I Had to Think It Through

At Pocono in 2004. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 10:50 a.m.

I first saw it on Twitter at roadandtrack.com. I thought it was a fake. I thought it was one of those stories where they made the website look like something reputable and then ran a head that said, “Hillary Clinton Using Slave Labor at Nigerian Brothel.” Then the writing would be so bad that I’d know it was ersatz.

By Monte Dutton

The story looked okay. The website looked like it might really be Road & Track. Other hastily thrown-together articles showed up on the timeline.

It’s real. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring at year’s end.

I’m going to be about the 100th person in my cast of Twitter followers alone to write that I was surprised but not astonished. I get asked about Earnhardt Jr.’s future almost every week on the South Carolina Network’s SportsTalk show, where I generally appear every Friday night at 7:30 EDT (EDT being the standard reference in the Palmetto State).

(Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I kept saying that it was too early to tell whether or not he had fully recovered from his concussion protocols. When he had his one decent finish to date, I said maybe it was a good sign. Like many, I watched Monday’s rained-out race in Bristol, and, when Earnhardt wrecked, I thought, Well, just another brick in the wall.

Many people will be surprised when I tell you the one word that comes to mind when three words – Dale Earnhardt Junior – flash into my head.

Earnhardt is a folksy, modestly educated North Carolina kid who learned much about fame from having a famous daddy. As amazing as it may seem, the word that occurs to me is …

… Civilized.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. masters the Talladega draft. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Junior is more civilized than his contemporaries. Maybe it’s because he is the son of a hard man who provided his son with examples but not lessons. The son had to learn how to think, observe, and analyze. All racers — many of whom today have lived either comfortable or sheltered lives, and, quite often, both — graduate from the School of Hard Knocks … literally. Not everyone makes the best of his degree. Junior must have concentrated on the liberal arts.

He understands how the world turns. He understands how the media work. So many people use the word “humble” with such reckless abandon. Most times an athlete says “I’m humbled,” he is nothing of the sort. Nothing about great achievement instills humility. Adversity instills humility.Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost his fierce, legendary father, which is bad enough in itself, but devastating particularly in the timing of the son’s loss. Their relationship had been complicated. Now they were both competing together, father and son, and against each other, man against man. Love had lost many of its conditions.

Phoenix. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)

In 2001, before any of what followed happened, I was struck by how happy both Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were. I was there when both raced yellow Corvettes in the Rolex 24. I was in a dinner line when The Intimidator picked up an extra set of silverware and provided one to me. That may not sound like much, but I would not have been more surprised had Earnhardt raised a sword and dubbed me Sir Monte of Dutton. He also high-fived me. People high-five me every day. Not Intimidators, though. Dale Earnhardt was very much alive, and no one thought that was going to change, and I still thought Speedweeks in Daytona was getting awfully weird.

I went to the funeral. I traveled to cold Rockingham for a collective temperament that was even colder. I was in Atlanta when Kevin Harvick won in the Great Man’s car, tastefully renumbered.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. drives to victory in the first of two Can-Am Duel races. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)

More pity did I feel for Dale Earnhardt Jr. than had I for the loss of his legendary father.

Now, I feel great. I’ll miss him, but I don’t think he will miss it. He might miss it as much as I miss 10 months of flights, missed, delayed, canceled, and rerouted; rental cars, good, bad, inappropriate, and balky; traffic jams, Atlanta, LA, D-FW, and, occasionally, tracks; and those special occasions when I’d get cussed out by a man who hadn’t read the story about which he was perturbed.

Earnhardt Jr. with Jeff Gordon. (John Clark photo)

I miss it now. After four years. I missed high school football after four years, too, and it was also hell. I miss it so much now that I wrote a novel about it, and I turned its hero into the essence of what I think stock car racing needs. Barrie Jarman isn’t righteous, either to himself or God. He’s a brash kid who has an accurate estimation of how good he is, which is very.

No intention was involved, but a little, and by that, I mean, just a touch, of Junior may have seeped into my latest prose.

Like Kyle Petty, Junior wasn’t as good as his daddy. Like Kyle Petty, Junior is every bit the man, and, in both cases, it’s because the son had enough sense to follow his own dreams and take his own course. Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt were vivid products of their generation. So, too, were their sons.

It’s going to take someone living and breathing, not a creation of a hero in fiction, to raise this next generation. Barrie Jarman is as close as I can get.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Surprise, Surprise

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, April 22, 2017, 11:14 a.m.

Spring is full of surprises. Maybe that’s true in general. Growing up on a farm makes me think of newborn fillies and calves at the thought of spring.

By Monte Dutton

The major surprises of this season go in opposite directions. One I sprung. Another sprung me.

No one else but I — and my editor/proofreader, and two other people I really trust, one of whom is my mother — knew about Lightning in a Bottle until it struck at the end of March. I wanted to write a stock car racing novel, and I didn’t want anyone to know it was coming, right down to publishing it myself because I didn’t want its submission to be circulating through the publishing industry.

Barrie Jarman (Monte Dutton sketch)

It’s a quick read. It’s simple. It’s just a funny tale about what I think the sport needs. Barrie Jarman is a brilliant, outspoken, brash 18-year-old with a spirit FASCAR — which stands for Federated Association of Super Car Automobile Racing — can’t break. His story is told mainly through the eyes of Charlie, his uncle, with whom he has lived for two years.

Barrie doesn’t lose his innocence. He’s well past innocence when the story begins. In a span of less than a year, Barrie finds success, popularity, controversy, mortal danger, and true love. He is a precocious rogue who is hard to dislike.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

This week’s surprise was an unexpected offer from Jeff Gluck to write about NASCAR events in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Charlotte Motor Speedway. (HHP/Garry Eller photo for Chevrolet)

I put out the word early in the year that I might be willing to go back to the track every now and again. I was down because Bleacher Report ended the NASCAR columns I had been writing for several years. Being a journalist nowadays means constantly trying to outrun budget cuts and layoffs. I got run down by the combine — maybe hay baler works better — over four years ago. I think the anniversary of the Gaston Gazette day of infamy, January 4, 2013, fell at about the same time of the “we’re cutting back on our NASCAR coverage” message from Bleacher Report this year.

What created Lightning in a Bottle were deep ruminations about how racing changed during the 20 years I traveled the circuit, coupled with a wide range of “we might be interesteds” and “we’ll be back in touches” from sources of racing dissemination.

Bristol Motor Speedway (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I missed racing. I started writing a novel about it, confirmed in my oft-stated view that everyone wants me to write about racing again, non-fictionally, except anyone who can do anything about it.

You don’t have to be a race fan to enjoy Lightning in a Bottle. I doubt I can convince many readers of that, but my racing following is considerable on social media, and I’m desperately hoping that fans will give an entertaining novel about stock car racing a shot.

When I drive through Charlotte Motor Speedway’s tunnel, I am going to be as curious as Barrie Jarman is every day.

How many people there do I still know? How many still know me? Is my perspective needed? Or has the sport, not to mention the profession, passed me by?

Kentucky Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

I won’t be writing about those races and racers halfway. I’ll bear down. I’ll have something to prove. I don’t want anyone to think I don’t still belong. I’ve no desire to dive back into racing at the level of saturation. Hell, I’ve no desire to get back on a plane.

I wouldn’t mind the occasional Darlington, or Bristol, or Martinsville, or Richmond, or Atlanta, or Talladega. I like a good drive. I might even like to go back to Kentucky, because the one time I went there was cataclysmic, and I probably owe it to the good folks of the Commonwealth (I have created a good many, fictitiously) to give the track another shot.

Or, after Charlotte, I may get it out of my system. I never said never, but I thought it a few times. Maybe I’ll say never after this one. Or, more likely, I’ll say, occasionally.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Likes and Dislikes, and Balls and Strikes

(Photos by Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 21, 2017, 11:48 a.m.

Back in my day …

Ethan Jones homered for the Raiders in the first inning.

Things were different. They’ll be different in the next day, too. And the one after. Times change. I don’t believe my day was any better than this one. For some reason, at some point in age, varying from person to person, it stops being “my day.” This must be intuitive, or else people wouldn’t admit it by saying “back in my day.”

Make sense? Of course not. Don’t tell me, here in the 21st century, that anything is supposed to make sense. Today is about being technologically advanced, not knowledgeable.

By Monte Dutton

The kids don’t know history. They don’t know the history of America, or baseball, or music, or their families. No one who lived before they could watch him or her on TV counts.

John Havlicek? I could say he founded the AFL-CIO.

Willie Mays? He was a great first baseman — okay, I did see a game in which both Willie Mays and Hank Aaron played first base — but the hall of famer who played it for the Giants was Willie McCovey.

Oh, how could I have enjoyed baseball without seeing Mays play center field? Or basketball without knowledge of Oscar Robertson! Hockey without appreciating the wonder of Bobby Orr? Racing without David Pearson?

Does anyone read books about sports? (Oh, boy. I hope so.) The first one I read was about Mel Ott. He raised his front foot like Sadaharu Oh while batting. Don’t know Oh, huh? He was a Giant. A Yomiuri Giant.

That could be a clean alternative to cursing. You don’t know oh! Oh, oh! Oh on that! Why, you oh-ass! I do not give an oh what you think!

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

In the press box of Clinton High School’s new baseball stadium on Thursday night, I expressed a radical opinion. The Red Devils were en route to defeat against Laurens, so, naturally, thoughts turned to that eternal debate. What’s better? DirecTV or Dish? I said DirecTV was better, but Dish was cheaper. I said this, of course, because I have DirecTV, and, in fact, John Wayne in Brannigan is on right now. The same debate could have been conducted over PC or Mac, iPhone or Galaxy, Colbert or Fallon, Zaxby’s vs. Chick-Fil-A, or, most notably around here, Clemson or South Carolina.

The Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, and Zack Wofford (right).

Discussions like this are why Zack Wofford gets distracted, and it’s why the Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, lights into Zack about the balls and strikes being off. Buddy probably leaves me alone because I’m older than he is, and keeping balls and strikes is not my job.

Zack, who spends a lot of time at the high school keeping scoreboards and publicly addressing when the Voice is elsewhere, said something about how it was easier to tape six or eight shows on Dish, and I said it made no difference to me.

“I don’t tape anything.”

A senior who will be missed at the fields, courts and diamonds of Clinton High School, Zack looked at me as if I were, at worst, mentally deficient, and, at best, entering the early stages of dementia.

“You don’t tape anything?” It had the same intonation as, “You lost your car keys?”

“OK,” I said, “I believe it’s important to protect yourself from technology.”

“What’s the count?” asked the Voice.

“Two and one,” said Zack.

“I believe it’s two and two.”

“I’ve got a lot to do, and I don’t need to be wasting any more time than I already do on social media, texting, and watching sports,” I said. “The last thing I need is to come home from a trip and have six or eight shows saved to watch. If I don’t see it live, I don’t see it. Most things get rerun. If I wait long enough, and I want to see them, I usually find another showing. It’s just my modest personal regulation on myself.”

Zack would have thought I sounded like Archie Bunker if Zack knew who Archie Bunker was.

One would think a young person would be well aware that the central theme of modern life is protecting oneself from … oneself.

To Zack’s great credit, he pays close attention to what is happening now. He knows his current affairs.

We’re great friends — Zack, the Voice, and I — and I haven’t been around as much this spring, owing to fewer free-lance opportunities and this novel I wrote in three months while chained in the darkened corridors of my home, illuminated only by a lamp and the aforementioned DirecTV.

The reason for our presence, the Red Devils and Raiders of nearby Laurens, was growing farther apart as a result of LDHS’s superior pitching and Clinton’s board of directors who took turns on the mound. Laurens’ playoff position — runner-up in Region 2-5A with an overall record of 17-6 and a region mark of 7-3 — was secure. Clinton (6-11, 5-4 Region 3-3A) is going to play next week, but when and where (not Clinton) depended on the outcome of its game at home Friday against Chapman and two other contests.

The Raiders pitched Jared Cvetko, their ace. Clinton paraded four hurlers out there, saving the best for Chapman. Laurens, a better team anyway, won, 6-2.

A year ago, the best Clinton team in more than two decades advanced to the upstate final (four-team) round and finished 24-3. That memorable, cohesive unit graduated many of its best players. This year’s team is young, and it’s been competitive after a slow start, which is just as it should have been.

The Red Devils have a brand-new baseball and softball complex, designed cleverly with a concession stand and restrooms located in between, and it has something this town’s high school has never seen before: lush grass infields.

A year ago, the Voice, Zack and I sat at a folding table behind the plate of The Sponge, as the previous sandlot was lovingly dubbed. The approach of storm clouds could be testy. On Thursday, the Voice and I allowed as how we miss that view from right behind the plate but not the thunderstorms.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

Strummin’ on Easter

The Pawless. This was one of my first sketches.

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 17, 2017, 9:27 a.m.

It’s Patriots Day in Boston. It’s the day after Easter here. When I left my nephew’s house on Sunday, the tykes were dashing about in search of dyed eggs.

Among much that I adore about the great-nephews on niece Ella’s side is that they love to hear me play my guitar. We had a stirring sing-along of “Gotta Travel On.” I crafted a tender, off-the-cuff version of Josh’s alleged favorite song, “Speckled Frogs.” In my dramatization, the frogs are sadly supplanted in the lagoon by similarly speckled lizards.

Monte Dutton

Alex – an eighth-grader! – showed some genuine interest in learning how to play guitar himself. I showed him some chords and gave him some advice to avoid some of the pitfalls of my self-teaching.

Learn D. Learn A. Learn switching back and forth between D and A. Cautiously add G. Yet another example of “lather, rinse, repeat.”

Anthony speaks in machine-gun bursts, and, even then, his thoughts race ahead of his words.

I don’t see the three Columbia musketeers often, and absence makes the heart grow fonder on both ends. Nothing tenderizes an aging slab of heart like young’uns jockeying for position and competing for attention.

Ray and Jessica’s children are three and sub-one. Thomas apparently, and not without justification, thinks I am a rhinoceros, so he obligingly imitates a baby one and charges into me. Great tickling and giggling ensues. I hoist him in the air.

“Do again!” commands he.

Baseball limits Thomas. All he lacks for go-kart status is four wheels. Margaret, who just entered her third season, spring, lives a life that involves mainly taking everything in, which is aggravated by the fact that every other human who approaches her will do almost anything to make her giggle. She enjoys her exalted status while it lasts.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The food was great, as it was bound to be because nephew Ray, who turned 30 on Easter, is not only a foodie by also a connoisseur of much that he chooses to encounter. Niece Ella was also a major contributor of culinary skill.

I flirted with Freudian suicide by using a knife I gave Ray and Jessica to slice my left thumb instead of the sourdough roll intended. Even though I gave a set of knives away, I still managed to get some use out of it.

Then I drove home and watched war movies.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

The Occasional Chip Off the Old Block

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 14, 2017, 1:30 p.m.

Mornings like this scare me because I remind myself of my old man. He’s been gone since 1993. I’ve outlived him. He lived on, this morning, when I had errands to run.

When I was a teen, my father ruined a lot of plans because of the way he could kill an afternoon. He’d get me to ride up to the hardware store, or a garage, or any other place where people hung out, and hang out. He’d talk to everybody in the post office, or the grocery store, or the filling station, or, more often, all three and several more.

By Monte Dutton

Meanwhile, not having social media, I’d stare at my watch.

It is my habit to write during the first half of days. I get up, stagger into the kitchen, put on some coffee, turn on my laptop, take my meds, and visit the facilities. Then I’ll sip coffee while thoughtfully perusing the social media that is now available. I’ll check the email, rid my website of spam responses, and, then, I’ll write. Sometimes it’s a chapter. Sometimes it’s a blog. Quite often, it’s a blog and then a chapter.

This morning, I needed to venture out into the civilization early. I couldn’t fix breakfast because I had no food. I had several copies of my latest novel to ship. I needed some office supplies. My cell informed me that a prescription refill was ready.

I had no plans to kill the entire morning. I’m satisfied it was my daddy’s spirit.

I hardly ever eat breakfast out. This morning I decided to give the Clinton Café, which despite its name of many incarnations, recently opened in what was originally a Subway many moons ago, a try. I’m happy that Clinton now has two places where a man can order a fried bologna sandwich basket. I enjoyed two eggs, over medium, grits, sausage, and enough coffee to make me slightly giddy. I also read a chapter of the novel, In Farleigh Field, that is conveniently located in my phone.

From there it was on to L&L Office Supply for some mailing stickers because I was shipping two books to Aurora, Illinois, in a predominantly pink box once designed to transport packets of Sweet ‘n’ Low. I talked baseball with Billy Glenn, which is always enjoyable, and this morning’s topic of conversation was the Atlanta Brave’ new ball palace.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Next, after affixing one of said labels, it was on to the post office, where I chatted pleasantly with other patrons and the lady behind the desk, who knows me well for my frequent use of media mail.

Then I talked current events, and when he’s moving into the new building, with Walter Hughes at Sadler-Hughes Apothecary. One of my favorite spaces in Clinton is soon going to occupy a new one. I fret slightly in the way small-town people do when something familiar changes.

Next was Ingles, where I played my regular game of seeing how high a percentage of items I can purchase that are discounted, thanks to my bonus card. I often let that card dictate what I buy. If, for instance, none of the cottage cheese is on sale, I do without cottage cheese. Realizing there is a certain element of misleading salesmanship at work, I do it as much to lend some competitive aspect to shopping as to save money, though the latter is nice.

Then, the “low fuel” light went on in the truck, so I ventured out to the Pilot Truck Center on I-26 to fill up. By then, nature called, no doubt a result of Clinton Café coffee, and I had a spare quarter, so I weighed myself, knowing full well that the scales there are a good 20 pounds off. I know it’s wrong, but it still makes me feel better. What’s a quarter for a positive attitude?

Now I’m back home, writing. That qualifies in my world as an exciting day.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

A Kid’s Got to Start Somewhere

The Orioles flock to the ball. (Monte Dutton photos)
By Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, April 12, 2017, 9:15 a.m.

Thomas Phillips is three. When he takes off his cap, he forgets to put it back on. He sees little use for his glove. He plays for the Sadler-Hughes Apothecary Astros, though he probably doesn’t know what an Astro is.

Me, neither.

Probably not going over the signs.

He requires instruction, which he may or may not choose to heed. Hit the ball, Thomas. He chops at it on its tee. The ball squirts a few yards. He looks at it. Run, Thomas! Run! He heads in the general direction of first base. Go to second, Thomas! Okay. Quite often he requires accompaniment. Baseball is a team sport.

On Tuesday afternoon, Thomas and his Astros took on the Orioles. Seldom did either team record outs. Many runs scored. I have no idea how many. No one watching has any idea. Coaches have no idea. Players? They don’t care. They’re still getting to know each other. They know, at the end of the game, there will be snacks.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).

 

Gleaned from the Borders of My Obsession

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 10, 2017, 5:05 p.m.

I haven’t blogged here in quite a while. I just haven’t had anything to write. I’ve been overwhelmed with the completion of my new stock car racing novel, Lightning in a Bottle, and I’ve written several times about it on my other site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. What is the difference between a blog here and a blog there? More here are about sports and are non-fiction. More there are about books and writing fiction. Sometimes I write a blog for this site and decide it fits the other better, and vice-versa.

By Monte Dutton

It’s hardly scientific.

Another reason is that I haven’t gotten out much. Not much free-lancing lately. Sitting in this chair all day and writing fiction, or doing layout, or writing media releases, is highly interesting for me, but writing about it wouldn’t likely be as compelling for you.

If my life suddenly gets more interesting, I’ll let you know.

Even though some of the changes don’t please me – if I could do away with the designated hitter in baseball tomorrow, I would – NASCAR’s changes have interested me.

It seems as every race is the Clemson NIT game. The Tigers led by 26 points with 15 minutes remaining and lost. The difference is that I watch all the races. When Clemson was prohibitively ahead, I switched channels and watched Katharine Hepburn charm Spencer Tracy for a while. I flipped back over and … Oakland was ahead!

Lots of strategy comes into play with all these byzantine rules and regulations.

As strange and different as it seems, I was talking to a friend this morning, and we agreed that David Pearson would have eaten this system alive.

5:45 p.m.

I had to put a load of laundry in. I should be cutting my mother’s lawn right now, but, when I went out to ship the novels and pick up some prescriptions at the apothecary, I forgot to get more gas, so I watched the Typhoid Red Sox lose, 2-1, in Detroit, Justin Verlander over Chris Sale. I suppose if your favorite team loses, and it’s a classic pitching duel, it’s not as disappointing, but, more likely, it’s because the season is young, and half the Boston team is either on bereavement leave, injured, or sick with the flu (hence the term Typhoid Red Sox).

Back to the freshly sanitized Fenway locker room and the Birds of Baltimore Tuesday night. The Red Sox are 3-3.

At the moment, the San Francisco Giants lead the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-1, on Opening Day at AT&T Park. Ten minutes ago, the Giants scored three runs on a swinging bunt by pitcher Matt Moore that the D-backs redirected errantly three times. It was the type of play one normally associates with a Small Fry game.

That’s baseball.

6:00 p.m.

Each Friday, at a little after 7:30 p.m., I appear on South Carolina SportsTalk, which is aired on stations around the state and is hosted most weeks by Phil Kornblut, whom I have known for more years than either of us enjoy chronicling. Most weeks, unless I succeed in expending my allotted time, which is my goal, I’m asked to predict the winner of the upcoming race.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

I do not consider myself any more of a prognosticator than any of the pharmacists at Sadler-Hughes Apothecary. As I have said (and written) many times, my training is in the field of what already happened. While proclaiming my ignorance, however, I will make an honest stab at it. Thus far, I have correctly picked the winner of three of the season’s seven races, meaning that I will undoubtedly miss at least the next 10.

Anyway, on Friday, I reasoned that changes in the Texas Motor Speedway track – new pavement, flatter and wider turns on one side of the track – would reward efficient drivers who were not overly aggressive. I was prepared to pick a Jimmie Johnson victory, but, a few minutes before I went on, Johnson spun out in qualifying. I knew he would have to start at the back of the pack. Matt Kenseth qualified eighth. I picked Kenseth, who finished 18th in a race Johnson did indeed win.

6:18 p.m.

I’m waiting for this new novel to take off. I’m waiting for word to get around about how funny, frank, and controversial it is. It’s been about a week now since I released it to the world, and I did so by not letting anyone know it was coming. Therefore, I suppose, it should come as no surprise that the word is slow getting out, even in this exponentially accelerating age.

Man, I know you don’t read many novels, but, hey, you gotta read this.

A few people have read it and communicated their feelings. If someone hates it, I don’t know about it, but I expect a segment of the stock car racing ruling class is less than ebullient.

I invented a kid who is the answer to stock car racing’s problems. A tale’s got to have a protagonist and an antagonist, or, at least, it sure works smoother in the telling that way.

See? That damned novel again.

I’m obsessed.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman..

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

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

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).