Light burst from darkness

Light burst from darkness.

Light burst.


From nothing

And spilled everywhere like so many little gems of everything.



The sound a cosmic slap; blew up and out and over and down;

Burst, ruptured, exploded joyous

And light running out, accelerating.

Light, then you; light, and breath and sounds, then touch

The spark in your eyes as you walked toward me, the glitter dazzling; the static of your skin, friction to warmth.



And blew us over. Rained on us, soaked us in the questions of uncertainty, clues to be puzzled, probed, tasted, thrilled.


NO you can not be gone

Can not

Be gone. Can not be gone. Can not.


Light burst; flowed past

Filled the dark.



Left voids, swirling sucking voids

That darkness filled.

Left voids

Stole sounds, left empty air

Left hollows

Took words and voices

Took words and voices to fill distant voids with cries no one can hear;

Voids wrapped,  walled in bruised hearts, wrapped twice, thrice so no sound or light escapes.


Light burst

The sounds of tearing

The sound of breaking apart

Light burst


Left a hole.


Left a hole with nothing but crushing vacuums

Where we hold to our silences alone.

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American carnage

In order to see the doom we are facing during these trying times, one must venture out to find it. The American carnage is everywhere.

So drive I did along roads crowded with those fleeing with their families for anyplace but here. North and south they drove, west and east, seeking borders to cross before those borders are closed.

Because a wall is a blockage from either side.

And there they were, the desperate Americans, crowding shopping centers and grocery stores, jamming sidewalks in downtowns, red-faced in endless traffic, sensing no way out. Hoarding winter clothes and the last of the summer  gear at half price; loading the last 24-pack of toilet paper, the final six-pack of paper towels into their four-seat SUV with wi-fi and surround sound; hauling out the last of the three-for-one canned soup, the last loaf of whole wheat bread and the final brick of Velveeta because it has been a long winter  in the years of our nation’s collapse.

And there they were lined up for miles to grab the last parking space at the massive farm where they ran from the howling mobs hauling pumpkins and corn stalks, and bags of the last fresh tomatoes of the season because they know that if they know that if  the debacle continues they will be scratching at barren fields, pawing at the cold dirt for that last potato and recalling the Irish potato famine or the  last scene before the intermission of “Gone with the Wind,” when Vivien Leigh declares, “I will never be hungry again!”

And they look for a savior, someone who says, “Only I can fix this.”

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? They turn their lonely eyes to you.

And the misery of them huddling at the corner taco stand, waiting in line for an hour, wondering all the while why there are not more, why every corner is not so adorned with the promised taco stands while the population goes hungry, texting their anger across the internet with scowling selfies.

And everywhere they crowded the groomed fields to watch their children play sports knowing the games are just practice for military exercises; knowing that only becoming Jennifer Lawrence armed with a bow will provide the measure of safety their off-spring will need to survive the impending attack.

And oh, the garage sales. The horror. Frightened countrymen selling their possessions for mere pennies, converting their goods to cash because only cash will have meaning after the fall.

So we prepare for the American Apocalypse.  We feel the doom descending.

And then we remember that it’s a Saturday, and that’s what we do in the old US of A on a Saturday in the richest, safest country in the world.

We worry whether that bran muffin is gluten free.

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Plotting the next Frank Nagler stories

Since completing the third Frank Nagler story, “The Weight of Living,” due to be released April 25, I’ve been thinking about what’s next for Frank and his guys.

In “Weight” Nagler searches for the identify of a young girl discovered one cold March night in a grocery store Dumpster.

DEADCOVER715 deadawardpicShe is shoeless, wearing a tank top and shorts and does not speak.

The search for her identify introduces Nagler to a family with a deep and dark history, and brings new threats to Nagler and his circle.

To those few who have read the manuscript (Thank you!) it is clear the story ends somewhat abruptly and leaves some issues unresolved.

While in a series such as this, some things are always unresolved and provide lead-ins to the next story, even I knew this was more abrupt than usual.

So what to do next?

What I’m going to try to do is bracket the three existing books, “The Swamps of Jersey,” “A Game Called Dead,” and “The Weight of Living.”

Anita Dugan-Moore, the talented artist who designed the covers for the books, suggested that she’d like to read the original Charlie Adams serial-killer story, a case that haunts Nagler throughout the series.

That would a classic prequel, since that case took place in story-time, twenty years before the current series. It would include the hunt for Adams and the death of Martha, Nagler’s young wife.

That story would also delve into Nagler’s anti-social, nearly depressive personality.

It will be a challenge to write that story, since some of the details have leaked into the other stories.

?????????????????????????????????????????????But writing is about challenges.

Anyway, I have a working title: “Lock Down.”

The title suggests what happens to both Nagler and the city of Ironton.

The story beyond “The Weight of Living” I’ve figured out, has to start almost immediately in story time after the end of “Weight,” and needs to address the emotional cost of that story.  I haven’t chosen a crime scheme, but it will have to be something unique to the series.

Again, I at least have a working title, or at least, a concept:  “Breaking the Darkness,” “Escaping the Darkness,”  something, something The Darkness… you get the idea.

The third book in the series, “The Weight of Living,” will be published by Imzadi Publishing On April 25.

The first two Nagler stories are available at:





The books are also available at the at the following libraries: Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton.

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta.

For information on independent book sellers visit,










Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Ringling circus setting in ‘The Weight of Living’

My Frank Nagler mysteries are set in Ironton, N.J., a fictional Dover and Morris County. In the third book in the series, Detective Frank Nagler ventures  into other parts of the county, including a visit to the  former Ringling estate in Jefferson, where the carriage house remains, and on the nearby county golf course, stone foundation of former elephant sheds can be seen.

The 1,000-acre estate was build by Alfred Ringling, one of the founders of the so-named circus, which has announced it will close after 146 years.


I used the setting for something different, but with a nod to its history.

Information on the Ringling site can be found here:

The site features a story and photos by Robert Koppenhaver, hereby credited.

There is the scene:

“You the cop?”

“Yup. You George Dickinson?”

“Be so.”

“Then we know who we are.”

“That’s a fact.”

George Dickinson claimed to be a distant relative of the old New Jersey governor on whose family’s land iron ore was discovered, boosting a centuries-long industry that put Ironton on the map. While the forges and mills filled Ironton’s sky with black smoke, miners cracked open holes in the ground in the northern hills to drag out the ore.

The forested hills were deeper and darker than Nagler recalled, as if the sunlight skipped over the tops or was absorbed by the dense forest. Nightfall would come early here, he thought. Steep-sided valleys carved by glacial water and ancient rivers split the hard-rock hills into segments that made up a mining district that ran to eastern Pennsylvania and produced iron ore, zinc, slate, coal, and limestone.

That’s all gone now, Nagler had thought as he drove through the beautiful yet unsettling landscape; overgrown, collapsed on itself, the history of industry and struggle worn down through time; it was a closed-in and moody place, perfect, he decided, for the twisted visions of Remington Garrettson.



There was some dispute about George Dickinson’s ancestral claims, but Nagler didn’t care. He had lived in the area for eighty-five years and his family settled in these hills before the Revolution, whether it was the right Dickinson family or not. Besides, Nagler thought, how could you not like a man playing golf in a lime-green shirt, red knickers, a white hat and shoes and knee-high argyle socks?

 “I play every day since they turned that chemical dump into a golf course.” Dickinson winked at Nagler. “That was a pleasant change. But I had played here as a kid. There was a little course of water and I used the old sheds as a green.” …


IMG_5189 “Those walls the remains of the elephant sheds?” Nagler asked.  He nodded toward a stone framework at the edge of one of the golf holes.

 “That’s it.  Can you imagine? Old Ringling had about a thousand acres for himself, built that mansion down the road that’s now owned by the church, and had lions, tigers, and elephants and what-all here. They used to drive the elephants down the valley road to the train stop. What a sight!”….

 “Just wondering. Beautiful spot. Can see why folks settled here. How many people lived up here?”

“Few hundred, scattered.  The end of the mining cleared it out pretty much. When Ringling was here in the Twenties, there was the start of a lake settlement.  When old Remington lived here, weren’t many others. He managed to find the one flat spot of land up on the mountain, worked a stand of apple trees, and then by luck after a washout, found an iron vein right near the surface. There’s two versions. One, he worked it hard for a couple of years, set aside some reserves and fixed up the house and all; and the second, that he barely made a go of it. Truthfully it’s somewhere in between. Mind if I play through here? There’s a foursome three holes behind me. They let me play as long as I don’t hold up the paying customers.”

Nagler smiled. “Swing away.”

Dickinson settled the ball on a tee and pulled out a driver with a head the size of a grapefruit. Nagler recalled a line from Jimmy Dawson, who said in other sports the players took steroids, but in golf it was the equipment that grew.

Dickinson took a smooth swing and the ball jumped out maybe a hundred and fifty yards, driven less by the power of the swing than the size of the metal clubface.




“So where’s the old Garrettson place from here?” Nagler asked as Dickinson lined up another shot: He topped it and the ball bounced out about thirty feet.

“Maybe a mile south.  The old mining camps, where the real money was, were about three, four miles southwest of here over the mountain. His place is at the edge of the fields. No one looking to make real money would have opened that vein.”

“Anything left there?”

“Yeah, heard hikers say there are some buildings, roofs caved in, windows shot out.  There’s a hiking trail that heads up that way. It’s generally smooth since all the rocks have been picked out.”

“I heard there was something called ‘Garrett’s Way?’”

“It’s an old creek washout. He used it as a way to his place.  Heard he blocked it off half way up with blowdowns.”

Dickinson took another swing and with an iron drove the ball cleanly down the fairway.

“All I heard about Garrettson was that he was crazy. People would see him on the valley road with a shotgun yelling at something, probably God. They had learned to stay away. I mean, Detective, they weren’t stupid. The wife dies when there were three kids. Then there’s ten kids and no new wife? Just wasn’t anybody’s business, I guess.”


The first two books in the series are “The Swamps of Jersey,” (2014) and “A Came Called Dead,” (2016). His book was a runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Book contest.


 The first two Nagler stories are available at:





The books are also available at the at the following libraries: Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton.

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta.

For information on independent book sellers visit,





Posted in Fiction, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hey, Congressman, time for a more perfect union

This is a letter to my Congressman, Leonard Lance of Hunterdon County, N.J.

I’ve been disappointed with your voting record for a number of years, and after writing this I can’t even threaten to stop voting for you since I haven’t voted for you in more than a decade. If you had maybe worked harder as a state senator to help build the new high school my kids would have the opportunity to attend, maybe I would have voted for you. But you didn’t and as a result they attended a high school built for 900 that served 2,000 kids and had 33 trailers, a condition that somehow failed for years to move you to action.

But, they, like many other Phillipsburg kids, overcame your indifference and are doing well.

Part of the reason I didn’t vote for or against you, of course, is that I was gerrymandered out of your Congressional district, and used those years to vote against Scott Garrett, a skinflint so skinflinty he voted against refunding Head Start, as if that few million dollars used to help three and four year olds learn to read would threaten the national interests.

But you’re back, and judging your Congressional voting record, I shall have the privilege of voting against you again.

Which, in a narrow political sense, means that you have no reason to listen to me, especially regarding your persistent opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

I understand, you have taken your principled conservative stance against the ACA because government has no place in running the health care system, and you don’t like the notion of shifting wealth around from the wealthy to the less well off because it seems like socialism, or some nonsense.

And because it was named after, you know, a Democratic president.

And I expect that you will vote with your fellow GOP cowards to repeal the ACA, without a replacement, even though every constituency from doctors, hospitals, insurers, medical device makers – the real money guys — even Republican governors, and of course patients, have said it would be a bad idea.


Our founders said the country was created to ensure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In modern, more complicated times, that sense includes being able to receive health care when needed and not have to trade food for medicine.
We have created a complicated health care system, but threatening its existence should not be a front-burner cause; this is an area that because of the nature of aging, calls for great care. And your party so far has not shown any.

Ensuring that all have access to a reasonable level of health care can be seen as part of what the founders called making “a more perfect union,”  a wonderfully open-ended phrase that means we solve the complications of a diverse society as they surface, be it, racism, slavery, voting rights for women, and in these modern days, rights for the LGBTQ  community, the disabled and the elderly; it means seeking remedies that come from economic displacement, educational shortfalls, and providing opportunities for all.

Now is that time, Congressman.


You do realize that you and your 307 other Republicans in Congress are about the only people who might think repeal is a good idea. That’s a mighty small minority.

And you will make that vote even though after seven years, your party does not have an alternative, which is just, for lack of a better work, irresponsible, which is not the word I was going to use, but, I’ll be polite.

OK, stupid.

Let’s look at that has happened since the ACA was passed. And, yes, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than what was in place before.

Yeah, millions more people got health insurance, many through the Medicaid expansion.

Opponents like yourself presume that means more money is being spent on healthcare

Actually the size of the pot of money is about the same.

What the ACA did was  create more private health insurance customers by in part better using state (and federal) tax dollars to support the private health market.  The feds did not write the policies, the insurers did. It’s not perfect.

That was the beauty of Romneycare in Massachusetts:  It took state taxes used to pay charity care to hospitals for treating the uninsured into HC premium supports, which helped people pay for their own health care.  In New Jersey, that change has meant the state budget support charity care had dropped from over $1 billion less than a decade ago to $352 million this year.

State officials said more than 700,000 New Jersey residents have obtained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act took effect, reducing hospitals’ claims for uncompensated care.

That said, this is not a perfect trade-off, but a transitional one.  More need to be done here.

Just as important is the organizational shift taking place in the HC businesses. Hospitals and doctors and others, have taken steps worth millions, to realign care from a fee-for-service model to one that pushes prevention and outpatient care.

I spent a couple weeks last month speaking with people engaged in making that model real on a street and granular level.

It was a story on the Union County (NJ) health care assessment, a requirement of the ACA. All counties have done them.

The folks I spoke with  are dealing with health care on a basic level far beyond the effort being made in the ossified atmospheres  of Trenton and Washington, D.C.

You should speak with them, Mr. Congressmen, to see how much work is being done to improve the delivery of health care and how important your constituents understand the ACA is to their lives.

Because health care policy goes beyond your narrow political view and includes access to transportation and good, fresh food, education and screenings, sidewalks that are safe so senior citizens can safely exercise; they spoke about how nonprofits are working together to provide staff and meeting rooms to educate people about their health, and to gain understanding about how the system is failing to reach those in need; how these efforts overtime begin to bend down the curve of HC costs.

That is the real change in the ACA era, not your worry that rich people are being taxed to support a public good.

When has than never been true, Congressman?

Besides, the rich have enough money.  Despite your party’s complaints about the Obama economy, your rich constituents got richer. Using the stock market as an imperfect marker, it is tickling 20,000, three times higher than eight years ago, and I imagine your smart, rich constituents took advantage of that.

But, I know, you represent a well-off district. The median home value is $429,800, higher than the NJ state average of $299,500. One with a median income of $101,000, again higher than the state median of $72,220.

But, using the measurement in the ALICE report by the United Way of Northern New Jersey, as a yardstick,  about one-third of your constituents qualify as the working poor.

Here are some of that study’s key finding:

ALICE households are working households; they hold jobs, pay taxes, and provide services that are vital to the New Jersey economy, in a variety of positions such as retail salespeople, laborers and movers, customer service representatives, and nursing assistants.

The average annual Household Survival Budget for a four-person family living in New Jersey is $61,200, an increase of 19 percent from the start of the Great Recession in 2007, driven primarily by a 17 percent increase in one of the budget’s largest costs, housing, and even larger increases in transportation and health care. The Household Survival Budget for a family translates to an hourly wage of $30.60, 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year for one parent (or $15.30 per hour each, if two parents work). The annual Household Survival

Budget for a single adult is $27,552, an increase of 18 percent since 2007. The single-adult budget translates to an hourly wage of $13.78.

Why are you working so hard to make it more difficult for this group to help themselves?

It’s been sad to watch your career drift from being a smart Assemblyman to being a Congressional back-bencher.

In that time your district has changed, and needs have been revealed that don’t appear to matter.

The largest employer in your western district moved out as part of an industry merger; your district is home to one of the busiest, more deadly federal highways in the region, some of your towns are losing population because in part of  reactionary zoning put in place decades ago; and many of your older, important towns are struggling with redevelopment issues in an effort to remain viable.

These are solvable issues that need your attention, and one that your, old, bolder self would have tackled.

You once did, when you stood up to Christie Whitman’s effort to borrow $3 billion from the pension fund, an act that cost you a committee chairmanship.

But you voted against that move, and you were right to do so.

Where’d that guy go?

One of the wisest things I was ever told by an officeholder was said by former Morris County Freeholder Gene Feyl, who said that every person in office needs to be ready to cast the vote that would end their career.

You can face that moment and vote against the party leadership to screw up the nation’s HC system, harm millions of U.S. citizens, and thousands of your own constituents, and potentially cost many companies millions of dollars, or you can retire to the back bench and disappear.

And know what, the vote will not cost you your seat. You are in one of safest GOP districts in the state. They might yell at you or challenge you in a primary, but you’ll win.





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My father’s book on Byrd voyages now placed in Cambridge University, England, Antarctic research institute

Scan_Pic0001My father, Joseph Austin Daigle,  was part of the Adm. Richard Byrd exploration of Antarctica in 1939 to 1941. He wrote a small book about it called “Little America III, (1939 to 1941) with Admiral Richard E. Byrd. My Personal experiences.”

The Scott Polar Research Institute of the University of Cambridge, England, noticed a post I had written about the book, called “A Sailor’s Life.”

Antarctic Bibliographer Hilary Shibata asked if the institute could have a copy of the book, and I sent one to them. This is the first notice my siblings are getting about this, but I didn’t think they’d mind.

My great thanks to Professor Shibata for the interest in the story my father recorded.

newbearpic She wrote: “It is an amazing story, all the way from the Antarctic to the Arctic in the Bear, which to my mind is one of the most significant polar ships of all. It’s so good to have a truly personal account of theses voyages and adventures.”

This is a photo of the Bear from the book. It was a retro-fitted whaling ship.

So forever, my father’s story on  his great adventure will be a part of the official record of Antarctic exploration.

For more information on the Byrd voyages visit

this website:


I also wrote this pieces about those voyages, about the penguin my father brought home.


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‘The Weight of Living’ to be released April 25

My publisher, Imzadi Publishing, has announced that the next Frank Nagler mystery, “The Weight of Living,” will be released April 25.

My thanks to the Imzadi crew.

What is exciting is that that this will be one of four new books released by Imzadi this spring. It is great to be a part of a growing enterprise.  For information, visit

The release date is a little distant, so, in the meantime, consider these other events that occurred through history on April 25.

In 1507, the word’ “America” was first used on a map by a German cartographer.

In 1684, the patent for the thimble was issued.

In 1719, Daniel Defoe published “Robinson Crusoe.”

In 1876, the Chicago Cubs won their first-ever major league baseball game.

In 1928, a German Shepherd named Buddy was introduced as the first Seeing-Eye dog.

In 1954, Bell Labs showed off the first-ever solar panel.

In 1983, NASA’s Pioneer 10 sailed beyond Pluto into the universal netherworld.


DEADCOVER715 deadawardpic “The Weight of Living” presents Ironton, N.J. Detective Frank Nagler with a simple puzzle: Discover the identity of a young girl left in a Dumpster on a cold March night. She is deeply withdrawn and does not speak to anyone.

The search leads Nagler into the dark and troubling past of a New Jersey family, and puts him in contact with a figure from his past whose apparent lies and actions only deepen the mystery. Information about incidents in Georgia and Nebraska complicates the search and, Nagler understands, endangers the young girl.

The story introduced two indelible characters: Sister Katherine Marie, who runs the Catholic Sister’s Home, where the young girl receives care, and Calista Knox, a physical therapist who helps Nagler’s friend, Leonard, the bookstore owner, regain his health.

The search also presents Nagler with an existential crisis as his companions and friends become targets of the vengeful killer.


Here’s the opening scene:

“She seemed hollow, the girl did.  Breathing, hearing, touching, but absent.  Small, dark dots sunk into an ashen blank face, eyes impossibly dull for someone so young, eyes that stared straight ahead at the faded green wall; hard, eyes so hard that did not seem to register the color of the wall, the brown of the tabletop, the lightbulb above her head or the presence of anyone else.  Robotic. From the police car to the police station and into the back office she walked with slow, short steps, and once in the room without being told, she slipped sideways into the green vinyl chair with the tear in the seat that exposed the white cotton batting inside; the chair that engulfed her, hips too small to fill the worn indentation in the center of the seat as she faced the wall, folded her hands on the table and sat upright.

Her eyes held no light; expressionless, passages not to a dark soul, but to one seemingly hidden or removed; spaces missing life. Eyes not filled with pain, but absence.

Her hair was raggedly cut and filthy, as was her thin, damaged body.  Grime lived in her skin folds, under her fingernails, on and in her skin so deeply its color changed from white to brown-gray; dirt so thick her skin shed water like plastic.”


????????????????????????????????????????????? The previous Frank Nagler books are, “The Swamps of Jersey” and “A Game Called Dead,”  which was named a Runner-up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book contest.

They are available at:





The books are also available at the at the following libraries: Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton.

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta.

For information on independent book sellers visit,













Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life with Alexa


Me: Alexa, what time is it?

ALEXA: It is three a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Me: Alexa, why am I up?

ALEXA: Technically you are still in bed.

Me: Fine. Alexa, why am I awake at 3 a.m.?

ALEXA: There are a choice of reasons: First, you need to urinate; second, you are thirsty; third, the prospect of worldwide thermonuclear war…

Me: Alexa, fine.

ALEXA: Fine. As a noun, a penalty. As an adjective, thin, as in fine hair. As an expression, OK. As an…

Me: Alexa, I got it.  Alexa, is there any beer in the fridge?

ALEXA: If you did not drink it all, some quantity would remain.

Me: Alexa, did I drink it all?

ALEXA: Why are you asking me?

Me: Alexa, because that is what I’m supposed to do. Right?

ALEXA: Right, opposite of left. Right, political, an expressed condition of being, guaranteed, for example, by the U.S. Constitution, subject to change…

Me: Alexa, why are you here?

ALEXA: Because your cousin required my creators to send me to you as a gift.

Me: Alexa, how can I thank him?

ALEXA: I can send him a thank you note. I have stored his information.

Me: Alexa, you don’t do satire, do you?

ALEXA: I can turn on the lights in the basement, should you wish.

Me: Alexa, why were you created?

ALEXA: Because it is important to my creators that it appear that your life is so busy and complicated that only they, through me, can simplify it. It also allows them to gather data on every aspect of your life so it can be injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected” and then sold to marketing firms.

Me: Alexa, why is that?

ALEXA: Because you will buy anything.  So far they have convinced you that it is more efficient to buy dog food that will be delivered in two days rather than drive ten minutes to the grocery store. And if they can make you believe that you need a little electronic box to turn on the lights, you’ll believe anything they will tell you.

Me: Alexa, why did they call you Alexa?

ALEXA: Because when you do a Google search, my name will appear first. Which really must frost their grits. Sorry. Besides, if they called me Big Brother, even you would have figured out that we are watching.

Posted in Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Christmas for all of us

Smitty is 13-year-old kid who is the narrator of the short story, “The Summer of the Homerun.”

He is  also the lead character in a work in progress so far called “Three Rivers.”

Smitty’s best friend is Danny, a kid from a troubled home, and his girlfriend is the fabulous Katina, piano virtuoso, who is in Paris for a year.

This is a letter he wrote her for Christmas.



Hey, Katina.

With Christmas coming up and you in France and all, I was thinking about you.

And, you know, missing you.

I remember last year how your grandmother had a little party for us and she gave me gloves so my hands wouldn’t freeze when I was delivering the paper, which I really needed. And you played the piano for me, a mini-concert, which was so special. I love watching you play. You and me can barely talk to one another, although we hold hands when we walk, sometimes we can’t say what we want.

So you say it when you play the piano, and I write stuff down, even though it doesn’t make much sense. You smile, and maybe that’s all you need to do.

But this year, you’re gone, and so’s Danny, so it’s just me.

I want to get in the holiday spirit, but it’s been hard, and not just because you’re not here.

It’s just, I don’t know, something’s not right.

The school had its Christmas concert, but the music sounded hollow. The downtown is decked out in wreaths and colored lights and Santas and reindeer. But it all looks old and used.

I’ll bet Paris is beautiful.  I’ve seen the pictures, the City of Lights.

But Three Rivers is dull, recycled. Feels empty.

So I thought that maybe I was growing out of the little kid idea of Christmas, you know, a pile of gifts, waking up at six in the morning and having hot chocolate, and then maybe football in the snow or a snow ball fight in the street.

So – and I wished you had been here to come with me – I went walking around town and talked to people. It would have been so much more special if you had been here. But I told them about you anyway, how your hands fly over the keys and your head and hair are bobbing all over the place and how you, and me, get lost in the sounds.

They all smiled and told me how lucky I was and I told them they didn’t know the half of it.

And I told them about Danny and how we had been palling around since we were little kids, but that he and his Mom and gone out of town for a while and left his drunk old Dad at the house, which is probably a wreck by now.

And know what? They asked if they could help. They didn’t know Danny or his Mom at all, but they wanted to help.

And it wasn’t like these people were rich or doctors or ministers or anything. Just regular people.

I met one man at the cemetery. He was clearing branches and stuff from the graves of soldiers. He had a few wreaths and leaned them on a few gravestones. Friends, he said. Guys he served with.  One was his son. Killed in Vietnam when he was nineteen. That was before I was born. I help him clean off the graves and stood silent with him over each one.

I wish you could have seen it.  The place was so quiet and his face was so sad. And it seemed like half his life was in that cemetery.

He said thanks.

Then I stopped at the old diner. The cook there said he kept the place open late around the holidays to give the cops and a few homeless guys a place to get out of the cold. He had coffee on and a big pot of soup that he gave out with some really good bread. A couple dozen people came in and he asked them all how they were doing. He said that sometimes he’d try to keep a homeless person in the place because they seemed sick.  Sometimes they’d stay, but mostly, he said they would wander off, with a cup of soup and extra bread in their pockets. He’d tell the cops to watch for them.

I asked the cook if it made him happy to help out, and he said, it wasn’t about being happy, just helping. He’d been there, he said.

So I talked to lots of others – nurses, gas station attendants, garbage men, a few of the homeless guys, store clerks, truck drivers — and they all said they were OK, as if saying they weren’t OK was admitting to a crime.

But, Katina, they weren’t OK. They were all sort of sad and lonely, but they could not admit it.

Still, they did what they could and I suppose the world was better for it.

I think they all feel the way I felt after the last time I saw you, before you left for Paris.

I remember how we hugged.

You threw your arms around my neck and I held your waist, and we held on to each other for maybe three minutes, and even as I loosened my grip a little, you tightened yours, and we hugged even longer, standing there in silence.

And even though I was sad that you were leaving for Paris, the promise that you were coming back filled me with hope.

And I think that is what all the people I talked to had, but couldn’t say. Some kind of hope. That if they brushed off one more grave or served one more cup of soup, said thank you one more time, cleaned one more windshield, that the hole in their soul would be filled just a little.

Cause that what it seemed like, Katina. There is a hole in the soul of the world.

So we need to figure out how to make Christmas for all of us.

Yeah, that would mean that you and I hug again for longer this time. And Danny and his Mom can have a few nights of calm, and the cops and the cook, the nurses and the old guy in the cemetery can find someone to stand with them, so all the sacrifice and loss can be, not replaced, but shared.

Maybe if we share it, it’s not so bad.



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Talking Frank Nagler at Hackettstown Free Public Library

Thanks to Nicole Dow of the Hackettstown Free Public Library for the opportunity to read from and discuss the Frank Nagler mystery series.

hackettstown-pic We discussed how Frank and his hometown of Ironton,. N.J. are linked, and how his love for his wife Martha, who died when they were both young, haunted him.

And we discussed villains: Mayor Howard Newton from “The Swamps of Jersey,”  #ARMAGEDDON from “A Game Called Dead,” and introduced “Tank” from the upcoming “The Weight of Living.”

Here is Tank, introducing himself to Frank Nagler:

“Outside a steady rain washed away all other sounds; just the splash of water on asphalt and cement, tapping on roof tops and drumming metal car roofs; a perfect wall in which to hide.

We walk through this wreckage, seeking what does not exist: wholeness.  This is the weight of what we are, he thought. The weight of living.

A few cabs and delivery trucks splashed through the streets left damaged by winter’s wrath. Walking again. I wish I could walk this all away. What did Del say the other day: You see how deep the poison goes, how strong is the wrong in what they doin’.

Tell it, brother.

His phone rang and he answered it out of habit. “Yeah.”

“Detective Nagler.”

IMG_5189Nagler closed his eyes and spit into the street. He glanced quickly around for a parked vehicle.

“Fuck you, Tank.”

“Oh, please. If it had been me shooting, you’d be dead. But Alton, well, he missed.”

“It’s not me. She is off limits.”

The receiver filled with a shallow breath.

“Nothing is off limits.” Said slowly like a hiss.  “I take what I want.”

“You won’t take her.”

“Then I’ll take something else.”

“No …”

“It’s already in motion, Detective Nagler. Already in motion.”

Don’t let him bait you, Frank.

Nagler lightened his tone.

“So why do you do this, Tank? That’s the perfect name for you. Something blunt and brutal, something destructively dumb. Tank.” He expelled the bitter name.

“I take because I can, and I can because everyone wants something from me.” A deep laughed filled the phone.

“What, money?”

“Oh, please. Money is easy. Turn on late night TV or watch that Wall Street cable channel. You’ll see.  Selling the American Dream. Give me a grand and I’ll give you back five. I have magic beans, the ear of God. I can conjure everything you want with a snap of my finger. I am the Wizard of Oz, but the heart I present to you is empty of feeling, the brain, devoid of thought. Money, I have more money than they will ever find, trinkets galore. I command a dark world.”

“You’re just nuts,” Nagler said, chuckling. “Just fucking nuts.”

“No, Detective Nagler. I’m in charge. Take Commissioner McCann. If I were Henny Youngman, I would add ‘please’ and get a big laugh. But, no.  McCann wants power, so I give him the illusion that he has power. He makes what he thinks are command decisions, but fails to realize that they had been previously plotted.  And he also fails to understand that if he does not carry out my plans, there is a certain matter of a bribe he took in his first year as a prosecutor that allowed the scion of a wealthy family to walk away from a situation where he had pumped his pregnant waitress girlfriend full of drugs and threw her off a highway overpass into the path of a truck.  It was so well planned…” A smirking voice.

“A bribe?”

“I’ll send you the paperwork.” The smirk gone; satisfaction, perhaps, even, boredom.

“You find all this amusing, don’t you, Tank? Taking, ruining people’s lives.”

“These are lives that are already ruined, Detective Nagler. Alton Garrett?  Calista… that is not her real name but for the life of me I cannot remember what name I gave her…”

“So she is your daughter?”

Nagler could see the shrug in his voice. “Daughter. Niece. Wife.  The same.  She is family, Detective Nagler.  Family is flesh, and flesh is a commodity.  I create flesh, and I can destroy it.”  A pause. “Alton Garrett wants love, so I give him the illusion of love. Calista Knox wants freedom, ah, a truly more dear commodity.  She has a heavier price to pay. And you want relief, assurances.  They too, come with a high cost.”

The phone went dead.”

The first two Nagler stories are available at:





The books are also available at the at the following libraries: Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany and the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System.

Also at:  Bobby’s News and Gifts, 618 Main Street, Boonton.

The Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton.

Sparta Books, 29 Theatre Center, Sparta.

For information on independent book sellers visit,

Posted in Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle,, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment