time on the  main door. Louder, longer.

It was that policeman, Officer John from the school.

Theo wished his mother was home, but she had left early for her other job.

He gulped and walked to the door.

“Hi, Officer…”

Water dripped from his wide-brimmed hat and his official slicker with a little white badge on the left breast. His face was tight, but his eyes were puzzled.

“It’s Theo, right? Anyone else home?”

Photo by elifskies on Pexels.com

“My little brother and sister.”

“Oh, all right. I’m sorry. I’m Sergeant Ellingwood. I met you at Cherry Street School with Dev. She here?”

Theo just offered a wide-eyed stare. His hands shook.

“I know she’s been staying here. Not a problem. Good of you. You know I sort of keep an eye on her. I just need to know if she’s here.”

Something’s happened. I knew it.

Theo coughed an answer. “She went to work at the farm yesterday. I’m guessing she’s still …”

The sergeant’s tight lips and downward glance told Theo that was not true.

“That was the first place I checked. They said she worked yesterday, got paid and  left. She wasn’t scheduled to work today.” He nodded to Theo. “Your brother and sister okay alone? Can you come with me?” He waved a  hand. “You’re not in trouble, Theo. I just need you to come with me for a few minutes.”

Theo’s voice  ripped open and his face crumbled. “What happened? Where is she?”

“I don’t know.  The school bus was vandalized.”

“Holy crap. But why do you need me?”

“Because they left you a message on the side on the bus. I need you to confirm something.”

“Jeez. Okay, just a minute,” and he turned from the door to the living room. “Hey, guys, I have to go with…”

“Oh, Ta-o’s in trouubble,” sang out Paul from his upside-down perch on the couch, feet planted on the wall, head hanging off  the cushion.

“No, I’m not,” Theo said, grabbing a ball cap. “He needs my help.”

“Right, needs your help to put you in jail,” Paul laughed. “I’m tellin’…”

“Just lock the doors.”

On the porch the sergeant asked, “No rain coat?”

Theo shrugged, embarrassed. “No, it’ll  be…”

“Got an extra in trunk. Come on.”

They drove in silence. The officer muttered into the car radio. Theo only understood, “10-4.”

Theo hunched in the front seat, confused and scared.

Why don’t he say somethin’? It’s gotta be really bad.

“Her father’s not a vet, is he?”

“Is that what she’s saying?” Sergeant Ellingwood flicked a glance at Theo. “He’s a farm worker, migrant. Thorntons adds a dozen or so seasonal workers every year, generally late spring to the end of October.  Something happened to Enrico’s paperwork. That’s her father name. His work visa was never processed. He was sent to another Thornton farm in the Finger Lakes, but he never showed up. That was maybe a month ago.” He pulled the car into the grocery store lot. “Here we are.”

By the time they got to the Red & White the rain had picked up, blurring the view of  the school bus. Sergeant Ellingwood hauled a black slicker from the trunk. “You’re really going to need this now.”

Theo slipped in to the oversized slicker.

“Aw, man, look at that,” Theo said as he saw that the school bus windows had been broken out and a chair and clothes and books, pans and other stuff had been thrown into the parking lot. Black paint had been splashed across the windshield and the entry door torn from the side of the bus.

“I need you to see this,” the officer said.

On the side of the bus facing the street had been painted, “Hey Theo-awful-lee we got Onion Girl    You next”

“Bobby Danforth. He called Dev ‘onion girl’, ”

“We know,” the sergeant said, with a nod. “That why it’s trouble. That family.”

“He’ll get away with it, won’t he?”

“I’d like to say no,  but, no guarantees.” Ellingwood nodded to the police car. “Let’s get out of this.”

Inside the car, the officer said, “I just needed to you to verify that it’s Bobby. You had a couple run-ins, right?”

When Theo hesitated, the officer said, “Don’t worry, you’re not  the only kid.”

“Yeah, a couple. First day, he knocked change out of my hand in the lunch room, and last week him and his guys were following me.”

“Didn’t you and he have a discussion when you beat him on the wall crawl?”

Theo felt his face heat up. “You know about that?”

Ellingwood laughed. “Everybody knows about it.”

Theo leaned back. “Oh, crap.”

“Hey, you’re not in trouble  We all did the wall crawl. I did the wall crawl. Only got  half way.”

Theo shivered, then huffed out a fresh breath. “No way.”

“It’s a tradition, as I’m  sure you’ve heard.  And know what? We all bet on it. Cokes, an ice cream sandwich, little stuff, not real  money. My God, Jacob has about a thousand dollars in bets so far. “

“A grand?”

“I told him  to shut down the online betting and figure out how to give back the money. He’s not in trouble  but parents have been calling. Nickel and dime bets are one thing,  but if it gets too  big, someone besides me in law enforcement notices, understand?”

Theo pursed his lips into a fish face  and opened his eyes wide and tried not to laugh. That little hustler.

“So where do you think Dev went?”

“Dunno,” Theo said, lying. The old factory. “I knew about the farm and the bus. When she came to our house I thought she came from here, you know, the school bus. I mean she didn’t have anything with her except some clothes, and they were really dirty and the dryer broke so she had to wear my  Mom’s stuff.”

The sergeant started the car. “Yeah, okay, Let me take you home. Thanks for your help.”

At the house, Theo stepped from the car and peeled off the slicker.

“Keep it. You got a phone?”

As Theo nodded yes, the car radio spit to life: “All cars 10-50, multi-vehicle, high school, fire and rescue enroute.”

“Oh, man, gotta go. Car accident,” Ellingwood said. “When she comes back, have her call me.”

He spun the car  in a U-turn and lights flashing sped off north.

Theo stood in the rain listening as  the siren faded in the heavy air.

Oh, Dev.

Only then did he notice  the slicker was a shade of green and had strips of reflective tape around the arms and across the chest.

In a moment when he wanted to disappear he stood out like a Christmas tree.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Look at all you’ve done: Maggie Doyne’s story

Things get better when someone demands they do, and follows up that demand by action.

That’s not the right word.

Things.

Too  cold, too empty. Wrong.

Lives.

That’s better.

Lives and hearts and minds.

That’s what gets better.

When hearts and mind get better, lives get better, then things get better.

Hope.

Grows.

Builds.

But only with sleeves rolled up, tools in  hands, minds engaged.
Rising then to dream.

But dreams are just air unless there is some foundation.

Yet there is no foundation without dreams.

Because ya have to start somewhere.

That’s what Maggie Doyne did.

Started.

Found a place that challenged her pleasant American girl dream.

Not challenged.

Smacked it with all the force of righteous wrong, knocked it silly.

Showed her a place so antithetical to  her Jersey suburban upbringing that the choice for her was simple: Stay.

Simple, heart-felt.

Jumping off a cliff with nothing but a prayer simple.

Yet.

Yet.

Here was this place, Surkhet, Nepal, seemingly forsaken, poverty stricken, wracked by war, chained by traditions and practices as old as the people who first settled there.

Here was the dirty face of a tiny girl who stopped breaking rocks  because that was her job, to smile and say “Namaste” to this young American who watched her work.

This young American whose mind was reeling,  whose heart was breaking, and whose determination to stay and help swelled each time she saw some new aspect of life in that dusty settlement.

I had the privilege of interviewing Maggie twice 15 years ago for two pieces

I wrote for the Morris County Daily Record in the days when her dream for her foundation BlinkNow .. https://blinknow.org/ was taking shape.

A remark she made then stuck. It was about how she had to reconcile that she was  the only white American woman in Surkhet.

She is on a book tour, talking about her  story, “Between the Mountain and the Sky.”

When she was speaking recently at her West Morris-Mendham High School, her alma mater, an answer to that old question became evident.

How did Maggie deal with being an American woman in a decidedly non-American place?

In a way by being less American. By shaving down the great American need to fix everything all at once, by morphing that aggression into listening and learning.

Not everything moves at the pace of a  New York minute.

But it moves.

If Maggie Doyne teaches us anything it’s that dreams don’t die, only the effort to shape them falters. Her next best lesson is this: Keep moving forward.

Her best lesson: Remember to love one another.

In  fifteen years since she first entered Nepal, she attracted a talented team of advisors, teachers and supporters to become mother to more than 50 Nepalese kids, to build a home for them and a school for  more than 500 students, some of whom are graduating from college now; to develop a woman’s center that offers job training and support  for the women of Kopila Valley; to fight off the worry and depression of potential failure (because it feels so  personal, because it is: She had  promised all of herself to make this real); to swell with pride as her kids succeed; and to feel the weight of loss when a child fails at school, grows sick, when they die.

The BlinkNow world was shattered when in 2015, it was announced the Ravi, a three-year-old who had exemplified everything Maggie  was – mother, teacher, healer – died. It seemed like there would never be enough love to salve her grief.

I remember getting the email that announced his death. I stared at the ceiling for hours before writing a piece at 3 a.m. New Years Day, 2016. https://michaelstephendaigle.com/2015/12/31/ravi/

People still read that piece today.

It has nothing to do with me but everything with how Maggie Doyne and her mission connected with people around the world.

I posed a question in that piece: What will the world be like when the Koplia Valley kids are unleashed.

We’re about to find out.

Read her book.

She’ll show you how she did the improbable:  Turned heartbreak and deprivation into light.

Her kids are spreading that light.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

THE STORY OF DEV: What might Theo, Dev and Dimitri Yazov share?

In this segment of THE STORY OF DEV, Theo struggles to form his report on the Louisiana Purchase, but finds himself distracted  by the sounds of heavy rain on the tin roof of the barn, Dev’s absence and the discovery of the person who could be Bobby Danforth’s great-grandfather, Dmitri Yazov.

Theo began to worry when Dev had not returned Saturday night, and his concern increased as the rain rattled the loose corner of the barn’s tin roof.

But maybe he misunderstood. She had taken some extra clothes, so possibly she was going to sleep overnight in  one of those shacks, work Sunday and then come back.

He sat at the wobbly metal-legged kitchen table circled under the light of  the single ceiling light until after midnight, trying to concentrate on  his project, but focused instead on the two names he had written: Dmitri Yazov and Andrea Duarte.

Everybody’s hiding something, he thought. And whatever they are hiding makes everyone else suspicious, as if it’s wrong.

He flipped open the Rand-McNally world atlas and found the map that showed the Atlantic Ocean flanked by North America and Europe.

Where did Dimtri Yazov come from? The company website wasn’t specific.

 And how he did he get to the U.S.? England, Theo guessed,  probably to New York.

He traced the route on the map.

And why?

War, most likely.

Theo made a note. War? Which one?

Religion? Persecution? Famine? Some disaster?

Man, so much I don’t know. But whatever, a chance for a better life. Why else leave home?

He placed a finger on Eastern Canada and traced the St. Lawrence river west, then down the Mississippi.

That’s how his family got to Louisiana.

England and France at war all over the world, and England won. Threw the French out of Canada, burned the villages.  Some French, like his ancestors fled west and the south out of the reach of the British. Oh, wait a minute. The Spanish were there for a while, then Napolean won it from them and then sold it to Jefferson…and the British were there in 1812… Man, I’ll have to get all that right.

He switched to a U.S. map and put his finger on New Orleans and followed a  road west to a town called Church Point. That was where his family settled.

He smiled with pride and longing when he saw the name. Maybe that is home after all.

He moved his finger west till he found New Mexico. That was where Dev said she was born. Her father is Mexican and her mother was – oh, what’d she say, Navajo, but that didn’t sound right.

He fingered the map. She said she’d been in California, Florida and other places, until she got here.

He went out to the back porch and watched the rain drip from the roof.

Funny, ain’t it.

Me and Dev and even Dmitri Yazov, from all over and somehow ended here.

That’s how I’ll tell the story of the Louisiana Purchase, he thought, pleased. It’s  not about politics and world war and power. It’s about people trying to settle. That’s what’s important.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New title: THE STORY OF DEV. Theo finds a secret about the family of the school bully

In this segment. Theo goes to the town library to research the Louisiana Purchase for a class report. He learns something about himself but more important learns a secret about the family of school bully Bobby Danforth.

Also, this is where the story takes a twist, and as it did so I realized the name is THE STORY OF DEV.

So, welcome.

The Danforth Memorial Public Library was in Danforth Memorial Park on Danforth Boulevard.

Lotta Danforths, Theo thought. Why ain’t the town called Danforth?

Turning off the hot Washington Street sidewalk into the shade of  Danforth Boulevard, Theo guessed the park was built just to feature the library, centered in a stand of trees and flowering bushes. The building was red brick like Cherry Street School, and had a towering pillared marble façade.

He hopped up the five steps to the front door and grinned.

“Into the place of my enemies,” he said. He wanted it to sound brave, but it just sounded hollow.

A sign saying “Research” reminded Theo why he was there:  To research the Louisiana Purchase. Mrs. Adams didn’t even say how long the report was supposed to be. Am I supposed to read it to the class? Do I need pictures? I shoulda paid more attention.

Instead, to avoid the assignment, he walked around the library,  examining the old maps and photos hung on the walls. I’ve got more than a week left, I’m good.

The heads of people reading magazines turned as a squeal of laughter burst from the children’s room. Three older kids, maybe high school students, sat at computers, leaving three others unoccupied.

On the wall next to the computer room were eight photos, all marked “Danforth.”

I’m surrounded.

The photos circled a bronze dedication plaque dated April 23, 1918  that featured a profile of a bearded man with a receding hairline. All those guys had long beards, he laughed. Maybe it’s all the same guy.

This guy was Sanford Danforth, president of Danforth Co., chairman of the library association, director of this, founder of that, honorary master of something else, and so on. The description filled about three inches of  the plaque.
          Theo stared at the face he guessed belonged to Bobby Danforth’s great grandfather, which he thought was interesting. But what was more interesting was a line near the  bottom on the description  that said  Sanford Danforth took over the Danforth Co. in 1899 from his father Dmitri Yazov and turned the small woolen mill into a leading manufacturer of clothing.

“Look at that,” Theo whispered. He wondered what Bobby Danforth would do if he replied to the taunt of “Thee-awful-lee” with a call of “What’s up, Yazov?”

By the time he got there, the computer room was empty.

The first items Theo searched on the computer were Dmitri Yazov and Danforth Co.

The company’s website  said he had immigrated to the U.S. in 1870 and opened a hat shop in Brooklyn. The business expanded and moved out of the city in 1917, built a new factory and took a new name, Danforth Co. They made uniforms and other clothing to the  U.S. military.

After World War II the company sold the manufacturing  business and operated clothing stores under various names across the county, largely in shopping malls. Robert J.  Danforth was named president in 2006, and sold the retail stores, taking the company private in 2010, the site said.

Whatever private means, Theo thought.

 Not a bad story, a nice story, but it doesn’t explain why Bobby Danforth is such a jerk.

Theo sat a moment and compared the history of the  Danforths with the history of his own family, based in his grandfather’s stories.

Some Dubois fled Canada during the French and Indian War. Theo knew that was a war that had some meaning in upstate New York.  They settled in Louisiana, founding with other families a couple towns. Over time they owned stores, farmed cotton and sugar, ran fishing boats,  drilled for oil and raised catfish.

“And at some point, they changed their name. Look at that. Hey, Bobby Danforth, we ain’t that much different.”

And you’re not that much different than Dev.

And we’ve all been running from something.

He puffed his cheeks with air, released it, and with a no-avoiding-it sigh searched “Louisiana Purchase.”  The screen was immediately filled with links to history websites,  photos of maps, Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, swamps, sidewheel steam boats, oil rigs, the Superdome, hurricane wreckage and people celebrating Mardi Gras.

Chin in his hands, Theo was mesmerized.

But that wasn’t the Louisiana his grandfather told him about. So he searched, “Cajun.”

The screen filled with scenes of bayous, crawfish, fiddles, men in straw hats playing little box accordions; links to jambalaya, Zydeco, Lafayette, Hank Williams, and a college symbol of a Ragin’ Cajun.

Theo had been there once when he was four or five.  Grandpa Te’o took them all on a fishing tour of a local bayou on an aluminum flat-bottom boat, and Theo ate a bunch foreign foods and sat on a rock and tapped his foot while the family played dance music.

He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He hadn’t thought about that trip since they moved to Lakeside. He recalled how that visit — just a couple days of a cross-country run after his father got transferred by the Navy to the East Coast — filled him with a sense of family and place.

He huffed.

All that’s left of that place  is my name, and I don’t even say it right.

He sounded out the name in is head: “Du-boi. Du-boi.”

Then out loud.

“Hi, my name is Theophile Du-boi. You can call me T.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fan mail from Sint Maartin?

What makes the  Internet fun – when you’re not being scammed, spammed. phished, hacked and generally annoyed—is when someone in an unexpected location visits your website.

I periodically check the stats on my site to track users, etc. I also make note of entries from some foreign hacker-friendly nations.

But, today was a sort-of delight.

Someone located in Sint Maartin, a nation in the  Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean looked up an old post on my website.

Yeah, it could be a hacker, but what the hell.

Phillipsburg, Sint Maartin

Sint Maartin is the Dutch half of an island which it shares with a French colony, Saint Maartin.

Sunny, beachy, touristy.

Sint Maartin is 41 square miles and has a population  of 41,000.

The capital is Phillipsburg.

Which is what  got my attention.

Because the post that was accessed was something I wrote a year ago about the Phillipsburg, N.J. town council messing with the Phillipsburg Free Public Library, in fact, considering closing it. Thanks to a strong civic outcry, the council backed off, although it  is still hard to consider them  friends of the library.

Now it’s possible the Phillipsburg, Sint Maartin town council is also feuding with its public library.

But I doubt it.

Had someone wanted to read about such a feud and Googled “Phillipsburg library budget” or something like that, my item would have appeared among the 22 million other references, including any potential such items from Sint Maartin.

If that had happened, and the reader clicked on the Google link it would taken them directly to the post.

But, according to the tracking info on my page, the reader first used said Google search to access the main page of the blog.

They then  accessed the archive link and searched specifically for the Phillipsburg library item they read. A lot of work unless you were doing it on purpose.

Holy Dewey Decimal System, Batman.

Slow day on the beaches of Sint Maartin?

Anyway, thanks , and I hope you enjoyed the post.

Got me thinking, though.

I’m plotting out the next Frank Nagler Mystery, so far called, NAGLER’S SECRET, and this type of sneaky,  Internet search  and messaging would be a way for the person behind the secret, or who is the secret, to  reach out to Nagler.

We’ll see.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Until I learn

Buds swell,

Life licked by a tongue of sunlight,

The sigh of being rises in the dark

Till green shoots penetrate the cold soil, the hint of hope

That soothes a bruised earth.

Earth turns

The contrails of war, arrows first split a blue sky;

Swell, then sink, a  ratchet of destruction;

Scorching descent,  air red, boiling  with flames,

Sound suffocated to  screams.

Hands held

Hidden hunger released;

Lips tangle feet to stay,

Arms entwined

The moment matters.

Love is

And like war  can not be negotiated

By suited men at a table

Choosing winners

As if they are hunched in that room.

Love is not a collection of dry words on paper,

But a whisper against your skin.

War ends

But the lessons fade,

So it rises again

To offer the chance to learn.

Teach me with your mouth

Teach me with your touch

Teach me with your shining skin

Until I learn.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Poetry, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

SCALING THE WALL. Jacob schemes up a wall crawl challenge between Theo and bully Bobby Danforth

In this segment of my junior high school WIP, Jacob, the  really smart kid, tells Theo he is setting up a betting scheme for a wall crawl contest between Theo and Bobby Danforth. Also, the story has a new name: SCALING THE WALL.  As the story has progressed that idea that all the kids are trying to overcome something is the central theme.

“What are you plotting?” Theo asked, as he approached the grinning Jacob.

“That, my sporting friend, is the exact word,” Jacob replied. “How would you like to make a few dollars and get back at Bobby Danforth?”

Before Theo could speak up, a kid tapped Jacob on the shoulder, handed him two dollars and said, “On… ” the kid nodded to Theo. “What’s your name?”  

“Theo.”

“Right. Two bucks on Theo.”

“You have kids betting on me? What the heck, Jacob. I mean, Bobby is a jerk but I’m not gonna fight him. Jeez, Jacob!”

“Oh, no, Theo. I’d never ask you to do that, but your triumph over Bobby Danforth on the wall has gone viral on Tik Tok. Take  a look.”

Jacob handed Theo his phone where student after student cheered Theo’s “victory.”

Theo passed the phone back. “He bet me a buck, and I didn’t have one. I had to beat him.” He stared into the playground, then shrugged. “Don’t get the fuss. Wasn’t that hard.” He cast a side glance at Jacob. “What are you getting me into?”

“Ah, my friend, don’t tell anyone it wasn’t that hard. It would change the odds.”

Theo leaned his head to one side, closed his eyes and tried to form a sentence. “Wha…I..Jac…wall, Mr.Younger…” And gave up. A sigh. “You’re taking bets that I can, what, crawl along the wall farther than Bobby Danforth.”

Jacob grinned. “Not just crawl farther, but traverse the fire escape, then conquer the rear door gap, which if you have looked at it, has a ledge but no footholds, and then of course, make it across the long playground side of the wall, which it high off the ground and the foot ledge is narrow and has a shaper tilt. Very difficult.”

“And you’re…”

“That’s right, I’m setting up betting line of all aspects of the crawl. The over all distance, of course, but a separate wagers on the fire escape, rear door and  the playground wall. I am pondering a bet on the fastest run, but since no one has ever measured the time it took someone to complete the full crawl, I have no data upon which to create a reasonable odds.”

Theo, fully suckered and agreeing, laughed. “What do I get out of it, besides all the glory?”

“A cut of the profits.”

“Ha! Awright, ya got me.”

Jacob stood, then Theo as Jacob began to walk away.

“I have piano practice,” Jacob said. “But, thank you. This silly wall crawl has importance beyond what you know. You must realize how many students before you tried and never made the first turn. To them it is more than a game. It’s a challenge, a measurement of themselves. They want to say when they leave this school they conquered the wall.”

Theo glanced at the long wall facing the playground. Some big deal, huh?  “Yeah, okay. I get that. In Lakeside after school we boys used to run  to my parent’s coffee shop and the last one in  had to buy the sodas. We had swimming races in the summer and then see who would dare jump from the top of the hay pile in Anson’s barn to the floor.” He nodded and grinned at Jacob. “Yeah, so, everything was a challenge.”

“There’s more,” Jacob said. “Bobby Danforth and his friends have bullied more than a dozen kids just because they can.” They began to walk toward Jacob’s house. “No one will stand up to him. His family protects him.” Jacob smiled and patted Theo on the back. “Besides they are all tired of Bobby Danforth’s  bragging. He’s telling his friends that he gave you that dollar out of pity.”

Theo smiled. “Actually, Jacob, I tricked him. I made it look harder than it was.”

“Oh, my, don’t tell anyone else that, either. I’d have no way to set the odds if students felt there was no contest.”

“Man, I don’t get you.  The smartest kid in class, the piano whiz and a bookie.”

“Precisely. A plump-fingered, bespeckled  piano player like me,” Jacob laughed as stared at his phone as a string of texts with bets arrived.

“How…”

“Because it’s numbers, math, my friend, and math is easy. Besides it’s a family skill. My uncle ran numbers on horse races and one day I asked how he did it, so he took me to the track and showed me. I got it right away. No one guessed because he was an attorney.” Jacob turned. “See you soon.”

Theo watched as Jacob bobbed his short-stepped walk across Cherry Street, his feet and shoulders syncopated as if he was marching to a musical beat.

That little hustler.  

He turned back to the school, and stared at the long side of the building that faced the playground when the whole stinking mess dawned on him.  If he’s the hustler, then I’m his sucker. There’s something  else even worse between Jacob and  Bobby Danforth, and now it’s my problem.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WIP: BETTING ON THEO. Dev enters the wall crawl challenge. And, um, is Theo falling for Dev?

In this scene from the WIP, BETTING ON THEO, a story about a middle school. Dev tells Theo she has entered the wall crawl challenge set up by their friend, Jacob. The scene also raises the question about how close Theo and Dev are becoming. Other entries on this website. Check the archives, or follow the site

She had a most imperfect face. Her square jaw jutted in defiance more often than not, warning that if you had a thought to touch what was clearly a soft cheek,  she’d grab your fingers and bend them back, making it clear how wrong you were to even think about it. And her eyes were dark and hidden a lot, protectors of the secrets that they knew or maybe the pain; and her mouth was too often a straight line, narrow and hard, Imperfect, like the pieces didn’t fit. From an angle her nose seemed too big. Then she’d turn and her eyes would soften to a tease and after she bit her lip her mouth would curl into sweet wicked smile and all the imperfections would be gone.

At least, that was how Theo imagined it, head resting on the cement wall of the school, eyes closed because the setting sun stabbed around the corner of the building. The kiss would be magic after he ran a finger over her eyebrows and down her cheek to brush her lips, and how the muscles of her face would push her lips to his and …
          “Hey, T, T, wake up.” Dev pushed a fist into his left shoulder after she sat next to him. “Wake up, ya missed it, didn’t you?”

“What. No, I didn’t… missed what?”

“I climbed up the outside of the fire escape, across the top, and back down.  Just hands. I’m thinking that Jacob should add that event to his betting pool.”

“You’re really doing it, the wall crawl.”

“You did. I figure it’s easier to win that prize for this stupid thing than doing farm work.”

“But, yeah, but it was an accident. If Bobby Danforth hadn’t challenged me… You really think it’s stupid?”

“But he did, and there’s no going back. If you can do it, I can do it. And yes, it’s stupid. All you little boys, trying to prove yourself.” She shook her head. “Prove yourself  by working.”

“Hey, I worked. I told ya, helped my parents at the coffee shop, hauled hay and picked fruit.”

“I know. You’re different. Come on. I need to get out of your mother’s clothes.”

Dev stood and held out  her hands. Theo reached up and she pulled him to his feet with little effort.

“You’re strong,” he said, trying not to sound too surprised.

“T, I’ve been picking vegetables since I was eight. My hands are already tough. Didn’t you notice when we held hands the other day?”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yoga girl

Light pours

Sets sky to sizzle

Burns a trail through darkness.

Then you

Eyes dark, soft, soon demanding.

You coiled to give

Open to accept;

A question and an answer

You ask and ponder.

How much can be gathered in one moment,

How much lost; how much held and tasted?

The power of you

Given.

Find the formula, crack the challenge.

An imperative: Take the light, preserve it.

It is the essence.

Given and taken.

It is the being of you.

Posted in Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Michael Stephen Daigle | Leave a comment

New ‘Betting on Theo.’ Dev hiding

In this section of what now is called BETTING ON THEO, Theo, the new kid in town, is chased through a neighborhood by the school bully and his friends. Passing an old factory, a gate opens and Theo reunites with Dev, his friend who had been missing for a couple days.  The scene starts in the middle of the chase.

With Bobby Danforth and his buddies more than a block away, Theo leaned against the iron gate. When he heard Bobby Danforth yell, “Wait up,” he waved  and ran a few steps, vaulted a couple tree trunks, jumped through some thickets and emerged back on the main driveway about a fifty feet  from the gate. He stopped just long enough for them to spot him. “Wait up, man.” That was Bobby Danforth. Theo liked the frustration in his voice.  At the cellar, Theo sprinted up the side path and ran till he got to the wooden fence. He made a couple rights and a left and stopped at the corner that would lead back to Main Street and his house, but took the other turn toward County.  Guess I lost them. Ha! He brushed his right hand along the wooden fence, slapping it once in celebration.

Ahead, a section of the fence opened. “In here.”

It was Dev.

“T, what are you doing?” She closed the door and locked it with a thick wooden latch.

“What. Dev?  Wait, over here,” and Theo led her to stand behind a wall. “Bobby Danforth and his guys are following me. Shhh.”

He smiled at her while they waited to hear if Bobby and his boys were still on his trail.  She was tired, her eyes withdrawn and dark.

More than tired, he thought. Beaten down. Lost.

A fist thumped the fence near the gate. The wall shifted with an outside push. “Come on,” Bobby Danforth said. “If you can hear me, Thee awful lee, this  ain’t over.”

Theo and Dev waited in silence. Another thump against a far wall echoed. “Had him running, didn’t we?”

When the street fell silent, Theo asked, “What are you doing here? How long…?”

Dev reached for the bar on the gate.  “You can go, T.” They won’t get you now.”

“No, I just got here. It’s been a few days, you know. Been pretty worried about you. How’d you know it was me?”

“Heard you running. Nobody goes by here,  so when I hear someone, I peek through the wall, just in case.” She stepped back into the main factory building which was missing windows and half its roof. “It’s an old woolen mill.  You’d be surprised how much stuff is still here. This room is warm and isolated.”

Theo glanced around. And dirty and wet and  filled with moldy junk and probably rats…

“Why are…?” Theo held his head with both hands to organize his thoughts. “I know about the farm,” he said and saw her shoulders sag before she turned away. “The grocery manager…”

Dev turned back, face locked, eyes hard. “Did the grocery manager also tell  you he knocked on the school bus every night demanding that I service him? ‘Oh, my beautiful little chicka, I have something for you. I want to make you sing.’”

“Why didn’t you report him?”

“To who? You were there when I said something about Bobby Danforth playing with himself when  I came out of the shower.  They were embarrassed for him, not me.” She touched his face. “You’re a sweet  boy, T. But just go. I can deal with this for a while and one day soon after the farm pays me I’ll  move on.”

He took her hand. “I ain’t going anywhere. I mean I don’t know a lot about all this, but I know what’s it’s like to be alone. What am I trying to say? “I don’t know why you changed your name to Devlin …”

“How do you know I changed it?”

“Jacob told me.”

She pulled back her hand and sat on a dusty  chair. “Jacob. That little busybody.”

Theo pulled up a wooden box for a seat. “That little busybody can help. He’s had his own Bobby Danforth trouble.”

“Why don’t you use of own real name?” she asked. “Theophile, right? Du-boi, not Du-boiz?”

His face crumpled. “I told you. My grandfather…”

“I know. A white Frenchman changed  his name so he could pass for normal.”

“Hey, wait.”

“Stings don’t it?  Try  being the brown-skinned teenage daughter of a Mexican migrant farmworker. What, you thought I had a tan?” She laughed. “I chose Devlin because it was the whitest Irish name I could think of, and no one noticed I don’t have red hair and green eyes, or talk about the ‘old country’ with mist in my eyes.”

Theo stood and pulled Dev from her chair and held both her hands.

“Why you doing this, Dev? I’m your friend. I don’t care that you … whatever. It’s like you trying to drive me away.”

“Ah, T. Don’t you get it? Nobody cares about people like me. What got me in trouble at school? I stole a carton of milk.  They didn’t  ask why I needed to steal the milk and the I only  reason I got caught is that Mrs. Nelson was out that day. I live in a stupid old school bus. It’s like it doesn’t bother them because you can’t really see it from the street and it’s  not in their neighborhood.” She nodded to an opening to another room. “I got a stove and made a bed outta old wool for covers.”

“No, Dev. No.” Theo screwed up his face and close his eyes. “It just hurts to..”

“Don’t do that to yourself, T. Don’t  take it on. You gotta learn to be like the  others. The school doesn’t want to do all that paperwork because in Mrs. Sternman’s mind, I’ll be gone in six months, like all the others.”

“Others?”

“Farm workers, T. Migrants, immigrants, illegals… hiding in the shadows, here for six months till the crops are harvested, then gone. Why bother?” Her voice broke and she covered her face. “I’m  nothing, T. Nothing.”

Theo crossed and hugged her, holding Dev as  her rigid body tried to pull out of the embrace. After a moment, Theo released her and said, “Get your stuff. You’re coming with me.”

“No, what?

“We got a spare room.”

“T??”
“My Mom grew up without a mother.  If she knew I left you here, she’s ground me for the rest of my life and then come and get you herself. So, let’s go.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New scene, ‘Betting on Theo:’ Confrontation between school bully and Theo. Wall crawl challenge

In this scene from BETTING ON THEO, the story of three outsiders banding together to challenge the Cherry Street School establishment, Theo and school bully Bobby Danforth face off in a wall-crawl challenge.   If Tom Sawyer and a whitewashed fence come to mind, well, so be it.

The idea of crawling around the wall of Cherry Street School nudged Theo up County Road and into the school’s deserted parking lot. Why’d Jacob make it sound like such a big deal?

He jumped onto the cement base. Clinging with one hand, Theo ran a finger over a couple of the textured bricks and felt the sharp ridges. He thought there must be a lot of kids with little cuts on their fingers. He dropped back to the ground.

Halfway down the right side of the school stood a three-story metal fire escape with platforms on the second and third floors at emergency exits and sets of steps that crisscrossed to the ground.

He wondered if you have to crawl around it, or could you jump back to  the  ground and walk to the other side and then climb back onto the wall.

As he examined the fire escape he reached up to touch hand and foot holds that would make it possible to climb it and never touch the ground. No worse than climbing the walls and hay chutes in Anson’s old barn, he thought. The hay wagons would back up and Theo and half the kids it town it seemed tossed the bales from the wagons to the loft and then on slack days climbed up the piles along ladders nailed to the walls and jumped or slid to the hay covered floor boards, or slipped down the chutes of the feeding bins to a loose pile of hay below.

Theo smiled at the memory of walking home pulling hay out of his hair, shirt and pants.

He turned to the sound of footsteps at the front of the school.

“You’ll never do it,  you know, Thee-awful-lee,” said Bobby Danforth, leaning on the  corner of the school.  “If Mr. Younger catches you, he’ll put you in detention for a month.”

Theo tipped his head to one side and released a scoffing breath. “How many months you been there?”

Bobby Danforth grinned back. “I don’t get caught. But you, a new kid? Country boy, you don’t know how things are done here. There’ll probably be a note on Mr. Younger’s desk on Monday.”

“I’ll make sure I check,” Theo said before starting to walk away around the back of the school, but stopped. “Why are you following me? Or are you here to practice so you can beat your brother on the wall crawl?”

Bobby Danforth stiffened. “You think you know so much. I can do better than he did. I can do better than you.”

“That shouldn’t be too hard. I ain’t ever done it.”
          “Put you’re money where your mouth is. A buck to who stays up the longest.”

Theo stared back at Bobby Danforth’s scowling face and tried not to smile.  “Sure. You go first. I need to see, ya know, how it’s done.”

“Candy from a baby,” Bobby Danforth said. “Start here,” and he walked to the front door where the top of the slanting cement base was about two feet high, reached up with both hands to a row of bricks a foot or so above his head and pulled himself flat to the wall.

That was easier than I thought it would be, Theo mused.

Bobby took a deep breath and slid his feet along the cement and with one hand at a time grabbed a new slot in the bricks.  The wall took an outward ninety-degree  right turn to a new wall, and he easily stepped around the corner and worked along the new twenty-foot wall to another outward corner which this time turned right toward a third wall.

He was breathing harder and coughed out a few breaths of dust. At the next corner, an inward facing ninety-degree turn, he paused and reached to his right across the space to the new wall and tested his balance. He  bounced on his toes and with a grunt, shifted his right side across the opening and for a moment straddled the corner before trying to correct his stance. His feet were too close together and his hands could  not grab a gap between the bricks. He swayed and slipped down the face of the wall, his fingers scraping on the sharp edges of the bricks. He hit the ground and fell backward, his left hand clutching the bleeding fingers of  his right hand. “Damn it.” He winced and reached for his handkerchief to wrap his fingers. “Beat that.” He stood up and limped a few steps. He had cracked his left knee on the cement.

“You okay?” Theo asked.

“No big deal,” Bobby Danforth hissed through clenched teeth. “Your turn.”

Theo stepped to the front of the school, thinking with a tiny smile,  thanks for the lesson. He rubbed his hands together, spit on them, and rubbed them again as he examined the brick face. He reached up with his right hand and found a deep gap in the bricks and pulled himself up. He spread his legs wider than Bobby Danforth had and stood on his toes rather than the soles of his feet. Theo  alternated the height  of his reach as he crossed the wall. At the third turn, the one that had tripped up his opponent, Theo paused. He noticed that the depth of the gaps between bricks on the new wall at his eye level were shallower. That’s what messed up Bobby, he thought. Less to grab.

Theo tip-toed closer to the corner before stepping across the gap. The shift reduced the length of his first step and helped maintain his balance. “Whoa,” he cried and then seemed to slip, before crossing the gap and taking a deep breath.

Theo cling to the wall and seemed to be resting when he heard Bobby Danforth groan and mutter, “Crap.”

Theo slithered along the wall for another ten feet to a set of windows that created a fifteen-foot gap in the bricks. The bottom of the window frames was chest high, but ten feet from the ground with a sloped, wooden sill. Theo reached under the frame and found a space between the top of the bricks and the sill and grinned. Gotcha. He leaned back a little and fumbled along the wall for a few apparent slippery steps and then  pushed off. He landed on his feet, but rolled just for the effect.

“Windows are tough,” he said, brushing off his jeans and shaking his head with determination.  “I’ll have to remember that.”

Bobby Danforth sucked on two fingers to stop the bleeding. He pulled out a dollar bill and handed it to Theo. “Beginner’s luck,” he said. “I pay my debts.”

“Maybe,” Theo said as took the bill and watched Bobby Danforth turn and leave. He wiped the blood on his jeans and smiled.

Good thing I won, I didn’t have a buck.

“Hey, Bobby,” Theo yelled.  “Stop messing with Dev.”

“Whatcha gonna do about it, Thee-awful-lee? First things first. You, then her.” He waited for a reply; when none came he walked off.

Theo smiled and rubbed his hands, feeling the scrapes on the tips of his fingers.  Everyone gets theirs in the end.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Cherry Street School. Title: ‘Betting on Theo;’ trouble for Dev: ‘their own kind’

In this segment of the Cherry Street School story, Theo finds something new and concerning about his friend Dev. He hasn’t seen her in a couple of days, not since he saw that she had a bruised eye after a scrap with the school bully Bobby Danforth. Theo has been in his new town about two weeks. At times his loneliness for his old home surfaces, as it does here. At the same time he is gaining some confidence.

The story also has a possible title: Betting on Theo.

Neither Dev nor her father was at the school bus. Theo wandered through the small downtown looking for her, and taking the time to learn more about the village.  He peered into the windows of the café, the hair salon, a barber shop, a hardware store. Cars lined the street as other prowled, seeking parking. Mothers clustered on corners their arms tugged by little kids, who sometimes broke free and with elbows crooked,  swirled around a street sign pole until their mothers stepped from their circle of women, snatched their hands and pulled them away from the street.  A man stepped from the barber shop and removed his cap before running a hand through his newly cut short hair; he replaced the cap and lit a cigarette. At a far corner, along a wall of a vacant lot, a few kids leaned and sat, waving at friends as they drove by.

That was me, Theo thought, suddenly empty again, me and my friends sitting on the wide front steps  of the Lakeside grocery, drinking sodas, grabbing a handful of chips from the giant bag that Jeff had bought and refused to share, laughing at his protest until he passed the bag around, saying, “Hey, not too many.”

Drawn by a blatting, deep whistle, Theo stopped to watch a tugboat and barge enter the lock of the nearby canal. A chipped  blue and gold painted sign said it was the New York State Barge Canal. Theo was fascinated by the process of lowering the water to allow the vessels to continue passage. The growling echo  of the tug engine rose as it sank inside the lock’s walls, the air filled with black exhaust from the stack, which settled about street level at the lowest point. The engine  groaned and the water boiled as the tug and its barge crept out of the lock.

Theo coughed and spit out the black air. Need to learn about this place. Maybe then I’ll know more about Dev.

Finally he went to the Red and White and asked the manager if he had seen Dev, not really expecting an answer, but the man said, “Not in a  week, her old man longer than that. Try Thornton’s truck farm on County Road.”

“Where’s that?”

“About a mile outside of the village,” the man said. “They supply us vegetables and fruit, in season. Plantings started. They’re probably out there with the rest of their kind living in one of the shacks on the farm. The bus is a trade off so the girl can attend school. I’d move it if I could. But  I don’t want the trouble.”

“Trouble?” Theo asked.

The manager glanced around, leaned toward Theo and hissed, “Immigrants.”

Theo felt the sting of the word, but nodded a stiff thanks. Outside as he stared at the purple bus, sadness filled his eyes, then passed as he slapped the tan bricks of the grocery store with his palm, each slap harder than the last. “Jerk,” he said,” then kicked at some weeds growing  out of a crack in the driveway.

County Road ran straight from the center of the village. Theo pounded out his frustration and concern for Dev in every step. Past Cherry Street where the road narrowed to two lanes the houses thinned to open land, stands of trees and fields that surrounded a red barn. An electric fence ran along the road. Cows.

The wind carried in the sounds of machinery and faint shouting. As Theo crested a small rise, he saw a vast farm spread on  both sides of the road, fields, sheds, barns and greenhouses and a billboard announcing, “Thornton’s Farm Seasonal fruit and vegetables” over a faded background of greenish fields, a white barn and little blobs of color  that were probably animals. Along the bottom was a white  arrow outlined in black that said, “Truck entrance ¼ mile.”

Theo had played with his Lakeside friends on their farms and had come to recognize how time and the plantings intertwined.

It was early May. The hay was fresh and green, awaiting first cut. In Lakeside when the Franklins made their first cut the air was sweet and succulent.  The last cut in fall was as dry and scratchy as dust. Before him Theo watched as tractors hauling harrows rolled up the black dirt casting a musk that made the air taste gritty, rich and dark, stinging of manure. The early greens were chopped at the root and tossed in boxes to a flatbed; buzzcut cornfields hid new fresh stalks among the hollow bones of last year’s crop, a fuzz of soybeans, onions, asparagus, cucumbers and eggplants ran for acres squared by rutted paths; the gate to last year’s  corn maze leaned on a bent frame. Later, he knew, warm June, the berries would arrive, fat and ripe, then snap peas and green beans. Somewhere tomatoes, and maybe in the greenhouses to the rear, flowers. By August, hot and parched, squash and sweet corn, round pumpkins, apples roadside in half-bushel baskets; later still, fist-sized jack-o-lanterns, tied bundles of corn stalks  needing witches’ hats. Then chill and darkness,  fields vacant, resting and silent.

It felt good, he thought, to know all that.

At a driveway, Theo saw a “help wanted” sign.

Maybe. I could use the money.

He stepped off the road as a truck with slatted sides  rumbled by and turned into the farm. A dozen workers jumped from the back, and with their broad cloth hats slapped dust from their clothes and stamped their feet to loosen the mud from their boots.  The truck pulled away and the workers in pairs and threes chatting in accented English and another language walked  toward the  row of wooden shacks and trailers that lined the backside of  the inner farm road. Theo stared at a pair of girls in black clothes and ball caps walking arm-in-arm; he heard them laughing, a sound then crushed under the growling engine of a passing tractor.

Theo in his head heard the harsh, spitting voice of the grocery store manager: Immigrants.

Heart sinking; he also he also heard this: Dev.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YouTube trailers for the Frank Nagler Mysteries

While Book 5 of the Frank Nagler series, DRAGONY RISING, is in production, and the publication date uncertain, please enjoy these trailers, created by Anita Dugan-Moore for Imzadi Publishing.

The Swamps of Jersey – YouTube

Game Called Dead – YouTube

Weight of Living – Book Trailer – YouTube

The Red Hand Book Trailer – YouTube

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cherry Street School WIP: Theo meets Jacob, more Dev worries

In this installment of the so-far untitled story about Theo and the Cherry Street School, Theo meets Jacob Sheridan, and the issues about the school bully and the mystery of Dev, deepen. To keep in touch with this story, please “Follow” the website at the link below.

To learn about the Frank Nagler Mysteries, visit the website, and open any of several links.

The story:

Half way across the parking lot, he heard his name.

Hometown Apparel

“Theo, wait.”

He hadn’t heard the boy walk up. Nobody knows me.

“What? Who are…”
The boy extended his hand. He was eight or so inches shorter than Theo, with a round face, round metal rimmed glasses and a crew cut. He wore a red, blue and yellow striped shirt, creased gray pants and black loafers.

Theo shrunk a little, feeling sloppy and underdressed in his faded jeans with the patched right knee, black sneakers and green Farmington State sweatshirt. That was all he had time to unpack.

“I’m Jacob Sheridan,” the boy said. “I’m the seventh grade student president, which make me the official greeter to Cherry Street School.”

Theo shook his hand. “Is that a real thing? Official greeter?”

“Ah,” Jacob said. “Yes and no. It’s something I take on personally, when circumstances call for it. I’m in Miss Wilson’s class. I understand you are in Mrs. Schreck’s classroom.”

Theo wiped his hair. Who is this kid?

“Look, I need to get to her classroom. My papers got messed up.”

“May  walk with you? You’ll have about fifteen minutes before they lock the doors.”

Locking doors, Theo thought. They’re always locking doors. He nodded to Jacob. “Sure, thanks.”

Jacob was smiling. “My, that was some play you made to end the game.”

“Thanks. Try not to think, just react. Bounced it because we didn’t have gloves.” Theo replied. “You don’t play?”

“My mother dissuades it,”

Dissuades it? “Oh, sure.”

“She convinced the principal that my time would best be spent in advanced math and science, not physical education,” Jacob said. “I’m taking calculus and freshman chemistry.”

Theo bit his lip. He had no idea what subjects he was supposed to study. “You some kind of genius? No offense.”

“Oh, none taken. I’m smart,” Jacob said with a short, firm nod. “I was reading at three, playing Brahms at four, and performing piano solos at church at five.” …

Theo pointed to a pair of boys hanging  from the school’s brick wall. One fell, bouncing off his feet and rolling backward.

“What are they doing?” Theo asked Jacob.

“Ah, that’s the wall crawl, a Cherry Street School rite of passage.”
“What‘s that mean?”

“Status is everything at this school,” Jacob said. “Do you need to return home immediately?” Theo shook his head, no. “Excellent. I live a block way.”

The street had cleared of students and vehicles; they walked alone.

“The athletes band together,” Jacob continued, “The pretty girls cling, the less fortune huddle in the corner of the lunchroom.   Clothes matter, your parents’ car, your address, your favorite music, all are subject to judgement. You have to be cool to be included.”

“Wow. All that matters?” Theo asked.

“More than you can imagine,” Jacob said.

The tone of the reply puzzled Theo.  So lonely sounding.

“I take it you’re not cool.”

“I am busy with, well, things, rehearsals and such. I am certainly not an athlete. Besides, my piano concert master would not allow it.” Jacob held out his  soft, perfectly manicured hands.

“Hey, so look, Jacob, I’m new here and don’t  know anybody. And I think you’re cool. But you gotta show me around.”

Jacob’s round face split with a smile. “That, good sir, is a deal.”

“So, what’s the idea with the wall thing?”

Theo caught a look in Jacob’s eyes.

“Interested, are you?” Jacob asked. “It is a challenge and somewhat of a legendary event. It began years ago as just something to do before class. Boys would walk along the wall using the  gaps on the bricks for hand holds. Suddenly it was a competition. If one  boy went twenty feet, another would crawl thirty feet.”

“Anyone make it all the way? In Lakeside the challenge was to swim  to Halfway Rock and back, more than a mile total.”

Jacob offered a winking smile. “One boy, several years ago. John Danforth.”
“Any relation to Bobby Danforth?” Theo asked. “I had a run-in with him at lunch.”

“And he was the boy you threw out at third base to end the game.”

“What are you getting at?”

“Bobby Danforth is, shall I say, the lesser of the Danforth boys. John Danforth is a top student, captain on all the sports teams, the homecoming king…”

“What’s a homecoming king?”

“Did your school not hold ceremonies for graduation, and the like?”

Theo laughed. “Jacob, when we passed one grade to another, we started the next year by sitting on the other side of the room. Anyway, so I take it Bobby Danforth is  not as good at stuff as his older brother.”

“And from what my mother says—she works for the Danforths —  he is reminded of his position often.” Jacob’s eyes hardened. “The Danforths are the most prosperous family in this town.  The library is named for them. Now they own banks. They are respected, but not well liked. From what my mother says, Bobby is falling short of the family model.”

“But he takes advantage of his family’s … whatever it is,” Theo said.

“Yes. How would you know?”

“Knew some kids like that in Lakeside. Families landed on the right side of the money and the kids thought they were owed something for it.”

They paused in front of a brick house with a wide porch.

“This is my house,” Jacob said. “Would you like to come in?”

“Thanks but I need to find someone. Look, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He took a step, then stopped. “There’s something personal between you and Bobby Danforth, right?”

Jacob sighed. “Yes. Last year at the schoolwide recital at the high school,

I was performing a short piano piece when he and two other boys rushed on stage and rolled the piano away. The audience laughed and I was humiliated.”

“And they got away with it.”

“They claimed it was a comic sketch and I was part of it. And that my shocked expression was all an act.”

“And it wasn’t.”

“No.” Jacob stared into the street a moment. “But, it passed.”

Theo shook his head. “Naw,  naw, it ain’t. But I bet it’s hard to stand up to him, huh?”

Jacob shrugged.

“I’ll give you a hand, but I gotta find Dev.” Theo, with a wave, started to walk away.

“You mean Andrea Duarte.”

Theo turned back. “Who? No, Dev. Andrea Devlin.”

“Her name is…look, she should tell you.”

Theo didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound good. “Does that have anything to do with Bobby Danforth calling her ‘onion girl’?”

Jacob frowned. “Sadly, yes.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tea, after

A hand through tousled  hair

Light from eyes once dark

A twisted smile;

A pinch of tea leaves

The aroma drenched with earth and sweetness

You shivered, a tongue touched with honey.

Tea after absence

Tea, after.

Posted in Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle | Leave a comment

Cherry Street: Theo and the school bully

This is another segment from the Cherry Street School story, yet untitled. In this scene, new student Theo Dubois  has a run-in with the school bully, Bobby Danforth. If you like what you read, please hit the FOLLOW  key on the cover page of the website. Thanks.

The cafeteria in the middle of the school was also the gym. A balcony surrounded the two-story opening. Theo had never seen anything so odd and interesting.

Or loud. The commotion  of a hundred kids talking, scraping chairs and walking, and doors shutting bounced off the wooden walls and hard floor until the air shivered with sound. Some mats hung on the wall did little to deaden the noise, forcing anyone who wanted to be heard to speak louder than the person next to them.

Theo spotted Dev sitting alone and joined her.

“Hey,” he said.

She didn’t look up.

“You should move on, T. You don’t want to be seen with me.”

“What’s that mean? You’re the only kid who talked to me. I mean I was in Miss Denison’s class and we were doing math and since no other kid answered the questions I ended up answering them all, and they laughed.”

She looked up. Her right eye was bruised. He reached to touch it and she pushed his hand away. It was then he noticed how green her eyes were.

“What happened?”

“T, look. There’s them and there’s me.  The good kids and the girl who lives in a purple bus in a grocery store parking lot. The kid who wears black because she can’t afford anything  else and who any day now could become a ward of the state, or worse. If you get messed into this, they come after you too.”

She crushed a packet of saltines.

Don’t care, he thought.

“You want a sandwich?” Theo asked. “I got two.  Where do you get milk?”

“”T… no.”

He reached for her hand. “Dev, yes.” He wrinkled his nose.

She  held his hand and bit her lower lip while she stared into his eyes. “At the end, next to the cashier.”

“Got it.” Theo pulled two sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper out of the bag and passed one to Dev. “Be right back.”

He took two cartons of milk and an apple for Dev. The cashier said, “Forty cents, please,” and Theo passed her one of his dollar bills and said thank you as he took the change.

As he turned, a kid about his size bumped into him and  the change fell to the floor.

“Hey look, Onion Girl’s new friend, ” the kid said to the two boys with him. “The new kid, Thee awful lee, can’t handle his  milk.”

Theo looked at the floor to spot the coins, “Sorry…” How does he know my full name? I’ve never talked to that kid.

“Son, leave it there,” said the cashier, a thin black woman with a blue vest over her red blouse. “Bobby Danforth you pick up that boy’s change. You did that on purpose.”

Kids in line at the service line stepped back.

Son of gun. Bobby Danforth.

“Not gonna,” Bobby Danforth replied.

She stood eye-to-eye with the kid.  “You start picking up that change right now,” she said in a loud, shrill voice that pierced the buzz of the room. “Or I’ll have you reported to the office before you get to your next class. Besides, I’ll see your mother tonight at the church board meeting. And with the number of incidents you’ve caused in this room, I can guarantee that you won’t be playing on the baseball team because my son is the coach.”

The cafeteria din softened; students turned in their seats or stood to watch the confrontation. A murmured “ooh” floated in the air. Flashes of cell phone cameras lighted the room. Theo glanced around and back at the cashier. Everyone was watching him. I don’t want to be in the middle of this.  Dev was standing, her face calm and dark, a look that Theo could not read. 

The glare that the moment  before  filled Bobby Danforth’s eyes melted to indecision. “Don’t tell her.” A near whimper. “Please?” He blinked and elbowed one of the other kids in the stomach, “Help me.”

“You  better find sixty cents, or it’ll come out of  your pocket,” the cashier said.

Bobby Danforth and his two friends bent to search for the dropped change.

“Got it,” Bobby Danforth said, standing and handing Theo two quarters and a dime.

“How nice of you,” Theo said. At the side door Bobby Danforth turned back to Theo and offered a hard, warning smile; one by one, he and the other boys ran out. The show over, the students turned back to their own business and filled again the room with chatter.

“Thanks,” Theo said to the cashier, “ I…”

“You’re new,” she said.

“Second day. I’m Theo Dubois.”

“I’m Mary Nelson,”  the cashier said. “Mrs. Nelson.” She smiled. “You watch yourself, Theo Dubois. That Danforth boy thinks he runs the world. Now you go take care of that poor girl. I can’t watch all you.”

He returned to the table and delivered a carton of  milk and the apple to Dev.

“That’s how you got the black eye, ain’t it?” he asked.

When she didn’t reply, he reached to her chin to lift her face; when she resisted, he pulled his hand away.

He leaned his head in. “One thing you’ll know about me, Dev. I don’t scare off.”

He took her hand when the bell rang and folded into it the other dollar bill and the change. “I’ll get more,” he said and stepped away.

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Cherry Street School: Theo’s first day ends, shops at the Red & White

Since I seem to be serializing this story, in this segment, Theo Dubois ends his first day at Cherry Street School feeling lost and alone.

Theo rolled the paper grocery bag under his arm and turned left at the end of the school sidewalk where it met Cherry Street. He looked back at the school and felt dizzy. The day had been a blur of unfamiliar voices and pointed directions –boy’s room is down there,  cafeteria downstairs, all with a  wrist wave and why-don’t-you-know scowl — and heads turned then turn away as kids entered the office and Theo was still sitting on the bench, and all of Mrs. Sternman’s twitch smiles and frowns had not found him a classroom.

His stomach grumbled with hunger and an uneasiness of not belonging. More than once he wondered of anyone would notice if had just left.

Then the last bell and the hallway behind him rumbled with kids banging and slamming toward the doors. When one of the secretaries walked out of the office with her coat and handbag, Theo stepped out behind her because no one stopped him.

 Alone on the sidewalk, he closed his eyes to recall in reverse the path he walked that morning.

Cherry Street  crossed County  Road, a wide, four-lane street. Then it was three blocks up to a no-name street with a green house with a white fence where he turned right. But that street jogged left at a tall wooden fence that had a locked metal gate, so he walked along that fence for a block, turning right  to follow the fence for  another half-block to an intersection where Theo went straight and the fence turned right. He paused and glanced back at the street he had followed  and down the fence to its end, for a moment confused. All those turns the fence took hadn’t sunk in that morning when he ran past on his way to school, but now, walking, it seemed odd. He leaned his eye up to a crack in the fence and saw a red building.

I wonder how to get in?

Crap, the kids.

He started to run. His younger brother and sister Paul and Annie were probably home already. And the boxes are still in the middle of the room and there’s no food. They probably got a handful of papers like Mrs. Sternman gave me.

It was easier in Laketown.  All the kids jumping out the school door getting yelled at by the teacher to watch for trucks that couldn’t  stop in time rolling down the steep hill past the Franklin farm; thirty kids peeling off to their houses yelling and waving like a joy bomb going off. And if was a Tuesday or a Thursday, Theo would run into the side door of the coffee shop, pour a Coke, throw  on an apron and go to work.

He wasn’t supposed to use the grill or any of the hot stuff, but Teddy, the high school kid, would let him flip burgers now and again.

Theo had learned how to serve coffee without spilling it, to make milk shakes on the blender and not make a mess, and slap a scoop of egg or tuna salad on bread, flatten it out, add tomatoes and maybe lettuce and cut it diagonally without losing a finger. Mostly he served chocolate milk and Cokes and donuts to his friends, even though he would tell them the donuts were probably stale, but they didn’t care and laughed and joked and dunked them in their chocolate milk, except for Jeff, who dunked them in his Coke.

The memory made him feel heavy; he shuffled the last three  blocks home.

Annie and Paul were asleep, curled up on the mattress  in the middle room. On the table were two piles of papers, one in a wad, Paul’s, and  Annie’s neatly stacked.

Theo wasn’t surprised they fell asleep. They all had been running for three straight days after their father said without warning, pack up, you’re  moving to New York. He remembered that a couple friends stopped by on their bikes and asked what was going on. “Don’t know,” Theo said. “Guess we’re leaving.”

 He wondered if the kids dozed off at school like he had at one point sitting on the bench; a slam of the door to his left woke him before Mrs. Sternman noticed. She would have frowned.

The trip from Maine took twelve hours. Their father loaded all their furniture and stuff in the rental van and drove off. Theo, the kids and their Mom made the trip later in her little sedan. Theo tried to sleep in the passenger’s seat, head resting on a pillow propped against the bouncing window glass. The kids stretched out on the narrow rear seat, waking and grabbing when they rolled onto a pile of suitcases wedged between the seats.

Theo through one open eye watched his mother as she drove, face  crumbling in hurt, hands clenched on the steering wheel in anger, sometimes singing wordless tunes, but always smoking, her window open a crack to let out the smoke and allow her to toss out the finished cigarette after lighting a new one with its glowing butt. Sometimes she seemed calm, but then her face would tighten and the car would lurch forward at higher speed for a few miles. One time he reached over to touch her arm and ask if she needed to rest. She shook her head and stared at him with wild eyes as if she didn’t recognize him and had just returned from someplace else.  “I’m okay, Honey,” she said.  “We’re almost there.”

Theo had heard the shouting, the stomping, seen the dishes flying across the room to shatter at his father’s feet; had seen her rage and pain explode as he stood treelike unmoved. The first time, Theo thought, he was just calm; later Theo realized he just didn’t care.

No, Theo thought, as he pulled the pillow into a ball, we left “there.” We’re nowhere.

****

His father had left an envelope with ten $20 bills. Theo took two and wrote a note:  “Gone to store. Don’t leave house.”

The house  was at the corner of a busy wide street, and a street without sidewalks. It was gray and three stories tall. It had a big side yard and a barn at the end. The kids will like the yard, Theo thought.

A post on the front porch had a number: 311.

A metal street post had two signs. One running in the same direction as the big street said, “Main.”  The other  one was broken and said only: “Ow.”

There was a doctor’s office across the big street. A good landmark, he thought, like the busted up oak on the side of the hill  above halfway rock that let you know you had taken the right trail off Bear Hill. He had missed that sign one time and ended up at the far end of the lake out near Butternut Swamp at nightfall. He spent some time splashing around the edges of the swamp until he saw the light at Bachelor’s store.  There had been another fight. His father was gone whwen he got back and his mother was in her room with the door closed and didn’t respond to his knock. At least the kids were asleep.

He slipped to the lakeshore and sat hunched, arms around knees, head sunk, squinting across the dark water wondering if they even knew he had been gone.

****

He didn’t really know what to get at the Red & White. Milk, that made sense, and bread and peanut butter and grape jam. Some hotdogs, and ketchup. A couple boxes of cereal. Cookies. He wondered how he was going to carry it all  home, about eight blocks.

He added canned spaghetti, the little letter kind that Paul liked, and raviolis.

The woman at the cash register smiled and handed him the change. It had cost about $35.

Theo rolled the tops of the bags and grabbed the lighter one by the top and encircled the other heavier one in his arms. He juggled the  bag to get one hand under the heavier bag.  At the automatic door the heavier bag broke open and the cans rolled toward the sidewalk.

Only then did Theo collapse  against the wall and weep.

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The things we hide: WIP

Years ago I started sketching out a story about a weekly Maine  newspaper editor named Hadley Chandler. It was planned as an episodic story with threads that involve an old family farm, industrial pollution, the ups and downs of the old town.

I was looking for that story that I either have in on paper in a file somewhere or the electronic version got lost in a past computer failure.

When I’m planning a story I often write scenes, rather than take notes. That way I can begin to experiment with characters and settings.

This is one such new scene, and it adds to the mix Elizabeth Margaret Denard, a wealthy woman who is suing Hadley Chandler, and her dead aunt Senator Margaret Denard, who had  deep secret her niece wants to know.

“Mr. Chandler?”

The woman’s voice echoed from the office to the press room in the rear of the building.

“Out here,” Hadley yelled. He set aside the pair of wrenches he had been using to tighten a bolt on the press and wiped his hands on a succession of red cloths until the ink was a mere stain on his palms.

He turned to the slim woman in a chic, unadorned black dress and wide white hat silhouetted in the dim hallway lighting.

“Hello, Miss Denard. Audrey Hepburn?”

Elizabeth Denard laughed, deliberately showy.

“Was thinking Sophia Loren, but I don’t have the chest for it.”

Hadley smiled as he escorted her into his cluttered office. That was the Betsey Denard he had known.  Somerset High School’s leading actor, statewide renown, front pages in all the state’s newspapers, even a mention in the  Boston Globe when Somerset’s cast won a New England award for a wrenching production of “Othello,” in which she played Iago.

Hadley had written dozens of stories about her career, from her transition from a fresh-faced sassy, Betsey Denard, to a hard-edged  Liz Denard when she conquered Portland’s banking community, to whatever she fancied herself now as Elizabeth Margaret Denard.

And now she was trying to put him out of business.

He wondered if it was because he once wrote that her middle name was not Margaret, and suggested she had claimed that name to add heft to her declarations of importance.

Because her aunt, Senator Margaret Denard,  was a heavyweight who fought for the rights of women, Native Americans, battled the paper companies over river pollution and developers over the need to preserve the state’s farms. Hadley knew the senator had gone head-to-head with Will Hathaway’s grandfather more than once.

Hadley Chandler was one of maybe six people in Somerset who was allowed  call the late senator Maggie and not be greeted with a scowl.

“So, Betsey,” Hadley said as he cleared  a chair, “What brings you to Somerset? You haven’t shut me down yet.”

Her soft, round face hardened at the sound of her discarded name, but she did  not correct him.

“Have you not cleaned this office since I was last here?” she asked.

Hadley sat and pushed aside the pile of stories he needed to edit, and  waved at the messy space. “It’s a museum in here.” He leaned over the desk and hardened his voice. “And if you win your lawsuit, this could be yours.”

A thin, inscrutable smile. “I don’t want to win, Hadley. Because I do  not want this newspaper. There is no profit in this business, and further, I do  not want to be known as one of those hedge fund managers who buys properties to drain them financially and close them. Certainly  not in my hometown.”

“So why did you sue? You want that two grand back that much?  I did pay her back taxes. It cleared up the title to the  building. The receipt is in the court documents.”

Elizabeth Denard removed her white hat and the dark, round Hollywood sunglasses before reaching into her black handbag and producing a few letters in colored envelopes which she placed on the desk.

She indicated the envelopes with a nod. “I believe you know who this person is.  As you know I am my aunt’s sole heir, at least I thought I was until a search of her estate house by my attorney found these letters.” She leaned back. “You  should be honored, Hadley. You are the second-most mentioned person in my aunt’s detailed and immaculate records. Why is that? We’re you sleeping with her?”

Hadley was intrigued as she turned her face to the window and the firm, thin mouth and jutting jaw melted into a wrinkled-browed, lip-biting softness.  Hadley wondered how much of that look was acting, and how much was fear.

“You don’t know, do you?” he asked.

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t know what to ask. You suspect your aunt had a deep secret, and you would be right. And I know it.”
          She jumped to her feet,  scooped up the letters, her bag and her hat and began to leave. “You can tell that secret in court.”

“No, Betsey, you don’t want me to tell that secret in court. It’s not in the paperwork, ” he said calmly. “Will Hathaway knows what I know. It’s what we have been trying not to say in court. In a way I think you’ve known it all along.”

Her head jerked to one side and her eyes narrowed in confusion.  Her hands shook as she dropped her belongings on the desk.

That, Hadley decided, was not acting. She had been acting her entire life, that scared, uncertain kid she was as a child buried beneath the roles she had chosen to control herself and others.

“Sit down, Betsey. I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

****

The office door ground open.

“Dad? Dad? Is it true?”

“In here,” Hadley replied.

It was his 19-year-old daughter, Sarah, the freckled faced, long curly haired spitting image of her mother, down to the old hippie clothes she had borrowed.

“She dropped the lawsuit? Really? I mean I just ran into Will, er, Mr. Hathaway, and…”

“Yes. She did.” Hadley rose and embraced her. “This old mess is still mine. And it could be yours. Betsey agreed to invest in the company as a silent partner so we can upgrade all our systems.”

“Wow.  No lawsuit and new computers,” Sarah said, sitting. “What did  you have over her? Finances? Secret lovers?”

Hadley motioned for Sarah to close the inner office door.
          She did and then sat with a grin and one eye closed. “Ooh, secrets.”

“The kind which you can never tell. Life changing stuff. Got it? It’s not ours to tell.”

Sarah nodded, “Got it.”

“Do you remember a woman named Susan Smith? She worked on campaigns  and other election stuff?”

“Right. She came to the school and talked about voting rights. Very intense.”

“She was Maggie Denard’s lover, for decades.”

“Really?”

“You have to understand, this started maybe fifty years ago. Maggie was in her twenties. A woman state senator did not….”

“No, Dad, I get it. She, the senator, or either of them, could  not tell anyone. So how’d you know?”

“Maggie and I had been friends for years. I covered her campaigns as a reporter for the Sentinel. Over the years, we had quite a few drinks at the Senator Hotel in  Augusta during legislative sessions. One night Susan came in and it was obvious why she was there.”

“And you, the great reporter, didn’t tell anyone. The scoop of a career and you kept to yourself.”

Hadley shrugged. “Private stuff. Didn’t matter.”

“Anyone else know?”

“Maggie’s staff, I’m sure, but they were loyal.”

Sarah took her father’s hand.  “How hard it all was. The secrets, hidden lives.” Eyes wide and jaw dropping. “And you, all this time? How?”

“I gave her my word. Before we shared politics, we shared friendship.”

“How did they cover for it, which is a terrible to have to do, all that hiding.”

“Susan was a party official so it was natural that she and Maggie appeared everywhere together and didn’t raise suspicion.” He kissed her daughter’s hand. “But  she carried it with her. You look at photos of the time and while Maggie is smiling, her eyes are dark and sorrowing. Look at what issues she championed. The rights of the dispossessed. That’s how she expressed her anger and distrust of the  system.”

Sarah waved a hand in the air.

“So how did Maggie have Betsey’s mother? Adopted?”

Hadley smiled. “Maggie took a couple years off. Her seat was that secure. But the story circulating at the time said she was  recovering from stress or fatigue – something a woman legislator could suffer  without harming her political career because, after all, they were the weaker sex.” He winked.

“So who…? Wait, that’s why Betsey called Maggie her aunt, not her grandmother. They kept it from her. You’re  not Betsey’s grandfather by any chance?”
          Hadley laughed at his amazing daughter. “No. Please. The last great secret.”

Sarah screwed up her face. “How did Betsey take all this?”

“She was relieved and troubled. She knew there were secrets but had no place to start looking. Thus the lawsuit. She thought my records would have the information, that, you know, the two grand loan was a payoff… and no it wasn’t, there, kid. But after I told her all this, she never asked the question I thought she would: About her legitimacy and the succession of the family fortune.  She’s the only one left. Instead she said she was attracted to the role of Iago because of his suspicious and scheming nature. So she schemed and plotted and up to this point it has left her angry, suspicious and alone.”

“Wake up call?”

“We’ll see. She’s planning  to reopen her aunt’s estate house as a women’s study institute.”

“That’ll be cool. So, there, Dad, why Betsey no husband and kids?”

          “That, my modern daughter, is the question for another day. By the way, I told Betsey her real middle name is Susan.”

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Thanks for these top reviews

Thanks to readers of the Frank Nagler Mystery series for these top reviews. Forever grateful.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY.  Why are an old swamp, a burning factory and a dead woman linked? Why is Ironton, N.J. detective Frank Nagler so concerned that Lauren Fox left town? Paperback, ebook, Audiobook.

5.0 out of 5 stars Frank Nagler is a Sam Spade for our time!

As I began this book, I could almost hear Humphrey Bogart reading the narrative portions describing the fictional town of Ironton. Frank Nagler is a tough, gritty, and tired detective who has yet another murder to deal with, and a local government that’s reeking with corruption. Throw in a sensitive side and a “foxy” woman, and Nagler’s cynical humor is often laced with memories of happier times. The story is occasionally long with descriptive passages, but the action is fast paced at other times and keeps the reader committed to finding out who the girl in the bog is and who killed her. I look forward to future Nagler tales!

A GAME CALLED DEAD. Frank Nagler must track down an Internet terrorist whose past intertwines with his own. Paperback and ebook and audiobook. A Runner-Up in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Best Indie Book contest.

5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done

Good writing, strong characters, and a plot that works. Starts off with a gasp-inducing crime scene that almost made me stop reading the book. But, like Nagler, I persevered. And I am glad I did. Good descriptive writing and character development. The story works because you come to care about these characters. Nicely done. I will be reading more.

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING: The discovery of  young girl wearing summer clothes on a bitter March night leads Frank Nagler  into a search through a dark history that has surprising connections to his group of friends. Paperback and ebook.

First Place for Mysteries  in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Award contest;  Notable 100 Book, Shelf Unbound 2018 Indie Book Awards; Named a Distinguished Favorite, 2018  Independent Press Awards; Distinguished Favorite in the 2018 Big NYC Book Contest; Finalist in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards.

Named A Gold Star Award winner in the 2020 Elite Choice Book Awards

5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, dark, fascinating!

Early on, I assumed this would be a typical crime thriller – crime, clues, solved! Boy was I wrong! This book was filled with suspenseful subplots. I couldn’t put it down! I didn’t realize this book was a part of a series until I was partially through and am thrilled to say that it makes a great standalone book. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

THE RED HAND: Frank Nagler’s beginning, a struggle in a terrorized city with a serial killer and a personal battle as his wife fights for her life. Paperback, ebook audiobook. Distinguished Favorite in the 2019 Big NYC Book Contest; Second Place winner for mysteries in the 2019 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards;  Notable 100 Book in the 2019 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Awards;  Distinguished Favorite  in the 2020 Independent Press Awards; Nominee in the 2020 TopShelf Book Awards

5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it

Reviewed in the United States on January 15, 2022

The Red Hand is a thrilling and dark read. I enjoyed the MC– Frank. He’s a well-developed character I quickly became invested in his arc. The pacing for this book is pretty good, I had a hard time putting it down– reading late into the night!

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Who are the real heroes in the Frank Nagler Mysteries?

Growing up in Upstate New York I was under the influence of Syracuse University.

That meant my sports heroes included football stars Ernie Davis and Jimmy Brown.

Both were All-Americans at Syracuse and Brown later starred for the Cleveland Browns. Davis, sadly, died young of leukemia.

In addition, because my mother  was from Boston, another group of sports heroes were the Boston Celtics, mainly Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Satch Sanders, and K.C. Jone

Bill Russell with Red Auerbach; Ernie Davis; JIm Brown

As a kid I was also riveted by news film of the civil rights and voting rights  movements taking place in the South at the time.

Later as a reporter with the Daily Record of Morristown , N.J, for one Martin Luther King holiday story I interviewed a white minister from Dover who was a student at Little Rock High School when the school was desegregated, a Morristown bar owner who with his wife were teachers in Mississippi during the voting registration drives, and members of Morristown activist community who fought housing discrimination.

This came to mind over the weekend when I read a story from Indiana about a GOP lawmaker who filed a bill requiring that state teachers provide a “balanced look” at  such topics as slavery, Naziism, authoritarianism and the like so Indiana students would not judge such movements harshly.

Had two thought.

First, if the legislator can not talk to a relative who fought in WW2, he could at least Google Sen. Bob Dole, visit the library for a picture book on the war or watch any of the histories on TV that show the rise of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and any of the  gallery of dictators which plagued the world.

Second, he is another example of the GOP effort to recruit the dimmest bulbs in the hallway to run for office.

That report also made me think about my imaginary town , Ironton, N.J. base for the Frank Nagler Mystery series and the choice to include as many diverse characters possible and give them important roles.

This is not an effort to be “woke,” as is the current term.

These characters go back to the first drafts of the mysteries  written in my 20s.

Great stories have memorable minor characters who served to move the story and expand the universe.

One such character is Manny Calabrese, an Italian jeweler, who appears in several books. During an interview about THE RED HAND, the host noted how Manny reminded him  of  shopkeepers in his hometown, people who knew their customers, patted kids on the head. It was one of the highest compliments I had received.

Manny, like Barry, the Hispanic owner of Barry’s, the popular Ironton eatery, exists to add sympathy for Frank Nagler and the main characters, and add depth to the life of the city without caricature.

Leonard, for example, appears in the earliest drafts as blind street kid.

Over the stories he becomes owner of a bookstore which becomes a cornerstone for redevelopment of a section of Ironton.

There’s Del Williams, Detective Frank Nagler’s  black childhood friend from the worker’s ghetto. Nagler is always recounting their escapades. Del overcomes addiction  to become a leader and trainer for the street kids hired by Leonard at his store and other businesses.

Calista Knox overcomes child abuse and sex trafficking to become a hero in THE WEIGHT OF LIVING, and Nagler’s companion, Lauren Fox, represents all the qualities of the many women administrators, social workers, nurses, cops, fire fighters and others I have had the privilege  to know as a reporter. Nagler doesn’t succeed without her.

One of the favorite heroes in the stories is Lt. Maria Ramirez, Nagler’s no-nonsense partner. In the upcoming DRAGONY RISING, Ramirez and her companion, Destiny, are endangered because of their sexuality.

These characters exist because they make the Nagler stories more interesting and lively, not to make it appear that I am a writer trying to be  heroic or politically correct.

I am instead a writer partaking in the world that is, the one I learned about by living.

That brings up one more point.

A week or so ago I started a story about an elementary school I attended.   It was supposed to be a goofy growing up story.

Instead, “Dev” showed up.

She is the daughter of a farm worker who disguises her upbringing.

Where did Dev come from?

As a kid in Phoenix, N.Y. I would ride my bike past vast fields of vegetables – truck farms.

At the far rear of the fields were shacks and tents when the migrant workers lived.

That’s where Dev came from.

Where to find the Nagler books:

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

The Weight of Living by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

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WIP: Cherry Street School. Meeting Dev

A continuation  of the first scene from WIP: Cherry Street School. (https://michaelstephendaigle.com/2022/01/07/wip-first-day-at-cherry-street-school/) Theo Dubois meets Andrea Devlin, aka, Dev.

The doors opened with a whoosh of air and closed with a clank as students  entered with some papers they handed to Mrs. Sternman, with the same greeting, “Good morning, Mrs. Sternman.” She would reply with their name and a quick, near smile. Theo decided after watching it three or four times, it wasn’t really a smile, but more like a twitch. The air clacked with typing and occasionally Theo heard a scratchy a voice coming from a speaker he couldn’t see. A woman would say, “I’ll send him right now,”  and then call someone else and say, “Please report to room 215.”

He reached to the wrinkled paper grocery bag  sitting on the floor between his feet. He didn’t have time for breakfast. He wanted to pull out one of the peanut and butter sandwiches, but didn’t  because Mrs. Sternman would frown.

What’s the big deal? he wondered.

Before he could consider an answer, the door to his left opened and a girl and a teacher entered. The teacher nodded to the bench. “You know the drill,” he said.

Theo glanced at the girl and then at the floor. He peeked up to see Mrs. Sternman and the new teacher talking. “Again?” she asked.  “Very well. I’ll call.”

The sense that the girl was in trouble  gave Theo no relief. I’m just trying to get into school and they drop me on a bench where they put kids who get into trouble. What does that make me? he asked himself.

He peeked a glance because he felt the girl was staring at him.

She wore all black, from her shiny  boots to a tight t-shirt. A large hoop earring dangled from her right ear, and her short, black hair shined with an iridescence  that Theo determined was decidedly not natural.

He nailed his eyes to the floor when she turned her head.

“It’s okay, kid,” she said. “I’m used to it.”

Theo scrunched up his face and sat back and said, “Sorry.”

The girl smiled.  “What they got you on the bench for?”

A friendly voice, he thought and felt himself relax.

“Dunno,” he said. “First day.”

“Got it. They’re trying to figure out where to put you.”

“What?”
The girl shook her head. “It’s what happened to me a couple years ago. I came from a bigger school and the way they listed the grades was different. If they can’t figure it out, they start you at the lowest level and let you work your way up.”

“What?”

She grinned. “Means they’re gonna put you with the dumb kids.”

Before Theo could respond, Mrs. Sternman appeared at the front desk. “Andrea.”

The girl wrinkled her nose and stood. “Yes, Mrs. Sternman.”

“Closer, please.”

As Andrea and Mrs. Sternman  huddled over the counter Theo heard Mrs. Sternman say… ”Your father…” and Andrea’s reply. “He was there this morning,” then, “Come on.  It’s a big purple school bus. You’ve found it before.”

Andrea returned to the bench. “Is she frowning?”

Theo flicked his eyes toward Mrs. Sternman and then covered his smile with one hand.
 “Good. I’m Dev. Andrea Devlin, but I like Dev better.”

“Hi, Dev. I’m Theo.” He pronounced it Ta-O. “Short for Theophile, for my grampa.

“That’s a mouthful. How about I call you ‘T’?”

“Deal.”

“So, where ya from?”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

WIP: First day at Cherry Street School

In a writing group the name of Bruce Coville, the acclaimed children’s author, came up. I briefly attended elementary school with Bruce. That connection  led to this work-in-progress. And no, aliens won’t eat Theo’s homework. Instead this is a story about how three kids, strangers, band together to upset the status quo at Cherry Street School.

First Day

Theo Dubois pulled on the handle of the big white  door to the Cherry Street School, but the door didn’t open.

He dropped the paper bag with his supplies and tried again, this time with both hands, and the door still didn’t open.

He knocked on it with his knuckles, peered through a square window, then knocked again harder with  the side of his fist.

The former Cheery Street School, Phoenix, N.Y. It is now an apartment building.

He jammed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and stared at the ground.

I’m already in trouble, he thought. First day.

“Don’t need to break it down, son.”

The man was walking toward the school.

“I’m supposed to go here but I can’t get in,” Theo said.

The man smiled. “You need to push this button on the speaker. It rings in the main office. The secretary will ask who you are and then unlock the door. Like this.”

The man pushed the button and a voice squawked from the wall speaker.

“State your name and business, please.”

“Hello, Sally, This is  Mr. Younger. I believe I have a new student with me.”

“Thank you, Mr. Younger.”

A buzzer sounded and Mr. Younger opened the door.  He pulled open the door  and swept his arm toward the opening. “After you.”e pulled ipen the door an swept

Theo offered a twisted, closed lip smile. “Thanks.”

He took the three wide steps up to a long hallway with doors on both sides that seemed to run forever. The floor shined with a polished glow.

“I don’t…” Theo began.

“I’m Mr. Younger,” the man said. “The principal. And your name is?”

“Theo. Um, Theo Dubois. We just moved here.”

“Well, welcome to Cherry Street School, Theo Dubois. The office is this way.  I’ll introduce you to Mrs. Sternman, the secretary who will get you settled.”

Theo glanced back at the door.

“Why’s the door locked? Do kids run away?”

Mr. Younger paused, then smiled softly.  “Oh, no, Theo. The door are locked for your safety. There has been some trouble. Did your old school not lock doors?”

“Sheesh, no. It had four rooms, about thirty kids. It was a really little town. My friend Kevin said his dad  said they were gonna close it up  and move the kids to a bigger school next year.”

Mr. Younger motioned up the hallways. “We should walk. How small was your town?”

Theo shrugged. “Couple hundred.”

 “Theo, Cherry Street School has 473 students.”

“Wow. You could put all of  Laketown in here.”

“Where is Laketown?”

Theo brightened. “On the lake. It was an old place. Looked old all the time.”

Mr. Younger chuckled. “I meant, what state?”

“Oh, In Maine, in the woods. Lake was called Minnehonk. We think it means lotta geese, ya know, many honks.”

“That’s wonderful, Theo.” Mr. Younger turned to a grey-haired woman at the front counter. “Mrs. Sternman, I’d like you to meet Theo, was it Du-boiz?”

Theo nodded, suddenly uncomfortable. “Yeah, right. Du-boiz.”

 Mrs. Sternman peered over the rims of her glasses at Theo, whose head bobbed above the shoulder-high counter as he looked up to at Mrs. Sternman. She’s really tall, he thought.

Behind her two other women sat at wide metal desks and shuffled papers or spoke on a telephone. Two doors divided the rear wall. Mr. Younger  sat at the desk in the room to the right. The door to the other room was closed.

A wall length, paper banner on the right wall  said ‘CHERRY STREET SCHOOL” in red block letters. On the other wall a big calendar with a picture of a mountain filled the space between two other closed doors.

Theo thought  the office was very quiet even though it had a lot of people. He felt small.

“Hello, Theo,” Mrs. Sternman said with a  dry, cold voice. “It that your real name? Theo?”

Theo wrinkled his face. “It’s Theophile, T-off-o-lee. My  grandfather’s name.”

“Ah,” she said. “Spell it please. And then your surname.”

“My what?”

“Last name. You said it was Du-boiz.  So that would be D-U-B-O-I-S, correct? French. Isn’t that pronounced ‘Du-boi,’”

“Grampa Theo said it was Du-boiz. He said he got beat up as a kid if he said it the French way. That’s why I use Theo, not Ta-O. Kids don’t ask.”

Mrs. Sternman stopped writing and frowned. “And you believed  him?”

Theo found his voice. “He was my grampa. He was from the south. Said it happened all the time.”

“Ah, the South, “ Mrs. Sternman said. “Well, Theophile, this is the New York State. We are different. Please spell you’re first name. We can not have nicknames in the official records.”

Theo spelled “Theophile” and waited for more instructions,

“What is your address?” Mrs. Sternman  asked, pen poised to record it 

Theo stared at the floor, hands jammed in his pockets.  “I don’t know.” He looked up at Mrs. Sternman.  “We got here Saturday. My dad unloaded our stuff and left a note on the kitchen table and took off.”

“Where does he live? What is his phone number?”

Theo  felt the coldness of her voice settle in his chest. “I don’t know. We just got here. Heck, I don’t even know the name of this town.”

“Is your mother with you?” she asked, her voice deepening with official frowning concern.

“She went early to look for a job.”

“Oh, dear. Where?”

“Syracuse,” Theo muttered. It was the one place name he knew because his father said that was where he worked for an electric company.

Mrs. Sternman tapped her pen on the counter, frowning.

“So you prepared  yourself  for school?”

“Yeah, Me and my younger brother and sister. We always used to do it.”

“Two siblings? Where are they?”

“At school I guess. The note said for them to stand on the corner and a bus was gonna come.”

Mrs. Sternman  said, frowning, “Please  take a seat, Theophile. I must speak with Mr. Younger.”

Theo’s shoes thumped on the wooden base of the bench as he sat head down and wondered what he had done. He peeked up and  watched as Mrs. Sternman  wave a finger at the principal. She turned to face Theo a couple of times and tapped the papers in her hand a couple more. Theo heard her say, “very concerned,” once and “very, very concerned” twice. Mr. Younger’s face was wrinkled in worry. Then Theo heard Mrs. Sternman say,  “Broken home” and “social services.” And Mr. Younger asked, “You’re absolutely sure?” and Mrs. Sternman replied, “Absolutely. This is very troubling.” She frowned again at Theo.

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Nagler 5: DRAGONY RISING. Plotting the coup

A long running conspiracy bubbles below the surface of the story in the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery, DRAGONY RISING.

This is how the coup was planned:

“Ramirez opened her computer screen to show the start of an old-style video.

“This looks like it was recorded on an older camera, possibly on tape and converted to a digital file.  It’s really dark, badly recorded. The visuals are uneven and the sound drops out from time to time. I cleaned it up some. But… Frank … It’s that meeting, from 2006 in Dubin Place.”

The still image on the computer showed Ollivar, Dancer, Carlton Dixon, Tallem, Bernie Langdon, Dan Thomson, Taylor Mangot II and a blonde woman at his side, her face turned from the camera, possibly Rachel Pursel. The backs of heads filled the front bottom of the shot.

Ramirez hit play and the video jerked to life.

Ollivar spoke.

“All right, to finish up, here’s where we are. Ray…where’s Ray, okay put your hand up. Good. Ray’s in the planning department. All our applications will go through him, and the inspections. They’ll be the cleanest fucking inspections you’ve ever seen.” A general laugh. “Same in the fire department. Duval is working on a few “accidents.” He’ll inspect them, of course, and declare them solved in such a way that the insurance companies will have no questions. We have real estate and legal people who will handle property transfers once the settlements are complete. The properties will be consolidated under a variety of companies controlled by Mr. Mangot. That’s the first step. The police have others. Dancer?”

Dancer stepped forward and nodded. “Yeah, look. There’s some guys we’re gonna have to deal with. So if you’re working with someone one day, and the next week he ain’t there, don’t worry and don’t ask questions. If ya get asked about it, play dumb.  ‘Sol died? I din’t know that. Sorry to hear that.’  We don’t need heroes. Just do your job.”

Ollivar shifted to the front of the crowd again. “Thanks, Dancer. Heed that warning. Do your job. This is not a frontal assault on Ironton. This is a takeover. Quietly. With stealth, not brawn. It will require patience. It’s the model we will use to move forward, town by town. Now, you all have heard about Article 256-2006? It is an article that will consolidate the power of Ironton’s government in one person. Councilman Bill Weston – Stand, please Bill, thanks. – Bill is our first player, newly elected. He has introduced Article 256. It did not get a second, and therefore no vote.  But we planned for that.  It will be reintroduced, and gain a second, but fail again. Then again, and add another vote, and again, until one glorious year, it is passed into law and signed by the mayor of our choice.”

Scattered applause.

Ollivar: “Thanks. Our leader Carlton Dixon has a few words.”

A shuffling of bodies. Handshakes. Embraces. Raised fists.

“Thank you, Jesus. People think revolutions take place on the streets, are loud, violent things. Crowds with torches and bricks and flags threatening overthrow. That is theater.  Revolution are ideas, formed and refined in meetings like this, in meetings your ancestors held a century or more ago to take power back from the new folks who wanted it. Your ancestors stood up and said, no. No to the pollution of their lives. No to the slippery degradation of their beliefs. So they rose up and took back the purity of their lives.”

Dixon help up one hand to silence the murmured approval. “Society and its creation, government, at times rot. Such is that time. But society is a pile of rocks strapped together with the dreams of believers like you all. It is time to seek out the dreams that have putrefied. Pull out the loose rock, weaken its hold on the faulty structure. Pull one and it leans, makes a hole; pull another and it shivers, another, and it falls. Find your rock, that weak crumbling rock, brothers and sisters, and pull.”

A cheer filled the room. Dixon smiled and gently motioned for the cheering to cease.

“You will not see me often, but you will know the time has come when you hear me referred to as ‘McSalley.’ Think of it as a code.  There will be an event of destruction. It will be a distraction, and while they try to solve it, our work will go on. Also know this: When this gentleman reappears in Ironton, it has begun.”

Dixon pointed to the far corner as out of the shadows stepped McCarroll.

A cheer and an uncertain, “Oohh.” Then another sound.

Ramirez shut off the video; McCarroll’s blurred face shimmered on the computer screen.

“Is it really that easy?” she asked in a tortured whisper.

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Christmas story: ‘The last bell ringer and the yoga girl’

Don stepped into the painted  plywood Santa hut and rolled his neck from side to side to loosen the kinks. He pulled off the scratchy white beard and red hat combo and  pushed his chin onto his chest and felt the relief.

The last day of the month-long season was always the worst. The outfit weighed a ton and smelled like a locker room. His wrists were sore from the constant bell ringing.

He nudged aside  a Styrofoam Rudolph,  stacked two cardboard elves in the back corner and dragged the  broken leather chair to the center and sat.

Close-up of Santa Claus holding metal bell in his hand and against grey background

He had planned to remove his boots but the gravity of fatigue anchored him, eyes closed and head resting on the chair’s crown.

This was not just the last day of this holiday season, but his own last day, perhaps ever, of dressing as Santa Claus and ringing bells, handing out candy canes and shouting “Merry Christmas” until his throat was raw.

What had started as a desperation part-time job a decade ago had become an annual gig which he proudly enjoyed.

Now there was no joy.

It wasn’t just the loss of the department store that stilled the corner, he knew.

In his forty years, he could not recall such angry times, even during war and hard times. In his decade as Santa he knew that people found him, heard the bell. They seemed to understand we were all in the same times together, good or bad.

But now even  as they dropped a few coins in his red bucket  there were fewer smiles and even fewer  mumbled words of cheer; giving had become some grudging duty.

Sitting, relaxed, he took two deep breaths and closed his eyes.

He felt his body swaying as the rhythmic ding-dong  of his brass bell echoed in riffs of four or five rings off the stone and glass all behind him, filling silent space when the traffic had calmed but lost in the roar as it moved again. He imagined the bell’s ring was the call of a winter song bird hidden in a bare tree across the street in the park, a plea to an  absent lover. Find me. Find me, find me; I am here.

“Santa?”

Did he sleep?

He bolted up and blinked to clear his vision to find a petite young woman in a  white wool coat and paisley scarf handing him a coffee cup.

“Tea with honey, correct?”

He blinked twice more and glanced around the sidewalk.

“Sure. Wow. Do I know you?”

“May I sit?’ she asked.

He offered her his chair, pulled over a wooden crate/Christmas gift and took the tea. “Please.”

He fumbled with the tab on the cup lid and took a sip while staring puzzled at her sweet, round face.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” she asked.

“I’m sorry, Miss.  All the years I’ve done this … but the tea?”

“I was fifteen. We had just move to the shelter…”

His face brightened. “Yes. At the community center, your mother and a brother, right? The director had asked me to spend a little extra time with you, but I don’t remember the circumstances. You just seemed so out of place.”

Her smile faded. “We were newly homeless, the first night.”

“Of course. Didn’t mean to pry.”
“You were the saddest Santa I had ever seen, so I got you a cup of tea with way too much sugar to make you feel better. You said you liked honey with tea.”

“I didn’t realize…”

“It was your eyes. Santa was supposed to be jolly with bright happy eyes and a deep laugh and was supposed to make everyone feel better, even when they were homeless. But your eyes were dark and your voice was anything but jolly.” She touched his hand. “I mean I was a kid, but I thought you had a broken heart.   I had seen my Mom’s face when she was hurt. To a kid, Santa’s not supposed to have a broken heart.”

“No,” he shook his head. “Well, yes and no.” He hadn’t thought about. It had been ten years.  “I  knew I had broken someone else’s heart.”

“That’s why you gave me this, isn’t it,” she said as she reached into her coat pocket and displayed a small, wooden carving of a woman in a yoga pose. “I learned later it is a warrior pose. You were going to give it to her, right?”

“What? My goodness. May I?”

 She handed him the carving. He ran a finger over the smooth wood.

“Yeah,” he said,  “I didn’t know anything about yoga but I saw this carving and thought it represented what she was: Strong, sassy,  determined.” He wiped his eyes. “I thought it might have fixed things, I was so dumb. She was something, giving, smart, loving  and I managed to make her feel … I don’t ..”

“Used?”

“Probably.”

“Probably?  Try absolutely. She told you to go away, right?”

He stared into the street with a pained face, gut punched; the truth hurt.

“Been there,” she said. “Both ways.”

“Yeah. I didn’t want that anymore,” nodding at the carving.  “I knew it had some other meaning. I guess I thought you’d figure it out.” Then irritated, “Why are you here? You should go. I don’t want this back.” He tried to stand.


“You can’t have it back. This carving saved my life.”

 “What?”

She took a breath and composed herself. Her voice wavered. “We were homeless for a year and then moved often. I was a geeky, poor lonely girl. But at the  worst times I’d pull out the yoga girl and feel strong. Look at her.” She held up the carving, legs bent, arms outstretched. “She is both  taking in strength  from the world, and  casting power into it. I was a kid. You were Santa Claus. I figured you gave this to me for a good reason.”

“Why are you here? Not just to find me.”

She smiled. “I moved back. I just sold my company to a conglomerate. Now I can do what I was meant to do, help homeless families.”

She removed a business card from her bag.

Patricia Jean Thompson. Yoga Girl Cosmetics.

“Organic, plastic free,  no animal testing,” she said. “I was leaving the bank when I saw you and knew immediately who you were.”

He shook his head. “I’m glad it worked out for you, I’m no hero. I’m a bum. The reason I remember all this is that I hurt someone deeply. I remember more about that than I do about helping you.”

She folded the carving back into her pocket. “The thing about pain is that it can be healed. The thing about kindness is that it happens. It’s medicine. It doesn’t need to be healed. It’s the cure. For me you’ll always be Santa Claus teaching a lesson about giving.”

She pulled five hundreds from her purse and slipped them into the top of the collection bucket.

“The season’s also about forgiving, even ourselves,” she said.  “You should try it.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Nagler news: A GAME CALLED DEAD now an audiobook

I am celebrating the release of the Audiobook version of  A GAME CALLED DEAD, the second  book in the four-book, award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series.

Thanks to IMZADI PUBLISHING for expanding the offerings of the Nagler series  and to DANE PETERSEN for a fabulous reading.

Dane read THE RED HAND, the prequel to the Nagler series. In that book Ironton N.J. Detective Frank Nagler was in his early 20s and dealing with the  illness of his wife Martha, and a serial killer, his first  big case.

A GAME CALLED DEAD takes place twenty years later than The Red Hand, and Dane deftly  has aged Nagler, whose voice now reflects the weariness that has settled on his soul.

A GAME CALLED DEAD also reintroduces some favorite characters from the first book in the series, The Swamps of Jersey: Nagler’s companion, Lauren Fox, and reporter Jimmy Dawson.  

Nagler’s friend from The Red Hand, Leonard, the blind bookstore owner, also returns.

New to the series, and who has become a favorite, is Sgt.  Maria Ramirez,  a non-nonsense compassionate cop who steers Nagler back to the center at times.

A GAME CALLED DEAD is about the terror campaign of an Internet terrorist who turned a video game into a real-life killing spree. It seems that no one at the local state college or in Ironton itself is safe from the terrorist.

It  is a thrilling tale  revenge, murder and intrigue.

Sample comments:

“The character development was rich enough to make Detective Nagler come to life and made it easy to buy in to the storyline of two college girls in New Jersey being murdered in their dorm. The writer incorporates abundant detail in a way that enriches the plot without burdening the reader. As Nagler works the case, there are some unpredictable conflicts and ironies. As Nagler wondered if he could trust the college administrator, the reader begins to see broader possibilities involving suspects and motives. The book is well written and the more I read, the more engaging it became.”

“Think Dashiell Hammett meets twitter.”

Find Dane Petersen’s reading of A GAME CALLED DEAD here:

Amazon.com: A Game Called Dead (Audible Audio Edition): Michael Stephen Daigle, Dane Petersen, Imzadi Publishing: Audible Books & Originals

Audiobook version of THE RED HAND  and THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY can be found here:

Amazon.com: The Swamps of Jersey (Audible Audio Edition): Michael Stephen Daigle, Lee Alan, Imzadi Publishing: Audible Books & Originals

Amazon.com: The Red Hand: A Frank Nagler Mystery: The Frank Nagler Mysteries, Book 4 (Audible Audio Edition): Michael Stephen Daigle, Dane Petersen, Imzadi Publishing: Books

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nagler 6: Title, ‘Nagler’s Secret’

There’s a lot going on Frank Nagler World.

A new audiobook, a new mystery (2022), and story ideas for Book 6.

So, start here:

While casting about for a framework for the next Frank Nagler mystery I read a news story from Boston about a man being released from jail  after 20 years because the police had fabricated evidence  and staged its discovery.

Seemed like a good place to start.

I already know that a character from book three, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING,  will return with a fascinating story to tell.

The return was foretold in the coda to book five, DRAGONY RISING.

Oh, wait – Getting ahead of myself.

Sorry to tease.

DRAGONY RISING is expected to be published in 2022. Look for details.

In the meantime, while planning for the next book in the series, I asked how that old cold case might affect Ironton N.J. Detective  Frank Nagler and his reputation as a stalwart cop and protector of his home town.

What if there was something unknown in his past?

So, there’s the title of Nagler 6: “NAGLER’S SECRET.”

Closer at hand, upcoming is the release of the Audiobook version of  A GAME CALLED DEAD,” read by Dane Petersen.

That will be the third audio version of the series,

Lee Alan read the SWAMPS OF JERSEY and Dane read THE RED HAND.

Information on the audiobooks and all other versions of the Frank Nagler Mysteries  – ebooks and paperbacks – can be found here:

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

And here:

The Red Hand: A Frank Nagler Mystery by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words are like water

Words are like water.

Some so light floating on wavetops to be  missed.

Some emerge  from the  depths, rise like frightening, toothy beasts

A surprise to those who haul them to the surface;

others not so surprising, but known and hidden,

tracked  by sonar, recalled, regretted.

Even more rise from the edge of darkness, beyond the rays of light and imagination,

The carcasses of dreams which sank to places we’d rather not fish.

I am  seeking.

Find me there, sunken, enwrapped by some grassy hold, weighted words unsaid.

I left  a trail, a river of promises like bubbled breath surface bound, one last hope.

Cast a line.

I rise.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

Nagler 5: Who are the traitors?

A deep, generational conspiracy runs through the first four Frank Nagler Mysteries.

In the upcoming DRAGONY RISING, the conspiracy is full-blown and growing.

Can it be stopped? Who are the traitors?

“Bill Weston was nervous. This was not going according to plan.

It was only nine a.m. and he had sweated through his good dress shirt and suit. The ceremony was scheduled for noon. The streets were filled. Good I told my family to stay home.

The meeting the night before when the transfer of power had been planned went so badly the council only managed to appoint him as  acting mayor. Article 256-2006 never was raised for a vote. McSalley said not to worry because as acting mayor Weston could declare by emergency decree that the article was in effect.

The small council room last night had vibrated with the loud anger of the crowd, Weston thought as he sat in the mayor’s seat at the center of the dais alone in the council chambers. A day later he could still feel the rage. The shouting had started before the meeting was called to order and he could not stop it. This was the seat he had wanted all that time; craved it, lusted for it and the power that Article 256-2006 bestowed on him – On him, him alone. He would choose his successor, purge the disloyal, exercise the absolute authority to make of Ironton what he wanted, no longer Bill Weston, faceless accountant, party loyalist, but Bill Weston deal maker, Bill Weston king maker.

Bill Weston, king.

It was all he had ever wanted.

But the crowd last night would not shut up. They roared at him. He pounded the gavel and they roared more loudly. The signs! Kill the Dragony. Fight for Ironton. And the chants: “No more Dragons! No more Dragons!”

Weston tried to clear to room, ordered the police to clear the room, but the crowd filled every seat and the aisles, and were god knows how many deep in the hallways; surrounded he was. Trapped.  The police did not respond. They were ordered to respond and they stood against the wall, hands folded at their waists glaring at him. Didn’t Dixon hand pick them? Our guys, our cops? Clear the room, damn it. As acting mayor I order you to clear the room. They turned their backs; some officers even walked away – to cheers!

Now sitting alone, the rising sounds of a gathering crowd in the streets outside city hall penetrated the walls, pushed aside the silence. Weston cursed that video that popped up on the Internet.  They called me traitor. “Kill the traitor,” they yelled. “Traitor.” “Traitor.” “Traitor.”

It was that fucking video. There was McSalley practically anointing me ruler of Ironton. My baby daughter asked me what it meant. But my teen-age son sat across the table this morning with those dark threatening eyes.

Weston sat back in the wide, thick chair, closed his eyes, and took several deep, settling breaths.

“Fuck ‘em all,” he said.  “The brotherhood is with me. It will be rough at the start, but they will adjust. They have no choice. This is a new day. The Dragony rising.”

He smiled against the sounds of chaos rising outside the chamber’s thick windows.”

To see how Detective Frank Nagler had prepared to battle the Dragony conspiracy, dive into the other four Frank Nagler Mysteries: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; A GAME CALLED DEAD; THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; and THE RED HAND.

Coming December: The audiobook version of A GAME CALLED DEAD, read by  Dane Petersen.

Find the Frank Nagler mysteries at:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-weight-of-living-michael-stephen-daigle/1126280404

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gone solar

I have to admit watching the power meter run backwards is fascinating.

Yup. Went solar.

I’d liked to say that we were the pioneers in our neighborhood, the first to install a roof-based solar system.

We’re not even the first on our street, more like the third.

As far as I can tell on my morning  walks with Lily the dog, there are nine or ten units in the  neighborhood. One is at least five years old, and the others more recent.

After reporting this summer for the Lake Hopatcong News Lake Hopatcong News – Your Source for Lake News on homeowners in the Lake Hopatcong area who were installing solar, starting with homeowners installing the Tesla roof system, I began to investigate online the pros/cons, company histories, costs, incentives, etc.,  of making the switch.

That reporting showed that since 2019, more than 150,000 NJ homes and businesses have switched to solar. The head of our installation crew said they are putting up six systems a week.

Beforewarned: Solar companies have a hot product and they will find you with incredible speed.

So, be prepared.

Read your electric bill, visit the NJ Bureau of Public Utilities website for information on the laws, incentives and tax breaks for NJ homeowners — https://www.bpu.state.nj.us/ — visit clean energy websites for overviews and even, talk to your neighbors who installed  a solar system.

This is a replacement cost.

You already buy electric power and will be doing for as long as you own a home.

With solar you are changing the source and the system.

And, yes, you can watch your meter spin backwards because you are still  connected to the grid.

That’s how you sell back to the power company the excess electricity your solar unit generates. That’s part of the deal, and for a single homeowner helps reduce the overall cost of the solar installation.

The cost?

It’s like buying a new car, but you have 25 years to pay for it. And there is a 26 percent federal tax break, and state incentives, and this is for a product you are already buying and will be buying ad infinitum. Long term, it lowers your cost.

Not all homes are situated for solar. Too many trees or the angle of  the lot and other considerations.

My lot faces basically north and south and the large roof expanse is tree free. The 28 panels face both north and south.

We took down one dying tree that was doomed anyway because it’s middle and upper branches were landing on both my roof and the neighbor’s.

How much energy is produced?

Well, extrapolating from a small sample…a very small sample…three days worth— the system generated between two and three times the amount of electricity used in October.

All of this is situational.

While the house faces north and south, this time of the year the sun rises off due south about 20 degrees east, and sets about 30 degrees west off due north.

It is also on a  low-angle trajectory across the sky never rising above the tree line, so the sunlight hitting the roof is filtered through leaves.

That will continue until late December until after the solstice when the days lengthen and the angles increase.

This is the future. The technology is improving, investment is flowing into the solar and green energy business sector, construction practices are making such systems more practical and zoning and building codes will catch up.

Electric vehicles? Ask yourself how soon after Detroit began rolling out thousands of cars a year, did it take for roads and gas stations to follow?

This is that moment all over again.

.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

Nagler 5: Article 256 changes everything

One of the questions raised in the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery, DRAGONY RISING, is how a conspiracy can result in the  takeover of a government.

This is how: Quietly, with patience, both in the dark and in plain sight.

With this: “Article 256-2006:  An ordinance to reform the duties of the city council of Ironton, New Jersey.”

Coming soon: DRAGONY RISING.

In Dragony Rising, Nagler digs deep into his family’s history to gain insight into a shady organization that is threatening the city.

The connections he finds are deeply personal and shocking.

Who is the Dragony?

A clue:

“People think revolutions take place on the streets, are loud, violent things. Crowds with torches and bricks and flags threatening overthrow. That is theater.  Revolution are ideas, formed and refined in meetings like this, in meetings your ancestors held a century or more ago to take power back from the new folks who wanted it. Your ancestors stood up and said, no. No to the pollution of their lives. No to the slippery degradation of their beliefs. So they rose up and took back the purity of their lives.”

The leader held up one hand to silence the murmured approval. “Society and its creation, government, at times rot. Such is that time. But society is a pile of rocks strapped together with the dreams of believers like you all. It is time to seek out the dreams that have putrefied. Pull out the loose rock, weaken its hold on the faulty structure. Pull one and it leans, makes a hole; pull another and it shivers, another, and it falls. Find your rock, that weak crumbling rock, brothers and sisters, and pull.”

Be afraid, be very afraid.

To see how Detective Frank Nagler had prepared to battle the Dragony conspiracy, dive into the other four Frank Nagler Mysteries: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; A GAME CALLED DEAD; THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; and THE RED HAND.

Coming December: The audiobook version of A GAME CALLED DEAD, read by  Dane Petersen.

Find the Frank Nagler mysteries at:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-weight-of-living-michael-stephen-daigle/1126280404

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: SOUL SEEK, Zackie Series book 4: Fun, spooky, wildly entertaining

Writing suspense stories in the single dimension of this world is hard enough.

That is what makes the effort by New Jersey author Reyna Favis remarkable and such fun: Her Zackie stories about a Psychopomp in the form of a Plott hound and her human  and ghostly companions  take place in two dimensions with spirits and human engaged in crime solving.

Full disclosure: I am a mystery writer (just in one dimension) and a member with Reyna in the Phillipsburg (NJ) writers group. I have heard parts of this story.

In the fourth book in the Zackie series, Soul Seek, American ghost hunter Fia and her entourage are lodged in a manor house in the Scottish Highlands.

A cold draft  leaking from the wall sends Fia down a dark passage to find a dead baby and the spirit of a fiddler James MacPherson.

The death of the child activates Fia and her human crew to find the cause of the child’s death.

The fun part of these stories is that their role  not just crime solving  but soul solving: Fia and Cam and the others, with Zackie, are determined to soothe the worries of the dead who have not passed to the afterlife so they can pass on with Zackie’s help.

The  spirits in these books are not haunting presences  but humans lost in a void They had human lives and now have spirit lives that are played out with insight, at times sympathy, and others, scorn,  but at all times with a brute honesty.

The tangle in this involving tale is the sudden alliance between MacPherson and Hannah, the dead, protective and jealous wife of Lucas Tremaine, a producer of a ghost chasing reality TV show, and Fia’s love interest.

Hannah is the kind of spirit who in full pique drains the batteries of the humans’ vehicles.

The interplay between the humans and the dead in Soul Seek is delicious, at time hilarious and drives the story forward.

Two scenes to ponder.

In one, Hannah, MacPherson and baby Lorna are in the hallways of the manor filling the house with screaming and yelling. Cam orders all concerned to be quiet as Zackie calms the dead child, telling them all to stop shouting or they will wake the baby.

Think about that a moment.

The other scene takes place at the crossroads that has played a prominent part in a previous story.

This scene shows Favis at her orchestrating best.

The TV production crew is terrorized as something unseen smashes their vehicles.

That unseen presence is Sigurd the Mighty, back in this world to terrorize. Along with him is Modwen, his daughter, angry with Sigurd because she was sacrificed  at the time of his death to provide him companionship.

The bickering between the two is as modern as any teen-age daughter/father dispute.

Add Hannah to the mix, talking to  both the humans and the dead, and then the humans talking among themselves and conversing with the dead and the scene is as fascinating, engaging, horrifying and fun  – and as well conceived and written as anything  else you might read today.

This story will haunt you in delightful way.

Amazon.com: Soul Seek: A Zackie Story of Supernatural Suspense (The Zackie Stories Book 4) eBook : Favis, Reyna: Books

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | 3 Comments

Time’s now to fix what’s broken

If all goes to plan, an 8-year-old in Sparta, N.J. today might be able to take one of their  newly adult (over 18) drives through a finally uncluttered intersection at Routes 15 and 80 by 2032.

That’s when, according to state transportation plans, the work to unspaghetti  the collection of confusing and overused ramps and turns that connect the main road from Northwest NJ and the Lake Hopatcong region to the interstate highway might be completed.

A decade to complete the work, but in truth they have been planning and talking about the repairs for thirty years, during which the population of the lake region grew from a few thousand a century ago to a couple hundred thousand today.

The construction plan shows how complicated the work to redesign the intersection actually is, and more important how the lack of consistent transportation funding has left Americans across the country stuck in traffic at similar intersections.

reIn New Jersey where I live and have been a newspaper reporter for three decades, there are dozens of Route15/80 intersections that need to be fixed. And rail lines and tunnels and broken local streets and parks and trails…you get the idea.

And it’s not just roads and bridges.

There are people living in the woods in tents, or in major cities in tent cities that generate disgust but little action toward solutions because we somehow expect people down on their luck to be more perfect than we are.

Senior citizens and children go hungry every day.

Workers take lunch at soup kitchens because they are not paid enough to survive.

Families delay needed medical care because they can’t afford it and struggle to find care givers for their children while thewy work.

And the list goes on.

I have many friends in the social service and non-profit community who daily  push the rock up hill to provide services for the unserved.

And as important and sometimes heroic as those efforts are, they will be pushing that rock uphill forever.

Guess what?

It’s time to fix the broken stuff.

Time to spend the money  because in the American economic system  money can be generated at the drop of a hat.

Time to turn empty buildings into housing and job centers.

Time to modernize our transportation system. It’s a 100 years old and collapsing while we watch.

Time to feed the hungry and offer care to the sick that does not make them choose between paying the rent or getting treatment.

Time to clean up the rivers and lakes. And stop the junk from flowing to them.

Time to unpollute the land left behind when industries moved on and left their mess for someone else to clean.

Time to stop pretending that we have all the time in the world to fix things.

Time to stop complaining when someone else offers a plan.

And time to face the question: What would be worse: passing on to our grandchildren financial debt (FYI, the $1.75 trillion the feds want to borrow for 10 years is a fraction of the estimated US gross national product for that time estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at about $360 trillion)  that  would be recouped, or a broken world?

Time to stop talking, prevaricating, blaming, accusing, puffing ourselves up with self-importance.

Time to listen.

Time to act.

Because some of us won’t be here to use that new Route15/80 intersection.

But that 8-year-old  from Sparta will be.

If it gets done in time.

Enough is enough: Fix the broken stuff and see what happens.


 [MD1]

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

A review: ‘The Botleys of Beaumont County’

Arthur Turfa has a fresh take on traditional Southern literature.

The Botleys of Beaumont County are such an important family that members carry the name of the county in their name, thus Slerd Beaumont Botley.

And as such welcome to the framework of Southern fiction, a space occupied  by William Faulkner, Pat Conroy, Margaret Mitchell, and now Arthur Turfa, poet turned fiction author.

Change comes slow in Southern fiction: The themes of historic roots, family, the American Civil War, (which for some has never ended), religion, economic divisions, and racism, both subtle and overt, are as prevalent as barbeque, cornbread, sweet tea and country music.

It is a rich territory and in THE BOTLEYS OF BEAUMONT COUNTY, his first published novel, Turfa both honors these traditions and rips them apart.

Full disclosure: I read this manuscript in an early form. The published book is a far different writing than what I read.

The story opens in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama as U.S. President, the first Black American so elected. Overlying  the local happenings is the economic decline of 2008-09.

Turfa works the societal changes deftly in to the story: The Botley’s cement products factory is in trouble, local businesses face failure, racial incidents at the local school, turmoil in the once steady local churches.

As such the story reflects the times of 2008-09, but also shines a light on America of 2021.

At the center is the Botleys, proud, heroically Southern, and a flaming  mess of a family.

Turfa details these  changes through the eyes of, first Slerd Botley, successful local attorney, decorated Army veteran and family patriarch, and his teen-age daughter Ashley Violet Botley.

Slerd is a fixer, trying throughout the book to solve numerous social and family problems, including his failing marriage. But in his own way Slerd is numb to the building trouble  because as a fixer he sees the concerns at times only as issues to be solved through logic and influence.

He is also distracted by his burgeoning affair with Jessica Sinclair Cavendish, his high school sweetheart.

The relationship is central to the hierarchy of the story: She is from the wrong side of town, from the wrong family and their deep attraction is the key that opens the secrets of the story.

Offering a different view is Ashley, whose observations are scattered as asides. Whereas her father Slerd muddles through, one foot trapped in tradition, Ashley breaks those bonds  and through her eyes the reader grasps the changes that are coming to Beaumont County.

The Botleys of Beaumont County by Arthur Turfa – Reviewed by Michael Daigle | Reedsy Discovery

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

Coming soon: A GAME CALLED DEAD in audiobook

I am thrilled and gratified to say that an audio version of my Frank Nagler Mystery, A GAME CALLED DEAD is in production. The work is expected to be completed by December.

Great thanks to Imzadi Publishing for arranging this reading. And thanks to Dane Petersen for taking on the project.

Dane previously created the audIo version of THE RED HAND, the fourth Frank Nagler Mystery.

And thanks to Lee Alan., who recorded the first book in the series, THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY

Praise for A GAME CALLED DEAD:

5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written crime drama

This was a well-written crime story. The protagonist detective character was well crafted and the plot flowed in a manner that made this a real page-turner. Definitely recommend.

The link to the audiobook version  of THE RED HAND:

Amazon.com: The Red Hand: A Frank Nagler Mystery: The Frank Nagler Mysteries, Book 4 (Audible Audio Edition): Michael Stephen Daigle, Dane Petersen, Imzadi Publishing: Books

Praise for THE RED HAND

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Prequel

“The Red Hand” is a prequel to the outstanding mystery novel series featuring Detective Frank Nagler. In this book, author Michael Stephen Diagle creates a terrific standalone novel that also serves as a nice set-up for what happens in the already-released novels.

I really like the idea of writing a series of books about a character in the middle of their journey, but then writing a new book to go back in time and fill in some of the blanks to give insight regarding how the characters (particularly the protagonist) got to where they are now. In “The Red Hand” Frank Nagler is a newly minted detective who’s initially over his head in dealing with his first case. It’s a big one: nine murder victims in the space of a few months in the hardscrabble town of Ironton, New Jersey. Ironton is also the town where Nagler grew up, so he knows a lot of the characters already. This fact and the author’s vivid description of the town add to the foreboding atmosphere throughout the novel.

The protagonist detective is easy to root for. About twenty-five percent of the way through the book he thinks, When do I begin to figure all this out? He has no special gifts other than his dogged nature and decency. But he hangs in there and works hard to solve the mystery. The ending is well done and satisfying. Add the other rich characters in the story plus the significant challenges Nagle must deal with in his personal life and you have a total winner. Highly recommended.

Link to the audiobook version  of THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY:

Amazon.com: The Swamps of Jersey (Audible Audio Edition): Michael Stephen Daigle, Lee Alan, Imzadi Publishing: Audible Books & Originals

Praise for THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY:

5.0 out of 5 stars Detective Frank Nagler has earned a place among the best detectives in crime fiction

Detective Frank Nagler can join Sam Spade, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen and all the rest of the crime fiction honor roll as an entertaining and compelling character! I think the author, Michael Daigle, a journalist by trade, is having a lot of fun here. It will be evident to the reader that Daigle has a command of the crime beat, the political beat, and the overall gritty city beat! Daigle’s prose is robust and keeps the reader hooked. If you can win over the reader with your own level of passion, then you’ve won as a writer. And the reader gets to reap the rewards. I’m sure Daigle has paced himself and plotted a fun course for this series. I look forward to more.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nagler 5: DRAGONY RISING is done (finally!)

From the Dawson News Agency

Frank Nagler’s newest story complete;

Author proclaims story is

‘Ripped from the headlines’

Author Michael Stephen Daigle sends

‘DRAGONY RISING’

to Imzadi Publishing

By Jimmy Dawson

New Jersey author Michael Stephen Daigle has completed the long-awaited fifth book in the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series, “Dragony Rising.”

The story finds Ironton. N.J. Detective  Frank Nagler struggling with  the aftermath of an explosion that levels two blocks of downtown Ironton.

The investigation leads Nagler to confront the Dragony, a shadowy organization that has roots in the city’s mining and manufacturing history.

“It  is not an accident that Ironton is a city with a history of mining and manufacturing,” Daigle said exclusively to Dawson News Agency.

“More than in any other of the four previous Nagler Mysteries, Frank is mining his family’s past and its possible clashes with an early version of the Dragony. In this story, Frank digs deeply into his mind, heart and soul for answers.”

“This plot of this story will resonate. It is a story ripped from today’s head lines,” he said.

Daigle also leaked that there are new and surprising roles the women in the series. Both Lauren Fox, the city planner and Frank’s companion, and Lieutenant Maria Ramirez, lead the action of this twisting, complex tale of a city fighting for its life. He advised readers to look for an interesting development involving Frank’s good friend Leonard, and his companion, Calista Knox.

Daigle would say little about the Dragony, except to offer this short piece from the story.

“This is from a crucial scene that  exposes the Dragony for what it is,” Daigle said. “The speaker is one of the leaders: ”

 “Society and its creation, government, at times rot. Such is that time.”

No publication date has been set, Daigle said. “They haven’t even  agreed to publish the book yet,” he added. “Of course,  I did send it to them  only two days ago.”

Catch up with Frank Nagler and his gang and prepare for the arrival of DRAGONY RISING by reading the other four Frank Nagler Mysteries: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, A GAME CALLED DEAD, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING and THE RED HAND.

The Weight of Living by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some new reviews for ‘The Red Hand.’ Listening Netflix?

Thanks to recent readers of The Red Hand, Frank Nagler Mystery.

Coming soon, a preview of THE DRAGONY RISES, A new Frank Nagler Mystery.

One line:   “Ah, What ya believe about it don’t matter when it’s happen’ right in front of ya.” —  Rodney McCarroll.

5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and super satisfying!

Reviewed in the United States on September 9, 2021

I must admit to reading one of the other books in the series. That book left some questions, straight out of curiosity, about a fictional detective I really liked. This book, although fourth in the series, answers most questions. It is very satisfying. What is more, filling in the holes makes me want to read the rest. Frank Nagler. the super sleuth, turns out to be a regular person, with wonderful skills, but full of issues, doubts and a real life. That’s how I like my detectives, and Michael Stephen Daigle has done a creditable job.
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and super satisfying!

I’m not the film type, preferring to get my entertainment from books. But frankly, I would like to watch this series on Netflix. Oh, I would still read all the existing books, and all the future books. But the author has created someone so real, so satisfyingly visual, that there is room for more on the same guy. Hear me, Netflix? Thanks, Mr. Daigle. I found this book in Kindle Unlimited. It alone is worth the monthly subscription. Highly recommend!

4.0 out of 5 stars Brutal and Honest

Reviewed in the United States on September 11, 2021

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This was a brutal and honest read allowing us to follow in Frank Nagler’s footsteps and dreadful murder investigation. For those into the true crime type mysteries Id imagine this would be right up their dark alley.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us at these book events: Sept. 11, Belvidere; Sept. 18, New Providence

September is festival month.

Across New Jersey we are seeing events  that last year were postponed or curtailed coming back to life  in all their splendor.

Please join us at these upcoming events.

First up is the Author’s Alley at Belvidere Heritage Days, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 11. This long-running fair celebrates the heritage of Warren County’s county seat. Food, crafts, history,  friendly neighbors and, authors.

Info at: Victorian Days – Belvidere Heritage

On Sept. 18, the New Providence Book Festival will take place after a year’s delay.

The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of the Salt Box Museum at 1350 Springfield Avenue, New Providence.

The festival features readings, book signings and story telling, food and tours of the museum.

Info at:

www.NewProvidenceBookFestival.com

Thanks to J.R. Bale of New Providence  for  pulling two wonderful book-lover events together.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Review: ‘State of Innocence:’ Compelling thriller. 4 stars

In the new and compelling thriller, “The State of Innocence,” Alexia Rodriquez-McKenzie is a troubled little girl, and suburban Mom/therapist Kimberley Mason is determined to find  out why.

Each of them shares a life event whose terrible nature draws them together and acts as the pivot around which this well-crafted story spins.

Authors S.K. Mason, an Australian therapist,  and Debra Scacciaferro, an American writer and editor, performed an international writing gig to complete this tale based on an actual event.

Set in the Hudson Valley of New York State, the story contrasts Kimberley’s calm, pleasant suburban life with the life led by Alexia, whose parents Connor and Isabella struggle with poverty, addictions and  troubled pasts. Alexia’s case is a challenge to the somewhat inexperienced Kimberley, and at times she feels lost.

The title refers as much to Kimberley’s state of innocence as that of Alexia.

As Kimberley gets deeper into the mess that is Alexia’s life — and as she tries to throw the little girl a lifeline – the troubles seep into Kimberley’s life. Her husband Ammon becomes both defensive and concerned as he sees his  wife sink into the raw event that changed her life.

“The State of Innocence” lives at that crossroad where the terrible, squirming past, and the lies to cover the pain – “Oh, yes, Honey, I’m okay,” – collide.

That collision takes Kimberley and Connor on a frightening trip that carries the second part of the book to a dramatic, crushing conclusion that  leaves one question: Can you burn away all that hurts in one act?

The story is well-paced and the characters compelling.

Well done and well thought out, this is a story worth reading.

Thrilling story that touches hearts (amazon.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joy

This thing, this joy

It streams from you whether you know it or not.

From your eyes even when they are dark

From your hands, fingers, mouth

Like heat from your tender body

Even from the uncertainty of everything

Swirling from  your dreams

The life of water in a dry land

Light through the  dark uncharted

The steadiness of love through distance

Of grace though pain

Of a whisper heard through silence.

The joy  that you are

More than touch

More than wishes,

A smile like sunshine that splits the gloomy day

And turned me like a flower to that light

The joy you are like dew

On the tongue of day.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nagler 5: Lauren returns

Lauren Fox is a city planner and the long time companion of Detective Frank Nagler. She left Ironton for what she said would be four days. She was a few days late, and with the city still roiled by unrest, Nagler was concerned,. But his time is divided by the investigation into the mayor’s death. Nagler is at the mayor’s office looking for clues. Lauren returns.

This in the intro:

The door latched turned.

No one knows I’m here but Maria.

He stepped to the side so the open door would shield him. His plan, for what it was worth, would be to slam the door into the intruder; he placed his right palm on the center of the door as it opened.

“Lauren. What the…”

Lauren Fox turned and placed one finger on his lips.

She locked the door and turned off the lights.

He kissed her finger. “I know why…”

She pressed her finger back on his mouth. “Shush.”

“Where…”

“Hush.”

Her face was dark, her eyes softened with sadness and fear.

He brushed her hair from her forehead and kissed each eye.

“How…” He exhaled a relieved breath. “You’re…”

She wrapped her arms around his neck and offered a gentle quivering kiss. She held his face, and said, “No,” when he tried to speak. “Just this.” She took his hands and leaned over and whispered in his ear.

A thin smile, and he led her to the wide mahogany desk.

****

What readers say about the Red Hand:

Kirkus Reviews: “One of modern fiction’s expertly drawn detectives.”

5.0 out of 5 stars Taking us back to the beginning of Frank Nagler’s journey, THE RED HAND lets us into his Why

Reviewed in the United States on May 30, 2020

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Author Michael S. Daigle has given us quite a collection of memorable stories with his books with the main character Frank Nagler. Now with THE RED HAND he takes us back to his beginnings: new on the job, finding his footing and his voice as well as his motivation… the ‘Why’ of why he is who he is.
I enjoyed this book from the beginning. It was almost like getting to know the backstory of an old friend. Things came up in this book that made me think to myself, ‘Oh, now I understand…’. We see Nagler deal with his weaknesses, find and lean into his strength and give himself to the work that can literally be the different between life and death as well as justice.

A satisfying read, even for those just discovering Nagler as a character. You’ll sure to want to know more about him after reading this one.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing

Reviewed in the United States on July 17, 2021

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Well written book that provides a more in depth look at the character Frank of his beginnings. It provides more insight into this character and overall, the plot is effective.

Posted in Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment