Fashion Cents

So long, A-Rod. Ya whiner. (Monte Dutton photo)
So long, A-Rod. Ya whiner. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 10:04 p.m.

Over the years, it’s been my observation that most fans think their favorite (driver, athlete, politician, etc.) is the only guy who tells it like it is, and their least favorite (driver, etc.) is a whiner.

I miss the hoodie.  (Alex Howard photo)
I miss the hoodie. (Alex Howard photo)

I really think it’s terribly unfair for the first round of the baseball playoffs to be winner-take-all, but I didn’t burn as righteously last night when the New York Yankees were being eliminated.

They’re just whiners.

At the moment, on my high-def screen, the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates are massing at home plate in an anticlimactic scrum precipitated by a Buc plunking the Cubbies’ ace, Jake Arrieta.

As my late father was fond of saying, “Chaps love to play.”

With the 2015 Red Sox already a memory, and not a particular fond one at that, I am a bit of a disinterested observer. I’m wearing my standard baseball-watching gear — sweats and a tee shirt — and the top of the stack this night was a UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs gray that is exactly like what John Travolta wore in Pulp Fiction, only I bought it in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District before the movie came out, which was in 1994.

I watched it in February 1995, with Mike Hembree, at a cineplex near Daytona International Speedway. Seeing Vincent (Travolta) wearing my tee shirt was one big surprise. The other was when Vincent plunged the needle into Mia’s (Uma Thurman) heart, which may have been the last time I jumped and left the ground.

And I was sitting.

I have lots of really old clothes. This occurred to me when I looked at myself in the mirror with the UC Santa Cruz tee shirt on.

Damn, this thing is more than 20 years old!

I’ve got a Fairmont State shirt I bought when I was at that West Virginia college broadcasting a football game more than 25 years ago. It was white with glow-in-the-dark orange lettering. Now it has a slight cream tinge to it because I unwisely wore it to a dirt track once.

I have caps that are easily that old. The Watkins Glen Senecas cap is going to disintegrate any time now. I’ve started to upgrade a bit. The age of the cap I was wearing at a high-school scrimmage actually became a topic of discussion in the stands. It’s black with “Clinton” in script on the front in red and white. It’s from sometime in the 1980s. I have a red cap with CHS across the front that is from the ’90s. About a month ago, I bought a new cap that is gray with a red bill and a red block C on the front. It might well be the last one I’ll ever own. Clinton one, anyway.

Just yesterday I bought a new hoodie because from now until next spring, it will be my most commonly worn item of the clothing that isn’t on my feet. Hoodies don’t last long. I always leave them somewhere. When I left my beloved Red Sox pullover at a rained-out Presbyterian College baseball game, well, I hope whichever PC student picked it up is actually a Boston fan.

Yes. I still have a couple of my old football jerseys in the closet.

Some people love their pets.


(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

The tee shirts come in handy when I’m writing fiction, too. My latest, Crazy of Natural Causes, is a KindleScout winner that is on sale for $1.99 right now. You say you don’t read books on your phones? What’s $1.99? Give it a try.


‘I Don’t Think the Heavy Stuff’s Coming Through for Quite a While’

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. (Monte Dutton photo)
Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
(Monte Dutton photo)

Watery Hell, South Carolina, Saturday, October 3, 2015, 10:35 a.m.

I’d like to just sit at home like I am now, wearing sweats and a “Republic of Texas” tee shirt I bought satirically in May. I’d like to watch South Carolina at Missouri, and Alabama at Georgia, and Notre Dame at Clemson.

But nooooooo.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

I’ll probably watch the first game, the Battle of Columbia, but then I’ll drive up I-26, which might as well be a canal delivering bad weather into the mountains, and try to listen to the Presbyterian at Western Carolina game until it fades out in about Simpsonville, and then I’ll wade into Paladin Stadium to watch the Bulldogs of South Carolina State play the Paladins of Furman, and then I’ll write about it.

I need to hustle. It would be beneficial to get done writing and out onto the highway ahead of the Clemson fans. Whether they’re joyous or angry doesn’t matter. They’ll be a handful on the interstate, particularly with rain pelting down.

The Furman game will be over sooner, but most of the Clemson fans won’t have to write a story afterwards, though many would undoubtedly like to go see Dabo.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to see Furman play. I just don’t want to travel there and back. If I had an email pop up on my iPhone with the heading “Paladins, Bulldogs to play Monday,” it would please me, though not enough to dance like Dabo.

It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. By gosh, if the Tigers can play, the Paladins can play. Similar sentiment was in place at the Alamo.

The state is a sieve, sucking in rain from the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the bandit Joaquin (Murrieta?) steals away into the open waters, claiming he has spared us.


(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Crazy of Natural Causes, my third novel, is on sale for $1.99 on Amazon. Reading a book, even (especially) an e-book, will take your mind off the weather, and you can buy it in seconds.

Most of my other books are available here:



Bring on the Weather

Clinton's Tay Cook (3) squares off against his Broome counterpart. (Monte Dutton photo)
Clinton’s Tay Cook (3) squares off against his Broome counterpart, James Hall. (Monte Dutton photo)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 2, 2015, 11:51 a.m.

The Red Devils are now past the halfway point of Andrew Webb’s first season as head football coach. The record is 2-4, which is not as good as everyone would like, but it is better, at this point, than last year’s mark.

Thursday was great in that Broome High School had the foresight to move the game ahead a night and, as a result, here in Clinton, we can stay in and get ready for what is apparently the mother of all stormy days tomorrow. In case you haven’t been watching The Weather Channel, we are so … uh … doomed.

Nah. We’re screwed.

Everyone on TWC is 100 percent sure that this is going to be “a major event.” Like the Super Bowl. The Daytona 500. Squealin’ on the Square. Mule Day in Columbia, Tennessee.

All wrapped up in one. Go get some bread and bottled water. Hunker down.

But I digress.

Broome coach Jet Turner talks to quarterback Hunter Weber. (Monte Dutton photo)
Broome coach Jet Turner talks to quarterback Hunter Weber. (Monte Dutton photo)

Broome, which was in about the same boat (pun intended) as Clinton, won, 17-14. The diplomatic way would be just to write the score and leave it to that, but honesty compels me to report that it wasn’t a close game. When there were 43 seconds left in the whole game, Broome led 17-0. After the horn sounded, it became 17-12, and then, long after the horn sounded, it became 17-14.

Overall, 2-4. In Region 3-3A, 0-1. The Centurions are 3-3 and 1-0. Lancaster visits Wilder Stadium next week. All I can tell you about Lancaster is that it’s “lan-kuh-STER,” not “LAN-kas-ter.”

Clinton's RIley Seals (50) and Clayton Padgett (63). (Monte Dutton photo)
Clinton’s RIley Seals (50) and Clayton Padgett (63). (Monte Dutton photo)

Webb said after the game that the Red Devils and the Centurions were evenly matched, and that seemed reasonably true. Clinton didn’t score in the first half, or for the first 47 minutes and 18 seconds of the game, but Donovan Blackmon’s 65-yard touchdown run got called back by a holding penalty in the first half, and as everyone who ever cheered for a losing team said at least once and, more likely, many times, it could have been a completely different ballgame.

Actually, I doubt it, though the Red Devils would have won, I guess, had they still managed to score 14 points in the final 42 seconds. Broome had quite a few penalties, too, several of which erased similarly big gains.

The Centurions were pitching a shutout until the final minute. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Centurions were pitching a shutout until the final minute. Zach Burdette (54) of Broome. Rakevis Brown (41) of Clinton. (Monte Dutton photo)

The most discouraging aspect from my vantage was that it was the first time Clinton played a team whose linemen were not significantly larger than its.

Broome hurt the Red Devils badly with a set of Jacksons, Dazhon and D’Marco (the latter of which I heard called “Action” by the announcers sitting next to me at least a dozen times) and Jeters, Jarius and Lorenzo. Then there was Zeke Stringer, who sacked Red Devil quarterback Charlie Craven three times and up close and personally fouled him another.

Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)
Near the center of the photo is the new Clinton High head coach, Andrew Webb. (Monte Dutton photo)

Webb, whose father, Jimmy, was a teammate of mine 40 years ago, is doing his best. He has installed a new system, one that must be best because three quarters of the teams in the state are running it. The offense, which stares longingly at the sideline before each of its plays, is now getting them off without having to take a time-out. The hurry-up offense is gradually hurrying up.

In each of the first three games — Clinton won one of them — the team had one horrible quarter. On Thursday night, the Red Devils had 42 magnificent seconds.

Most encouraging was the play of backup quarterback Donte Reeder, who showed considerable athletic skill in his first game. He had been injured since a preseason scrimmage. The move wasn’t made to jump-start the offense. Craven was just “too banged up to go” in Webb’s words.

Brown (41), Zikail Livingston (25) and George. (Monte Dutton photo)
Brown (41), Zikail Livingston (25) and George Rice (42). (Monte Dutton photo)

While I was talking to him afterward, Webb used the word “consistent” four times, and it wasn’t because they were.

The team remains behind its coach, who was certifiably truthful when he said, “Our kids aren’t going to quit fighting. I’m proud of their effort. We’ve just got to play better.”

The Red Devils will be back at Wilder Stadium next week. (Monte Dutton photo)
The Red Devils will be back at Wilder Stadium next week. (Monte Dutton photo)

Broome’s Jet Turner said what every coach of a Clinton opponent has said.

“Clinton is a good football team.”

What remains is for the Red Devils and their first-year head coach to prove it in what remains of the season.

Did I mention that Lancaster is 6-0?


(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Each of my three novels — The Audacity of Dope (2011), The Intangibles (2013), and Crazy of Natural Causes (new) — has at least a little football in it. The game is the centerpiece of The Intangibles, which is set in the 1960s. You can buy them here:


Spanning the Coast

The technology is hard to discern. (Monte Dutton photo)
The technology is hard to discern. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, October 1, 2015, 10:10 a.m.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Okay, okay, people have said this about me before. I haven’t said it often, and when I did, it was generally way too late.

But I’m not talking (writing, actually) about my judgment. It’s mine. It’s not going to change much at this point.

I’m writing about the weather.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Supposedly, I’m going to write about football games Friday and Saturday nights. Supposedly, there’s going to be a stock car race in Dover, Delaware, on Sunday afternoon.

I’m not traveling to Dover, but writing about it at home takes just about as much time as it would if I were at the track. I just don’t have to get there and back, which appears to be a significant advantage this weekend.

This morning’s eye-opener was word that it may rain a foot here. A foot! Not in Dover. Right here. Upstate South Carolina. Columbia might get more. I bet the Gamecocks are happy to be in Columbia, Missouri.

Notre Dame at Clemson. Perfect storm.

"Hey! What's up with the weather?" (Monte Dutton photo)
“Hey! What’s up with the weather?” (Monte Dutton photo)

Hurricane Joaquin is sort of like Joaquin Andujar with control problems. He doesn’t know where his pitch is going. This is basically causing meteorologists to drool and blather from the Carolinas to New England. I dialed up the two weather channels on my satellite TV this morning and called up the Dover forecast. The Weather Channel said Sunday was 20 percent. Weather Nation said 70 percent. That was an hour ago. It may be completely different now.

Most likely seat time at Dover.  (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Most likely seat time at Dover. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Everyone is in agreement, however, that Joaquin is not going to hit the West Coast.

Meteorologists are what Harry Truman said about economists: Line them up end to end, and they still point in all directions.

In short, there’s no telling what I’ll be doing, and the same is true for you.


(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

I suggest stockpiling a few books to read. You can put this one in your phone, or your laptop, or your tablet, or your iPod, and if you load the apps, you can read it in all of them, though I’d recommend only one at a time.


What Emerged from the Mist

This photo is from a couple of years ago on a weekend when conditions were considerably worse than this one. (Monte Dutton photo)
This photo is from a couple of years ago on a weekend when conditions were considerably worse than this one. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 27, 2015, 12:31 p.m.

Ever since Friday morning, or, I’d say, a good 90 percent of the time, a misty rain has been falling, sometimes heavy, sometimes light, almost always there, speckling the windshield, aggravating me as I have to keep adjusting the windshield wipers, and walk through stadium grass, shoes squishing in the water.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I haven’t hoisted the umbrella once, even though it was in the backpack, down in the bottom, beneath the clipboard, the laptop, the binoculars, and the portable radio, all competing for attention in my on again, off again, world of journalism.

To recap, Laurens defeated Easley, 27-14, on Friday night. I was there because Clinton faced the Fighting Dates of Open. Here’s what I wrote:

Dusk settles, game long over. (Monte Dutton photo)
Dusk settles, game long over. (Monte Dutton photo)

Then, after staying up way too late because I’m always keyed up after writing, I headed up to Furman on Saturday afternoon, where the Paladins were a bit lackluster — understandable, perhaps, given that they had edged Central Florida, 16-15, the previous week — but managed to win over VMI, 24-21.

Here’s what I wrote:

I harbored hopes of getting back to Clinton, and Presbyterian’s home game against Chattanooga, by half, but doing the Furman game justice took the appropriate time, so I listened to the game as soon as I could get it, speeding through the I-385 mist, and pulled into the Bailey Memorial Stadium parking lot late in the third quarter with the Blue Hose trailing the Mocs, 14-0.

The home of the Blue Hose football team. It's stately. (Monte Dutton)
The home of the Blue Hose football team. It’s stately. (Monte Dutton)

I put on a jacket and started walking down the sidewalk just outside the fence. PC’s quarterback threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. It was sort of the biggest play the Blue Hose offense had all night. 21-0. After standing there, considering, for a few minutes, I turned around and walked back up the hill to the pop-up tent where friends of mine tailgate at each home game. I sat on a tailgate, appropriately, and watched, though not particularly attentively. No more points were scored.

My PC football friends — most have sons playing for the team — slowly arrived, and they yelled my name as enthusiastically as shutout victims can, and one was mad and the rest grasping. The most often cited observation was that the Presbyterian defense really only gave up seven points because one Moccasin touchdown occurred on a turnover and another because of one.

In eternal mist, I took all this in while eating banana pudding and then scraping up dip with taco chips. Repeatedly I was offered strong beverages, but I politely said it was too late to start drinking, but I would take a water.

In other words, when I got home, I had to use the bathroom, anyway.

Next week the Red Devils visit Broome, which may mean I’ll be filing from a McDonald’s for the first time this fall, and Furman will host South Carolina State in a Saturday-night game. The Blue Hose are off in far Cullowhee to play Western Carolina.

Everything will fall well on Saturday. The way I’ve got it figured, I’ll watch a noon game on TV, listen to the Blue Hose driving up the road to Greenville, and cover the Paladins.

Then, like today, there will be a NASCAR race on Sunday.


(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Here’s a link to my novel, Crazy of Natural Causes. If you’ve read it already, send me your mailing address ( because I’ve got a little something to send you. If you haven’t read it, buy it here and then send me your mailing address.


Memories Are Made of These

Paul Menard, coming at you.  (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Paul Menard, coming at you. (Garry Eller/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, September 25, 2015, 9:44 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m fond of walking into a tumultuous atmosphere, looking around, and proclaiming, satirically, “Another … big … day.”

My days and nights are generally pretty calm now. Writing fiction is like being confined to a monastery, though not so spiritual. Also, I get out more often. On Thursday, for instance, I dropped by the post office, chatted about old times for at least 15 minutes with Benson Roth at Printers Associates, dropped by a friend’s house, and had two ham sandwiches for supper. The Red Sox and Redskins lost, but the barn burner was between Memphis and Cincinnati, 127-126, Memphis, I think it was.

So far this morning, I’ve watched a little more of the Pope, sipped coffee, and completed the day’s first social-media perusal. Dean Martin is starring on TCM as a Southern politician who plays guitar. Right now he’s thumb-strumming a song called “May the Lord Bless You Real Good.”

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)
(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)

After two months on the market, my latest novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, has fallen off in sales, and I spent a good bit of last night reading up on how I might be able to spread the word a little further out into the Twittersphere, the Amazon jungle, the iVerse, and the Me Generation. One way is for those of you who have read it to write down what you think of it, and I’d recommend a customer review at Amazon or Goodreads, but I’d be appreciative of a recommendation, by whatever means, to what few people you know who still read.

(Actually, more read, but it’s 140 characters at a time, and it’s hard to write a novel that way, which is, indirectly, why I sometimes tweet in haiku.)

Lights. On a Friday night. Hmm. Has a nice ring to it. (Monte Dutton)
Lights. On a Friday night. Hmm. Has a nice ring to it. (Monte Dutton)

Two years, nine months, and 21 days after my job “was eliminated” (“nothing personal, it wasn’t you, it was the job, which, coincidentally, you happen to occupy”) I’m back to fast-paced weekends. Tonight I’m pinch-writing at the Laurens District 55 High School game because the Clinton High School is taking a well-needed week off to “prepare for the region.”

Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton photo)
Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton photo)

On Saturday, I’ll be writing a little in the morning, then heading off to the Furman University to write about a football game with the Virginia Military Institute. Once that story is safely transmitted to posterity, I’m hoping to catch the latter half of the Presbyterian College playing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I try not to be as rushed as I’m going to be tomorrow.

(In the previous two paragraphs, I have been using “the” in a coy and deeply insignificant satire on the way broadcasters tend to say THE Charlotte Motor Speedway and THE New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as if they were THE Ohio State University or even THE United States of America.)

Now a crowd in the streets is singing “May the Lord Bless You Real Good,” and, apparently, Dean Martin’s character is named “Bo,” which strikes me as an ill-fitting name for Dino. Today’s star of the day must be Susan Hayward because, earlier this morning, she was in the British Isles somewhere — probably either Scotland or Ireland — getting herself suspected of murder.

Which brings me, for no apparent reason, to NASCAR and this week’s race of the Chase in the pastoral setting of Loudon, New Hampshire. I’m really excited, even if it’s because the race isn’t at night, so I won’t be writing, selecting pictures, perusing Twitter and Youtube, stacking numbers, and inventing a poll until three in the morning. I might even be done in time to catch the latter half of the Sunday night football game, whichever teams are playing it.

Hendrick Motorsports sent this little hot rod over to Stewart-Haas for Kevin Harvick to race this week. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Hendrick Motorsports sent this little hot rod over to Stewart-Haas for Kevin Harvick to race this week. (Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

To summarize, Kevin Harvick, who won last year’s Powerball, now has his back to the wall in New England, where he must try to win or at least watch while others screw up similarly to the way he did in Joliet, Illinois, where the Blues Brothers lived for a while.

The odds do not favor him, but that is for what the Chase is intended.

Clint Bowyer is getting "a nasty reputation as a cru-el dude."  (Nick Laham/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
Clint Bowyer is getting “a nasty reputation as a cru-el dude.” (Nick Laham/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Michael Waltrip Racing, the team with “nuttin’ to lose,” lost all its points when NASCAR officials uncovered its diabolical treachery in Joliet, where the Blues Brothers lived for a while. If Clint Bowyer, who really must be happy about all this, wins the Praise the Lord for Curt Schilling 313.7 (or whatever it is), NASCAR officials will undoubtedly bring in inspectors of the Atomic Energy Commission to handle post-race examination, just in case MWR put a breeder reactor under the hood.

Richard Milhous Nixon (John Clark photo)
Richard Milhous Nixon (John Clark photo)

Meanwhile, I’m hoping my Ryan Newman banner arrives in time for me to put it up in the living room for the rest of the Chase.

Who’s my pick? Hang on a minute. Heads an odd-numbered car, tails an even. Okay. Heads. That narrows it down to Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Paul Menard, Newman, and Kurt Busch. Next round: Heads, not prime. Tails, prime. Heads again, and we’ve got a winner, Paul Menard!

Who knew?

This is going to be quite a story. Now I can’t wait for Sunday. To New Hampshire and beyond!

Meanwhile, of course, I’ll be in my living room, switching to football games during the commercials.


(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Buy my latest novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, and that way I won’t have to sell peaches in a vacant lot next year.


Buy my first two novels, The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, and that way I won’t have to become a telemarketer.


Hear Shouts of Triumph Echo Through the Sky

Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton)
Paladin Stadium, Furman University (Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, September 22, 2015, 10:01 a.m.

“There isn’t a much better feeling in the world.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I was watching a video this morning. The words were Reese Hannon’s following Furman’s 16-15 upset of Central Florida on Saturday.

The Paladin quarterback wasn’t kidding. I made my way through Furman, and hung around working there for several more years, when upsets similar to Saturday fell the Paladins’ way from time to time.

In 1999, my nephew, who was a Denver Broncos fan, and I were in Colorado on the day Furman defeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill. We had just gotten back to Denver from watching Oklahoma play Colorado in Boulder, and the next day we watched the Broncos play the Vikings.

Furman at Wofford, a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)
Furman at Wofford, a few years back. (Monte Dutton photo)

“Ray,” I said to him, “we’re going to have us a big, old time, but I’ve got to tell you, if I had known Furman was going to beat the Tar Heels, there’s no way we’d be here right now.”

Such upsets are rare. Such achievements are rare. I was sitting in the Bailey Memorial Stadium press box, scribbling on a legal pad and preparing to write a blog about Presbyterian’s victory over Campbell, and monitoring the Twitter feed, hoping somehow the Paladins would hang on. After I got home, I spent hours reading the caustic tweets of UCF fans, a few of whom gave Furman credit, but most of whom were calling for cleaning out their school’s athletic department, beginning with head coach George O’Leary, who had heretofore been known mainly for putting the Knights on the map.

Paladin. It's a knight on horseback. (Monte Dutton photo)
Paladin. It’s a knight on horseback. (Monte Dutton photo)

I only responded once. A fellow who is apparently a blogger and talk-show host tweeted that UCF was losing to a school for “white guys who can’t get in Clemson.” I replied that word of Furman’s lofty academics had apparently not reached Orlando.

That’s all, though. It’s not easy for a school with 60,000 students to accept losing to one with 2,800. It also ain’t easy for a boy named Sue, as Johnny Cash (and Shel Silverstein) noted.

I also thought of another old song, “Don’t Forget the Coffee, Billy Joe.”

Was it only yesterday or 20 years ago?

Furman's Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Furman’s Bruce Fowler and I know each other pretty well. (Monte Dutton sketch)

It was almost 33 years ago when Furman defeated South Carolina, 28-23. I remember that day more vividly than yesterday, but, then again, yesterday I was nursing a cold that’s been lingering with the sweat of tramping up and down stadium steps on arthritic knees in the cold night air, scrambling for enough material to write about high school and college games.

I was the Pied Piper of Hamelin after the Presbyterian game.

“Hey, did you hear about Furman?”


“They beat Central Florida.”

“No way!”

“Sixteen to fifteen.”

A victory over Samford was crucial to Furman's Southern Conference championship two years ago. (Monte Dutton photo)
A victory over Samford was crucial to Furman’s Southern Conference championship two years ago. (Monte Dutton photo)

Bruce Fowler, the Furman head coach, and Tim Sorrells, the offensive coordinator, are friends of mine. They were roommates in college. For a year, I lived on the same hall in, I think, C Dorm. We were co-conspirators in the kinds of pranks that college kids enjoy. They were there on the snowy day when I had to buy enough time to keep the late Jeff Snipes from tearing me apart, limb from limb, on the way to the PAC after I tried to hit Tim’s cousin Paul with a chunk of ice. Paul ducked, the ice hit Sniper right in the face, and that was one of the last things I have ever intended to happen that did.

At the time, I thought it might literally be the last thing.

"All hail the white and purple ..."  (Monte Dutton photo)
“All hail the white and purple …” (Monte Dutton photo)

I know that the school cheer of Coach Fowler’s Cincinnati high school was “M, A-R-I-E, M-O-N-T, Mariemont!” and that Sniper ridiculed Bruce for several years about it and countered with a supposed Belton-Honea Path cheer that decorum prevents being repeated here.

I also know how much pride Bruce and Tim have, and what a sacred mission they consider it to be, returning Furman to its football tradition of days past, and how hard a legacy that is to fulfill.

One game does not a season make, nor does it constitute a tradition unto itself, but, suffice it to say, Saturday was a very good day.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Here’s a link to most of my books, and I think they’re right good for a white boy who couldn’t get in Clemson. I’m still shaking my head. The very idea!

The new novel is here:


The Caravan Stops Here

Curtis Bey (98) and Ugonna Akoh look to the sidelines for guidance. (Monte Dutton photo)
Curtis Bey (98) and Ugonna Akoh look to the sidelines for guidance. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 20, 2015, 11:54 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Saturday night’s Campbell-Presbyterian game was key. It was crucial, must-see but not on TV.

The Blue Hose opened the season at Miami of Ohio (7-26) and Charlotte (10-34). After the Bailey Memorial Stadium opener against the Camels – they are Bactrians, by the way, which is to say, one hump – Presbyterian must play a trio of powerful Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) squads – Chattanooga at home, at Western Carolina, and at No. 1-ranked Coastal Carollina – in the next three weeks. The Blue Hose defeated Western Carolina last year here in town.

Campbell's Kameron Bryant gets ready to fire. PC's Obinna Ntiasagwe closes in. (Monte Dutton photo)
Campbell’s Kameron Bryant gets ready to fire. PC’s Obinna Ntiasagwe closes in. (Monte Dutton photo)

When I drove over to PC, still stinging from Laurens’ crushing triumph over the local high school lads, I envisioned a leisurely evening of bonhomie and pregame frolic, followed by a nice, comfortable conquest of Lawrence and all his Arabians astride their wandering Camels, but it only took my friend Brent Sanders a few seconds to raise alarms. As he nonchalantly played catch with his daughter in the parking lot, he told me great tales of woe about the burgeoning Campbell program and its assemblage of misbegotten transfers from major powers.

The lines brace for collision. (Monte Dutton photo)
The lines brace for collision. (Monte Dutton photo)

For a quarter, Brent seemed prophetic. The Camels led 6-2, with all the points being bunched together. With 8:36 on the clock, Kameron Bryant – Doesn’t it seem strange that a Kameron would score for Camels? As opposed to Cameron for Camels or Kameron for Kamels – caught a 53-yard pass from Jared Joyner, which makes more sense, but Jarrett Ozimek had his kick blocked and PC’s Steve Osondu took it to the house, even though the actual house in the stadium was in the other end zone.

A job done, the Blue Hose defense heads for the sideline to recover. (Monte Dutton photo)
A job done, the Blue Hose defense heads for the sideline to recover. (Monte Dutton photo)

Got that? It was 6-2, Campbell, but things soon got more normal. The Blue Hose even made three extra points, though they naturally missed three field goals.

God has decreed, apparently, that I will see no proficient placekicking this year. At high school games, I’ve seen several placements carom off friendly posteriors and, as you undoubtedly suspect, that smarts and even more so because it catches the poor lineman unawares.

Darrell Bridges (10) tries to avoid the Camels. (Monte Dutton photo)
Darrell Bridges (10) tries to avoid the Camels. (Monte Dutton photo)

It was the fourth quarter before the Camels scored again. The Blue Hose won, 23-13. The postgame show in the parking lot was marvelously festive.

It remains for us to learn what this year’s Blue Hose will do for an encore. Not enough people realize that the 2014 season was a near miracle. The record was 6-5, but three of the losses were to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision, i.e., the masters of the college football universe) schools that went to bowl games: Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, and North Carolina State, and the other two were to FCS powers Coastal Carolina and Liberty.

Presbyterian defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler (in black) makes some recommendations. (Monte Dutton photo)
Presbyterian defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler (in black) makes some recommendations. (Monte Dutton photo)

This year’s Presbyterian team isn’t yet fully formed. In particular, the offense is a sculpture that requires more shaping.

The Blue Hose head coach, Harold Nichols, played quarterback when I was covering the team a couple decades back. Clinton is a small town, and Presbyterian is a small college. Most everyone knows him. Most everyone likes him. This is because he’s a fine fellow. Unfortunately, this alone won’t win the next few games. Nice guys don’t finish last, but, unfortunately, they don’t get any bonus points, either.

The offense had been shut down in Charlotte – 103 yards rushing, nine passing, three completions in 17 attempts – and improvement was a must.

Defense has been the strength of Blue Hose football. (Monte Dutton)
Defense has been the strength of Blue Hose football. (Monte Dutton)

“We moved the football,” Nichols said of the Campbell game. “They’re talented up front. They’ve got 25 FBS or FCS transfers on that team.

“I’ve been scared to death all week. I knew it would be a challenge to move the football, especially running the ball, but we were able to have some consistency and get some first downs. I was disappointed in the field-goal kicking and finishing drives. That remains an issue that we’ve got to get solved.”

Campbell, by the way, had won its first two games easily, though it could have been argued that this was a bit predictable in that the games were against Pikeville (41-20) and Chowan (35-3).

“We talked all week about having confidence in the system, having confidence in ourselves, and there’s some momentum you can gain,” Nichols said. “I’m still not satisfied. We can be pretty good offensively if we can put everything together, but we’ve yet to be able to do that and play a complete game.

Lots and lots of blue jerseys. (Monte Dutton photo)
Lots and lots of blue jerseys. (Monte Dutton photo)

“Part of that’s the competition. We’ve played some really good teams. We have yet to win a ‘warm-up.’ I can tell you that right now. Credit goes to [our players]. They did a nice job, and I was real proud of them.”

The Blue Hose will be underdogs again next week when Chattanooga visits. Camels one week, Moccasins the next. Then it’s up into the hills to play some Catamounts, and down to the beach to take on Chanticleers.

Presbyterian will have to keep its Hose hiked up. That’s for certain.

Intangibles1I was just talking to Presbyterian alumnus Irby Hipp last night, and he told me how my novel The Intangibles takes place during an era when he was in school at PC. The novel is in a small college town, Fairmont. Some see similarities with this one. You can buy it and most of my other books here:


A Loss of Character … and Characters

(Getty Images photo for NASCAR)
(Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 19, 2015, 12:55 a.m.

One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy covering NASCAR as much in the final few seasons I was traveling with the circus was that it became so formal. More and more, it was journalism by media conference, and it became harder and harder to have personal interactions with the drivers.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

My best memories were always personal moments: a talk with Jeff Gordon between the rows of haulers in Fontana, dozens of conversations with Tony Stewart, sharing a golf cart with Jimmie Johnson at an outing near Talladega, and many other scenes when the handlers weren’t hovering nearby.

I didn’t see the end of this morning’s Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland. I had just finished visiting my mother and heard John Hunter Nemechek’s victory-lane interview. It made me recall the time I bumped into him and his father at a casino buffet in Las Vegas. I don’t know what year it was, but John Hunter was just a kid, no more than 10 years old or so. Joe was then in his prime as a Cup — it was probably still Winston at the time — driver, and there was some tension between us whose origin I don’t recall. Either he and I had had some minor disagreement in some interview, or maybe it was something I had written, but we sort of eyed each other warily.

Anyway, we had some little conversation that broke the ice. That was always the best way to smooth relations, and Joe introduced me to his son and we wound up eating together, and we parted, not as friends but as friendly.

The reason it’s always John Hunter, not John, Nemechek, is that the driver who won Saturday morning’s race is named after his late uncle, who was killed in a Truck race at what was then Homestead Motorsports Complex. John Nemechek’s death is the chief reason the track was reconfigured. Homestead opened as a scaled-down version of Indianapolis, flat with four distinct turns. The trouble was that a 1.5-mile version of 2.5-mile Indy resulted in transitions that proved dangerous, and those turns were rounded, and banking was increased, to correct the problems that contributed to John Nemechek’s death.

Just hearing the kid’s voice made me recall that long-ago meal at the casino buffet.

Jeff Gordon(HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon(HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

Johnson was still a Busch Series (pre-Nationwide and Xfinity) driver when we played golf together. We were getting ready to hit shots when this fellow who was about my size and considerably drunker appeared in the fairway looking for his ball.

“What y’all boys doing tomorrow evening?” the fellow asked.

“Qualifying,” said Johnson.

Jimmie Johnson  (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

This did not dissuade the fellow, who was wobbling a bit as he pondered his shot back across a row of trees into the appropriate fairway.

“Wull, when ye get th’ough, come on over to them Lincoln Grandstands,” the man said. “Me and the boy’s’ll be getting druuuuunk.”

“Count on it,” I said, intending to do no such thing but not wanting to make the fellow mad.

Johnson and I were having a few beers, too, but we weren’t in this fellow’s league.

In the early years — I started writing about NASCAR full-time in 1993 — golf tournaments involving media, drivers and friends of drivers were common. The courses started getting nicer. The players started getting richer, and the media started getting excluded, and the same process started applying to interactions between media and drivers. We went from being friends of the sport to being necessary nemeses.

My stories started losing character because they had less characters in them. The same became true of the media itself. When I got asked out to dinner with a driver, my goal was impressions. I wanted to make an impression on them and gain an impression of them. It used to tick me off when my colleagues turned these social functions into “media availabilities” and then when the handlers started setting them up that way.

I’m sure some of them started saying, “look at that Dutton. He’s not even taking notes” and “let’s not invite him next year.”

Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)
Tony Stewart (John Clark photo)

The reason Stewart and I almost always got along was that the first time I met him was over spaghetti at an Italian restaurant in Dover, Delaware. Let’s just say we both appreciated the other’s sense of humor.

The conversation with Gordon was over the fact that I was writing a book about him that his “people” hadn’t approved, and I wanted him to know that and not through the filter of his “people.” Hendrick Motorsports has lots of “people.” As a general rule, they are buttoned down people.

I told him I didn’t write “official” books.

Not as many smiles these days. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)
Not as many smiles these days. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevy Racing)

“I’ve got no desire to depict you as anyone other than the extraordinary talent and person I consider you to be,” I said, “but I guarantee if you or those around you have the right to approve every word, there will be a few of them who say this or that has to come out, and this or that will be the most interesting and entertaining part of the whole book, and the book won’t be any good, and it won’t sell, and I won’t be proud of having written it.”

Gordon said he understood, and the two of us left knowing how each other stood.

Nowadays, I just watch them on TV and read transcripts, but it doesn’t matter all that much because it would be mainly the same way if I was there and didn’t have a camera crew trailing me.

That took lots of the fun out of it from my perspective, and it’s all I can come up with when I think about the unexpected surprise that I don’t much miss being there anymore. The Chase opener will be the 99th consecutive race I haven’t attended.

It’s the kind of streak that doesn’t make it into record books.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’m happy. I’d be happier if you’d help me make ends meet by buying these novels I write nowadays. There’s only a smattering of racing in them, but there are some good characters. Take a look.


The Questionable Decision of Awakening at All

A starry, starry night led to a murky day.
A starry, starry night led to a murky day.

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 17, 2015, 3:43 p.m.

This has not been one of my better days, partly because last night was one of my better nights.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Remain calm. I didn’t party like it was 1980. (At this point in life, I don’t look ahead. I don’t just go back to the beginning of the current century. I graduated from college in 1980.) As a matter of fact, I drank one beer (light) and one Coke (diet). I had three slices of pizza.

But I played music for hours, sitting out front of a hotel on a lovely evening with a friend of mine and several of his workers. The majority of the songs were ones I wrote. He is working on a job near Greenville and summoned me to come up and play some music. Several others at the hotel dropped in from time to time, and as best I could tell, they enjoyed my music. Or, as I don’t know them, they could have been habitual liars.

The Pawless.
The Pawless.

Back when I traveled all over the country writing about NASCAR, it wasn’t unusual for me to play music. I had little gigs near several tracks. Now most of my playing is where most of my writing is, i.e., right here in the living room. My Martin is leaning against the couch. I took the Pawless to Greenville because it’s the best guitar I’ve got and I wanted my friend to see how great it is. Like most of the guitar-playing public, he can play my guitar better than I can. I love it when others play my guitars because, that way, I can fully appreciate how great they are.

I got home about 11:30 and watched Kevin Spacey on The Late Show, and I flipped channels watching various commentators say various things about the latest Republican Debate, which is about as close as politics ever gets to NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

This morning, I stupidly got up at 7, thinking I could get some work done, but basically what I got done was sitting in the living room staring at this screen, watching black-and-white film noirs starring the likes of Lex Barker and Aldo Ray, and trying in vain to use coffee as a means of staying awake, which did not work, and so, at last, I returned to bed for about an hour in the early afternoon.

Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)
Why I quit golf. (Vince Pawless photo)

I got up and the machine was beeping, and I called my mother and continued to impress myself (and, no doubt, her) with my lack of brain power. Then I fixed another mug of coffee and reached the modest level of mental proficiency necessary to write this.

The chief accomplishment of this day has been successfully fixing breakfast. The forecast for tonight is a possible trip over to Clinton High School for a junior varsity football game and watching most of the Clemson-Louisville game on TV. I expect to read part of a book called Freelancer, by Jake Lingwall, while Tigers joust against Cardinals.

I try to write something every day, but on this one, I’ve got nothing on those who post memes and photos of cheeseburgers and spaniels on Facebook all day.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky.)

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


I have good days. Those are the ones I write books like these: