I am greatly pleased and honored to announce that THE WEIGHT LIVING, Book 3 in the New Jersey-based Frank Nagler series has been graced with another award.
Thank you Maincrest Media Awards.
“TheWeight of Living by Michael Stephen Daigle is a hard-hitting mystery with a complex, intricate plot, presented in a realistic, engrossing style. The main theme, power and control, manifests in a gripping story about corrupt governments and politicians, set in the gloomy streets of New Jersey. The plot develops quickly and keeps the reader guessing along the way, creating a lot of drama and suspense. The characters are flawed and complex, with Detective (Frank) Nagler standing out as a light in a sea of darkness. He is both a likeable, honest character. The language is pitched for adults, with realistic, punchy dialogue. Readers who enjoy hard-boiled mystery and crime fiction, will be thoroughly engaged with this page-turner. —Maincrest Media Awards.”
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
Other reviews of The Weight of Living:
Book three in a terrific series, the author, Michael Stephen Daigle, weaves a fast paced, convoluted, dark crime thriller. This novel starts with what looks like a simple mystery (a young girl is found in a grocery store Dumpster on a cold March night wearing just shorts and a tank top.) and winds up a complex decades old thriller. I enjoyed this book very much. The author certainly keeps you on your toes from the start. Highly recommended.
THE WEIGHT OF LIVING by Michael Stephen Daigle balances its thriller tenets with solid characters, razor-sharp dialogue, and a breathless plot that careens from one realistic scenario to another. The narrative is a stunning and engrossing meditation of grief and survival that examines the insular world of Ironton, New Jersey whose past is clouded by everything from a devastating flood, to the near extinction of viable business opportunities to slimy politicians.
A turning point in Nagler 5, told in 15 sentences:
“The storm never came.
The promise of the storm had arrived.
Muscular clouds pressed gloom below the hilltops.
Trickster winds flipped the fall’s last leaves from wet grass to the shoulder of a passing mourner, then to stick on the darkened glass of the Cadillac hearse from Madison’s Funeral Home.
A taste of ice, a few crystalline snowflakes.
But the storm had not come.
A silence, deep, the lines of shuffled feet settled.
Shoulders shivered as the long blue line of Ironton police officers held their places with white-gloved salutes as the casket of Captain Bernard Langdon was lowered into the ground.
Then Taps, the shouted mourning, warbling in the wind.
No one heard the shot.
No one saw Mayor Jesus Ollivar lean forward against the podium, then fall to the ground.
They all heard the scream and turned.
Detective Frank Nagler, positioned away from the line of officers, traced a possible line of sight up the hill past the War Memorial to the dark trees.
He thought he saw movement.”
What reviewers say about THE RED HAND:
“The Red Hand” is a prequel to the outstanding mystery novel series featuring Detective Frank Nagler. In this book, author Michael Stephen Daigle 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 Nagler must deal with in his personal life and you have a total winner. Highly recommended.
After a fire, after a murder, after friends leaving, after threats, Detective Frank Nagler visits a place he finds soothing: The Old Iron Bog:
“The Old Iron Bog was as dark as a bad idea when Frank Nagler arrived; the swirling water sucked the color from the thick clouds that closed off the tops of the Ironton hills.
This place was made for conspiracies, he thought, watching a smear of an early October dawn shimmer along, like a hint, a murmur of suspicion, around the dimensions of shaded rocks, past leaning trees, tops dipped in the murk until sucked underwater in a whirlpool. You follow it, all of it, he knew. Had no choice. Dark, corners of hidden depth, all the hints, the signals, all the lies, the pieces of stories washed ashore like oil traced to an old car wreck, the rumors of lovers in Room 316, kisses stolen, passion’s cries and tears; payments in dark alleys; winks across a crowded room, deals made with no more than the point of a finger; layers and layers, scratched clues on a door frame. It’s a marvel, he understood — all of this, all of them, like two people in love who won’t admit it just to maintain the distance because if they shared that glance with meaning in the company of others, everyone would know.”
Praise for THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY: 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.Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle
Writing a newspaper column is about discovering lives.
From 2007 to 2011, I had that opportunity as the author of “Morris People,” a weekly column for the Daily Record of Parsippany, NJ.
I write fiction now, mysteries mostly. Check me out on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The lives that these columns represent are reflected in my fiction. It is a reminder of the close world we inhabit.
Here are a few more people who made a difference.
Arlene Dempsey had a full life, so full it was nearly impossible to find a starting point for the column.
So I listened to the tape again, and found this:
“Arlene Dempsey pronounces Boonton with an “n.”
In a world in which language is shrinking to mere letters in text messages on cell phones, Dempsey pronounces the name of her hometown with all its full, rich sound.
She was a descendant of one of the founding families of Boonton, the Peers, and spend her life recording the people and events of her town.
“They say they were poor farmers, but they owned half of Boonton.”
Xiomara Guevara took over The Organization of Hispanic Affairs after a time of chaos that nearly shut the agency that began in the 1970s in Dover. The agency provides education, transportation and social services.
“The buying power of Hispanics is $400 billion nationally, and we represent 32 percent of the purchasing power in New Jersey.
We tell people to get educated to show you are, to show the reasons you are here and to say there’s nothing anyone can take away from you.”
Ed Daniels was gentle man.
He was a teacher and theater actor, director and producer for 40 years in Dover.
“We had many kids with needs, from one-parent homes, divorced families. The teacher ends up playing different roles. When students came to school you were their hope for the future.”
Former students reminded him why he was a teacher, he said.
“Students come up to me and say, ‘Remember me, Mr. Daniels? They say I was a wild kid but now I’ve got a baby and a job.’”
Deborah Sweet of Jefferson knew about darkness.
For 22 years she lived with bipolar disorder.
Then her niece, also weighed down by the disorder, killed herself. “Beautiful, talented, troubled Katie.”
So Deborah Sweet joined “Out of Darkness Overnight” an overnight walk to raise funds for suicide prevention.
“There are tears in the absence, a sob in a moment of doubt that maybe trying one more thing might have changed the outcome, a rip in the voice that Sweet says that the 20-mile walk is how the family builds Katie’s legacy, a way to say she will never be forgotten.”
Sue Berns told her story in 2009.
It could be told today.
A single mother of two small children., a breast-cancer survivor, Bern in 2009 found herself unemployed and living in her parents’ home.
A corporate merger of two law firms cost Bern her job of five years, and in the middle of the 2009-08 U.S. financial crash, she also lost two part-time jobs.
“The door opened, I fell though. I don’t even remember walking out of that room.”
I wrote: “Meet Morris County’s newest wave of jobless workers. Professional skills, pleasant, suburban homes, long, solid working careers, smart kids doing smart kid things, dreams of happy futures.”
As if she is looking in a mirror, Sue Berns sees a picture of the life she dreamed of and hopes to pass to her children, and the picture of the life she is living. The pictures are not the same.”
Stephanie Vose was 17 and the valedictorian of her 2007 Dover High School class.
“I worked hard for our years and studied,” she said.
She said high school helped her mature, prepare for her future.
“I learned that I want to live comfortably, to make an impact in some way. I learned to set goals for myself and work hard to reach those goals.”
“When she walks from her seat to the podium, the tassel on her graduation cap swaying slightly to one side, Vose will be more than a top student preparing to summarize, cajole and praise. She will be the smile on her father’s face, the tear in her mother’s eye, the grin on an older sister’s face, the wrinkle on a younger brother’s nose.”
This is a scene in Nagler 5 about getting to the heart of Detective Frank Nagler’s life. Lauren is Lauren Fox, his companion and the Ironton city planner who has taken steps to protect herself from the assorted criminals.
This is us, Frank Nagler thought, the trail of us, the perfect imperfection, the chaos of two lives running in nine directions.
The empty, dark house weighted, wisps of Lauren’s presence hanging. Jeans clinging to a chair arm, a wadded towel still moist with her rose-scented body wash, hints of lavender shampoo, piles of musty, water-stained tan paper files, pages of reports open and underlined, a cup half filled with white skimmed coffee; in the kitchen sink a vase holding the flowers he brought her, the purple buds now brown, the sagging sunflowers. “Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ve got this.” And I have to believe that she does. He leaned backside against the sink and surveyed the room: haphazard paper piles, the empty beer bottles on the table, her coat slung across the counter, a plastic bag left from Chinese takeout, three forgotten fortune cookies and a menu nestled in the bottom. This is us, Frank Nagler thought, the trail of us, the perfect imperfection, the chaos of two lives running in nine directions, pressed by all these things dark and light closing in, unable to even fill a flower vase with water to keep them alive, yet knowing just the same how delicately their scent drifted in to the dry air, how the frail petals slipped against her fingers, how she smiled, one moment in this unspoken, tangled thing.
He turned and stared into the darkness beyond the window, his face a wavy outline, a smear of light.
The moment is rising, he thought. We have no choice, but to stand.
Pushed from the house to escape its answerless questions, Nagler walked.
The day’s mist, now cleared and frozen, drips made temporary stalactites frozen on the tips of dark branches, sidewalks sheen slick, streets still, shining as a glitter of light trapped in ice. Lights fuzzy with icy patina.
He had walked this route a hundred times, back through the years of his life, down streets that grew darker where the streetlights failed, along narrowing broken sidewalks to the darkened dirt paths, places memories deepened.
Past three-story, white homes with wide porches and picket fences, past the pretty parks to warrens of broken trees, weeds curled like snakes around stunted trunks; then descending along alleys lined with single story unpainted dull wooden garages and sheds with uneven doors and cardboard windows, dying grass at the corners.
Finally to the bottom, the center: The empty lot where his grandparents had lived. The old man would sway in his chair, hands bent and gnarled gripped the rails, feet locked to the floor, eyes pinned to the past, a face like iron.
“They meant well,” he told his grandson from that chair one day before he died. “But they had no idea what they were doing. No means to govern other men. So they stopped trying. Governed for themselves. Greed gets easy. The cheap houses they built, the company stores, wages gleaned, and when the troubles started, hired the thugs to maintain order, the friendlies, the sons, the cousins, brothers, nephews. Hired their own kind, all else be damned.”
Nagler remembered the old man leaned forward, elbows on the chair rails and growled, “It will go on till someone stops it, Frankie, someone from these dreary streets, someone who knows …” His grandfather had collapsed back into the chair, weary. “Knows what, Grandpa?” Frank asked. “Our life, Frank boy. Knows our life.”
When Nagler told Martha that story years later, as teens sitting on the front porch of her parents’ comfortable home under the soft light of a summer day, she turned his face to hers and said, “That wasn’t a curse, Frank,” before she kissed him. “Feels like one,” he had replied. “No, no, no, Frankie.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “It was his blessing.”
What reviewers say about the Frank Nagler Mysteries:
I very much enjoyed The Red Hand. The story kept me engaged and there were plenty of thrills with lots of twists and turns. It was chilling and in many places twisted. The character dialogue was exquisite and made me relate to the characters. Well done.
The characters were well-developed and it made me want to care about them and the outcome of each adventure or situation.It kept me guessing and stealing time to read. The complexities of each hurdle developed the characters as in real life. If you are a fan of The Swamps of Jersey by Michael Stephen Daigle,try this one.
The Weight of Living:
The Weight of Living:
Raced through this one. Nice cover too. Good job. Will be looking out for more from this author.
The Weight of Living
I normally don’t gravitate to dark thrillers but a few stand out to me and a few are worth it. The Weight of Living is ominous in tone but the characters are compelling and the plot is well-developed. If you are a fan of The Girl in the Ice, then you will enjoy this mystery.
I was asked to contribute an interview to the website NFReads.com. The site includes interviews and articles from a range of contributors and a variety of topics. I’m honored and thrilled to be asked for my contribution.
One of the questions was to cite something quirky about yourself.
Here’s my answers:
My father sailed to the South Pole in 1939 with Adm. Byrd, one of the great adventures of the 20th Century.
I was the drummer in the greatest garage band of 14-year-olds to ever come out of Fulton, N.Y., West Hartley Parkway.
When I was eight, I led a labor strike of other youthful oppressed workers. We took umbrage to the notion that the owner of the blueberry patch in Vienna, Maine would pay experienced workers more. So we walked home, five miles or so.
One of the many important woman in the Frank Nagler Mysteries is Lauren Fox.
In THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, the first in the series, she provided key information to Detective Frank Nagler, even though she never physically appears in the story.
She is such a presence, though, that at a book club to discuss the second book in the series, A GAME CALLED DEAD, the first question I was asked was, “Is Lauren Fox in this book?”
These scenes from A GAME CALLED DEAD, show who Lauren is and why she is important to the series. Just for you.
Frank visits a parking lot for which Lauren designed a park, that was never built:
In front of him a block away, the wrecked chain-link fence separated the river from the unfinished park project envisioned by Lauren Fox. That work — a grassy bank and benches, trees and paths — like others, had been started with great fanfare, but was never finished. Instead of an attractive entrance into the new downtown, visitors were greeted by a pile of stones, another of asphalt that had been scoured from the parking lot but never removed, and a twisted, rusted fence.
You had big dreams for this place, didn’t you, kid? Big dreams for the two of us.
She never came back. Did you think she would?
Vindicated by the guilt of Richman and the others, Lauren Fox had chosen to stay away from Ironton. Nagler understood — there was nothing here for her, and coming back would have been no triumph.
The photo she sent him, the one placed in the box that had contained the evidence in the corruption case, was tucked between salt and pepper shakers on his kitchen table.
Her face was still serene, the wisp of hair still blew across her cheek, and her soft eyes were still looking away from him. Two years later, it carried more irony than he wanted to think about.
Nagler had picked it up many times to throw it away, or at least store it in a drawer, someplace where it would be lost like an odd sock. But it never moved, locked between the condiments like a lottery ticket he meant to redeem or a bill he needed to pay.
It hovered like a crack in time, a thing that never was, always was, and would be maybe only in dreams; a glance and smile frozen, a wound unhealing.
For both of us, perhaps.
Frank and Lauren visit his old house and determine the call to go there was a set-up:
“I found it in the court papers that Bruno Hapworth filed to get the latest court hearing. It was Foley. He was working with Adams all alone. Not committing the murders, but feeding Charlie Adams all the ego-boosting bullshit he needed to create a killer. They decided it would be fun to create Victim Z just so we cops would chase our tails, but then wanted to make it personal and hinted in phony records that made it into the archive that Martha was a potential victim. Foley would have known she liked lavender. I was always stopping at drug stores and other places to get lavender soap or perfume while we were on patrol.” He put arm around Lauren and pulled her close. “You can’t talk to anyone about this. It would make you even more of a target than you already are.”
“Oh, come on, you’ve already put a target on my back. Who is it?” She kissed him. “Come on.” And kissed him again. “Who?”
He touched her face. “You have always had a target on your back, Lauren, whether you were in Ironton or not,” he whispered. “That’s how the Game Called Dead works. Get The Hunter’s friends, then get The Hunter. They would have come after you no matter where you were.”
“So bringing me here…”
He smiled wearily. “I thought I could keep an eye on you here, maybe protect you.”
Lauren pulled back, put her elbows on her knees and stared into the street.
“I was always coming back, Frank,” she said softly. “It just took longer than I planned. It was hard the other day at Barry’s not to run across the room and throw my arms around your neck and kiss you and kiss you and kiss you. But I understand.” She leaned her head on his shoulder. “I ran because I was afraid. You have to think about what Howard Newton gave me. All his records, his entire criminal enterprise on paper. Names, dates, pay-offs, bank accounts. Everything. I didn’t want it, and certainly didn’t want to be carrying it around. That’s why I buried it in the park. In my head I figured that someone would make a repair to the equipment and they’d find this box and bring it to you because I had placed an envelope there with your name on it. But then when I saw Debbie Glance in Easton, I realized I had to do more. I wasn’t afraid anymore, but angry because they would have hurt me and my family, and then you. That’s when I left the note and told my mother to give you the key to the Easton apartment.” She gazed up at Nagler. “There’s more here than meets the eye,” she said and smiled. That was the clue she had given him two years ago to find Newton’s records in the city park.
He kissed her hair. “That is certainly true.”
She stood up, took his hands and pulled Nagler to his feet. “And now they are at it again. It has to stop, Frank. It has to stop now, or we’ll never have any peace.”
“Yes, we. You know that. You knew it then. I wouldn’t have come back for anyone else. You and Martha had a love for the ages, and it will always be right here,” she said tapping his heart. “That is why we are here, at her house talking about lavender.”
She reached up and hugged his neck and kissed him. “I’m not running this time, Frank. Let’s get them together.”
She pushed him back so that he sat on the top step and then straddled his hips. She tugged off his jacket, unbuttoned his shirt and peeled it away, then forced him to lie back on the porch as she pulled off her sweatshirt. He touched her shoulders with his fingers and then ran them down her arms and brushed her breasts, her skin rippling in the chilled air. He encircled her back and pulled her down, their mouths locking and probing; he accepted her warmth.
After the cop drama stuff ends with the good cops winning, Lauren lets Frank know where she stands:
“Broken people in a broken town,” he had written. “Broken people, broken town dancing, broken no longer.”
His phone buzzed with a message. Lauren: “Saving u a dance. Hurry.”
Before he started his solo walk, and after Dawson left, she had come back to the bench at Leonard’s. She touched his weary face.
“I’m going to go to the party at the community center and dance with Del and his hunky crew of helpers. I’m gonna drink some beer and eat some barbeque and dance and sing and shed all this terror, swap out the bad for good. And you are going to take one of your grumpy solo walks and with each step a piece of this will fall off and wash away. There’s nothing here to fix, Frank, no apologies to offer. There is just you and me. Just like there was you and Martha. She was your great love. I am your sweet girl. There is room for both of us. You are my sweet man, Frank Nagler.” Then she kissed him.
At the community center, the wild sounds grew denser and louder. The air sizzled and the ground rolled with rhythm. The drummers played before a chorus of wordless joy; sound as revelation, as revolution; air concussive and cleansing. And in the center, Lauren Fox, head back, eyes wide and mouth open in a scream as Del twirled her off his hip, let her go and caught her hand just as she tipped down.
What reviewers say about A GAME CALLED DEAD:
“I chose this book because I love a good mystery and it certainly lived up to its billing. Michael Stephen Daigle creates beautiful descriptive sequences and does an amazing job bringing gritty and damaged characters to life in the eerie industrial setting of Ironton.”
“I loved the blending of the old and the new – the hard nosed detective of yesteryear, Frank Naglar, trying to weave his way through the 21st century reality of computer games, websites and social media. Think Dashiell Hammett meets twitter. Intriguing twist on a classic tale of a who-done-it, coupled with a LITRPG. Great writing. Will read more from this author.”
The Red Hand: “A winning origin story for one of modern fiction’s expertly drawn detectives.” — Kirkus Reviews https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC
“The Red Hand” was named a Distinguished Favorite in the 2019 Big NYC Book Contest
Named Second Place winner for mysteries in the 2019 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards
Named a Notable 100 Book in the 2019 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Awards
Named a Distinguished Favorite in the 2020 Independent Press Awards
A Nominee in the 2020 TopShelf Book Awards
Named A Gold Star Award winner in the 2020 Elite Choice Book Awards
The Frank Nagler Mysteries An Anthology https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1793859523/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4
“A Game Called Dead” was named a Runner-Up in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Best Indie Book contest.
“The Weight of Living” was awarded First Place for mysteries in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Award contest;
Named A Notable 100 Book, Shelf Unbound 2018 Indie Book Awards;
Named a Distinguished Favorite, 2018 Independent Press Awards.
Named a Distinguished Favorite in the 2018 Big NYC Book Contest.
Named a Finalist in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards.
Named A Gold Star Award winner in the 2020 Elite Choice Book Awards