Nanci LaGarenne of East Hampton, N.Y. has just released her fourth novel. It is titled Scape Ghost, and in my opinion it is her best effort to date. Her three other east end classics, Cheap Fish, along with Refuge and The Bitter End, are great reads. Reading Scape Ghost, is enjoyable. I navigated through her words easily as they created vivid visual thoughts and clarity of story. The pages practically read themselves. My mind heard each word.
Ms. LaGarenne is well known throughout East Hampton and Montauk. She contributes local writings and does book readings at most of the east end bookstores and libraries. She and her husband James (Jim) LaGarenne practically created the east end karaoke scene in the early 2000s. One might guess a lot of her material is based on some of the colorful characters she has come across in Montauk, Springs and East Hampton Village. She says she enjoys a Guinness and is proud of her Irish background.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, she and her husband have lived year-round in East Hampton for well over thirty years. The seeds of this particular novel came while visiting her son, who lives in the San Francisco area.
The novel starts with an escape from the prison Alcatraz in the early 1960s, before it was closed. Then it focuses on one particular character who after the escape must recreate himself. He chooses being a painter and carver of wood. Then the book takes off with a colorful collection of powerful and historical ghost visitors to a secluded cabin where the escapee found refuge. The deceased visitors arrive as ghosts in their human form. Quite frankly, the dialogue and messages the visiting ghosts convey make for brilliant reading.
This is not your average ghost story book, because the ghost characters are more messengers. The salient points each one makes provokes the reader to reflect and rethink events that actually happened. LaGarenne presents the whole idea of personal rebirth and opportunity to change and overcome. Then there is the suspense of whether the escaped convict will ever be caught by some careless act.
Nanci LaGarenne’s choice of characters and their dialogue is why this book is a must read. I, for one, just couldn’t put the book down. The circle of events includes a love story. The rebirth of the main character is powerful. Then there is a reflection on the tragic and historical events of the second half of the 20th century. This all adds up to a great read.
Scape Ghost, as well as LaGarenne’s other novels, are available at Bookhampton and also on Amazon.
There’s no rock ’n’ roll and just a few mentions of drugs in Nanci E. LaGarenne’s new novel, “Cheap Fish,” but it’s all about Montauk and has sex, salty language, intrigue, and a murder mystery, all aboard a high-class floating brothel called the Lily Virginia in the middle of the ocean.
The characters were not based on real people but may carry the qualities of some or a few rolled into one, Ms. LaGarenne said. Readers, though, are having a lot of fun wondering who’s who from the Montauk bar scene, mostly Liars’ Saloon, which plays a central role in the book.
Ms. LaGarenne and her husband, James, a retired helicopter pilot with the New York Police Department, started performing karaoke 12 years ago in and around the hamlet, and in that time Ms. LaGarenne picked up a lot of information. While her husband worked the microphone, she worked the crowd, and once people got to know her, their secrets started spilling out.
“They knew I wasn’t a gossip so they felt comfortable talking to me,” she said on Friday at a picnic table at Liars’, a late-night hangout popular with fishermen and locals. It overlooks Lake Montauk in the harbor area.
“Someone told me I should hang up a shingle. You can’t make this stuff up,” she said of what she has learned in the bar scene.
When they told her their fish tales and complained about government regulations threatening the industry, she tucked it all away. One day, she was sitting with her brother-in-law while he cleaned his fishing tackle. As he was explaining what a lure is, he playfully asked her if she had ever heard of a floating brothel, and claimed to know the captain of one. At the time, she was planning on writing a novel about the karaoke scene, but once she heard about that, she knew it was a good idea for a book.
Before they started the karaoke, Ms. LaGarenne had worked as a teacher’s assistant in special education and looked for a job out here in a local school, to no avail. She worked several other jobs in town and ended up employed at an insurance agency. “I was a fish out of water,” she said.
Growing up she wrote poetry, mostly about teenage angst. She has tinkered with other books, none of which have yet been published. She started writing “Cheap Fish” in 2007. Since she doesn’t feel a connection with computers, she writes in longhand before entering it into one. An agent or publisher couldn’t be found, so she turned to CreateSpace, a self-publishing arm of Amazon.com. The book hit store shelves in March, she has already had to restock the Montauk stores.
The book is about a grizzled but (this being fiction) really good-looking 65-year-old fisherman known and liked by locals. Starting to feel his age, he knows he should slow down a bit, but the “pull of the sea” is like a magnet to him. In Liars’ one night, he meets a guy locals call a “tree hugger." He approaches the scientist to start a high-class brothel aboard a boat in international waters off Montauk to avoid regulation.
Once the two join forces they realize they need a captain, one who can keep his mouth shut. They choose a “sporty,” a sport fisherman with a fancy boat who visits on weekends. But though the sporty is good at staying quiet about the venture, he isn’t good at keeping his hands off the merchandise, namely the New York City hookers hired to work the vessel.
When a physical therapist decides to join the Mermaids, as the hookers are called, the boat captain initiates her by raping her. He finds out the hard way that he picked on the wrong girl. The mystery comes in when he is “gutted like a fish” by an unknown killer.
Ms. LaGarenne credits a Montauk fisherman, Donny D’Albora, in the acknowledgment section, saying the book wouldn’t have been possible without his lowdown on commercial fishing. She met with him several times and taped his stories. Mr. D’Albora’s picture as a youngster on a dock with a giant tuna even graces the cover. “He taught me the technical aspects of fishing,” she said.
After 12 years of spinning tunes, the LaGarennes have retired from the karaoke gig. They want to spend their weekends at home with each other. She is busy editing another novel that is already written called “The Refuge,” about domestic violence.
“Cheap Fish” is available in Montauk at White’s Drug and Department Store and the Montauk Marine Basin, and at the Gone Local gallery in Amagansett. It can also be purchased through Amazon.com.
Janis Hewitt The East Hampton Star
If you love Montauk and a great vibrant read, you will totally enjoy the bitter end, by East Hampton author Nanci LaGarenne. Ms. LaGarenne weaves a serial murder mystery into everyday Montauk life. She has a gift with her mastery of detail. This may be the finest Montauk book ever. It is so accurately believable in the now, it should be required reading for all east enders.
Her formula of using folks returning to the new Montauk portrays the many changes of the last decade. These changes fuel the vivid conversations. The tempo of the dialogue is excellent. With major character names such as Dragger, Em, Cian, Wyatt, and Luna it is pure Montauk
The signature detail of this book has to be of the murdered men, it is captivating. The method of their murders will mesmerize. The list of suspects keeps you guessing to the very end.
Ms. LaGarenne who has also authored Cheap Fish, and Refuge, brings her vast knowledge of the Montauk social life into proper focus. Ms. LaGarenne introduces the reader to a Montauk the locals know and love. If you live or have lived in Montauk you will recognize the catalyst for many of the characters that brings this book to life.
The Book, the bitter end, is available in both book form and in Kindle on Amazon.
TJ Clemente, Hamptons.com
In her newest book, Nanci LaGarenne develops her story, Refuge, around a diverse group of women who have left abusive marriages and childhoods behind and banded together as they create new lives. Rain Taylor, known as Doc to her therapy clients at the domestic violence shelter where she volunteers and eventually with her boarders, is the foundation around which the other women rebuild their lives. By opening her home, they all call the Brownstone, the group becomes a unique and eclectic family; both supporting and challenging each other to move beyond their pasts to rediscover themselves. The four women, who ultimately joined Doc in the brownstone, came seeking Refuge and in turn change Doc in a way she could never have imagined. Their journey of self-discovery, forgiveness, and redemption happens through the power of friendship and strength of the human spirit, along with a bit of divine intervention and a whole lot of magic.
The hard reality of the characters’ abusive pasts aren’t easy to read, yet Nanci tells them in such a way that the reader becomes personally involved in each woman’s journey; empathizing through their trials and struggles as if they were personal friends. Although the characters are fictional, the issues these women encounter and survive are very real. As the stories are unfolding it’s impossible to imagine how even today these situations continue to plague women in our own communities and families-one would hope that in our advanced society these horrific abusive behaviors would be a thing of the past.
The damaged souls of the Brownstone are slowly healed through love and determination, and a fairytale final cleansing during a magical trip to Ireland. As Nanci beautifully described their journey, I was brought back to my own visit to Ireland over ten years ago and left longing to return. Her beautifully clear descriptive language helps the reader join the ladies on their scenic adventure that becomes part of their final process of rediscovery and magical endings..
The Montauk Sun
Nancy LaGarenne lives in East Hampton with her husband Jimmy. You probably remember her from Liars Karaoke where she and Jimmy ran the Friday night sessions for years. Nanci is a contributing editor for some local Hampton papers, as well as author of Cheap Fish, Refuge, Within a Whisper, and now The Bitter End.
While speaking with Nanci, she told me that her first job was working at the Sands Motel while dating Jimmy, and she fell in love with Montauk. And now she loves writing about it. She also said that the words of her characters are just that-their words. She tries to write from the mindset and point of view of each character, so the talking and complaining is from them, not her.
Cheap Fish, revolves around an unusual friendship that develops between a ‘Salty’, a ‘Sporty’, and a Tree-hugger who come up with an idea, and suddenly the oldest profession takes to the waters off Montauk. Their boat brothel is complete with Mermaids and one of Liars favorite bartenders as the madam. Real? Fantasy? A bit of both??? I think the genre for this book would be fictional realism. Could it happen? Yes! But did it??? With her engaging writing style, the author touches on some ‘Montauk’ issues, without taking it too seriously.
Refuge follows a diverse group of women who have left abusive marriages and childhoods behind and banded together as they create new lives with the assistance of their therapist Rain Taylor. The hard reality of the characters’ abusive pasts isn’t easy to read, yet Nanci tells them in such a way that the reader becomes personally involved in each woman’s journey; empathizing through their trials and struggles as if they were personal friends. Although the characters are fictional, the issues these women encounter and survive are very real.
Nanci co-authors Within a Whisper, with her husband James and Caroline Upcher. It’s a joint effort about the love story and rescue of their marriage.
The new sequel to Cheap Fish, The Bitter End welcomes back some characters from the first book, as well as introducing a few new interesting ones. It’s a good idea to read this first one before her new book, “the bitter end”, so you can get familiar with the characters and events that continue in the second.
At the end of the first book, set in 2013, the main character Dragger moves away to the Keys. Well now, six years later he’s returned to find too many unwelcomed changes in Montauk, and he’s trying to get reacclimated. While exploring and reconnecting with old friends like Emma, the madam of the mermaid boat from Cheap Fish, he discovers information that the locals seem to want to keep hidden- a serial murderer in Montauk.
The story is full of Montauk ‘hot spots’ as well as likenesses to some locals; characters may resemble people that some may think they know. However, Nanci assured me it’s totally coincidental. Although, she does use some real names and a number of friends in the development of her characters. Some of the ‘real people’ include Miss Melody, Little Anthony, Nancy Atlas, and Joe Delia. Some quite familiar include Remy Malina and Moe Granola from the Granola Market in the harbor, Chief of Police Johnny Loman, and so many more you may recognize.
As the mystery unfolds, the reader travels with Dragger, Em, Wyatt [an almost retired NYC cop], and Cian [the twin of Appendage who killed herself in the last book] throughout Montauk trying to piece together who’s murdering the men and leaving a ‘signature’ token in a flower box next to each victim. The adventure takes the reader along throughout the town visiting spots like John’s Pancakes, Herbs and Whites, to the dock’s encountering some of the local characters at Liars, Lynn’s, Westlake, and the Dock. This past summer’s Rock the Lighthouse concert is even a part of the story.
Who is murdering these men? Could it be one of the ‘mermaids’, a crazy serial killer targeting Montauk, a disgruntled wife, or girlfriend??? Nanci draws on the readers interest with a number of red herrings – leaving you wondering who and why this is happening. You’ll have to read the story to discover the truth!
For more information on her books, visit her website: www.nancilagarenne.com.