Looking at the World Through a Windshield …

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

Concord, North Carolina, Saturday, May 27, 2017, 11:50 a.m.

About 15-20 years ago, one morning, barely light, I was driving up Interstate 85 between Spartanburg and Cowpens when a blue station wagon roared past me in the right lane. It was taxicab with orange lettering on the sides and back. It was a big Ford that brought scale-model aircraft carriers to mind.

By Monte Dutton

I thought it odd when I noticed that the driver, a Latino, appeared to be asleep. He must have been doing at least 85. I hadn’t moved over because he overtook me so quickly I didn’t see him coming.

The station wagon then careened across in front of me and into the grass separating the lanes. At this point the driver apparently awakened.

He yanked the ungainly vehicle back to the right, skidded across in front of me — I had prudently backed off to give him some room — cleared the two-foot guardrail with little resistance and disappeared into some sort of dry wash or creek bed.

Undoubtedly, I cursed aloud and took several deep breaths as I brought my own vehicle to a stop. A great deal of smoke and dust arose from the undergrowth and, in time, so did the cab driver, blood streaming down the front of his shirt from his busted mouth and nose. I’ve heard of people spitting teeth, but it’s one of few times I’ve actually seen it and the only place that didn’t have chalk lines across it.

Mainly, though, he was just shook up.

That morning I was on the way to Martinsville. Today I was on the way here.

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I thought about it this morning because race drivers are prone to say, “Well, you may have thought it was a boring race, but from where I was sitting, it was unbelievable.”

One would hope a man driving nearly 200 miles an hour in a closed circuit wouldn’t be bored.

The key point here is that racing is a spectator sport. Of course it doesn’t put a driver to sleep. Batters don’t nod off, either, when fastballs are tracking toward their noggins. For the competitor, sport is certainly jarring. For the fan, it had better not be.

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).

A Stop on an Old Road

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 22, 2017, 11:15 p.m.

I’ve about got the reacquaintance out of the way. Last Saturday and this Thursday have exceeded my Charlotte Motor Speedway budget for handshakes.

By Monte Dutton

Huh. It just occurred me. No one bumped fists. High school athletes bump fists regularly.

The famous line from The Mary Tyler Moore Show comes to mind. It was the slogan of Chuckles the Clown:

A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down the pants.

I find myself seeking out some and avoiding others. I remember the time, a little over four years ago, when my job was eliminated. Many peers rushed in to offer their encouragement. Others haven’t communicated as much as a word in all the time since. Some probably saw my plight as an unpleasant sign that the same fate might befall them. In the intervening years, it has happened, in many cases, but those people aren’t at the track now. Writing as a way to make a living has become a trip west on the Oregon Trail, and the business is run by Injuns. My dried-up skeleton is a symbol of impending woe.

A few probably don’t give a rat’s ass what became of me. There’s that.

I walked through the garage on Thursday at the end of Monster Cup practice. Many of the drivers retire quickly to their motorcoaches or the lounge in the transporter, or somewhere away from the madding crowd.

Lots of looks said, variously: (1.) “Don’t I know that guy?” (2.) “What’s he doing here?” (3.) “Is he still covering racing, and I just haven’t noticed?” and, of course, (4.) “He’s baaaaack.”

Then there’s the rash of the nicknames people use when they can’t remember a name:

Hey, there, buddy?

How you doin,’ sport?

What’s hap’nin,’ big time?

Hot shot, didn’t you used to be somebody?

Oh, yeah.

Then there are those who are vaguely aware of something about me. They might ask if I’m still playing guitar. When I say yes, they might say, “I heard you was.”

It’s been four and a half years.

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Len Wood waved at me, but he was talking to someone who must have been important because they talked and talked. He smiled when he saw me, though.

Ryan Newman (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

I chatted with Ryan Newman a little, told him he ought to read my racing novel. I managed to squeeze that in several times. It was pretty easy because people kept asking what I was doing now.

I’m sure a few may have scratched their heads and asked somebody else, “Seems like I recognize that old fat-ass. What’s his name?”

“Well, it ain’t David Poole. Remember him? I think he died.”

That was in 2009. David and I used to keep tabs on how many times people thought he was I, and vice-versa. A heap of people think fat folks look alike.

A while back. (John Clark photo)

There’s so much to learn about those who have advanced since I retreated. The only times I’ve asked Kyle Larson questions were in media conferences. Ryan Blaney? I think the world of his father.

Chase Elliott? I feel like I know him, but I don’t. When I met his father, Bill was a big star. When I met his mother, Cindy was a photographer. I see Chase, from a distance, as a combination of his father’s skill and his mother’s pragmatism. Had Bill understood NASCAR, the media and fans as well in 1985 as his son does now, gosh, he’d probably be in the Hall of Fame. Oh, yeah, he is. Bill was Bill, still is, and his son came along in a different world, the same way Davey followed Bobby, Kyle followed Richard and Junior descended from Senior.

Unlike north and south, and east and west, the twain often meets in NASCAR. Take that, Kipling.

Here’s the column I wrote on Thursday at jeffgluck.com.

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).

 

When Monte Comes Driving Home Again, Hurrah! Hurrah!

(Monte Dutton photo)

Concord, North Carolina, Saturday, May 20, 2017, 3:12 p.m.

I’m back, and it seems relatively normal. Naturally, media parking is farther away. That’s a given.

By Monte Dutton

Almost four and a half years later, I’m back at a speedway, the motor one representing Charlotte. Many years ago, it represented Lowe’s for a while. I’m glad to be back. I rather like this one. I’ve probably put in more work here than any other.

Back in the days before sportswriters became fewer and less important, Charlotte was the workload capital of NASCAR, at least for those of us who worked for newspapers in the general vicinity. May near Concord – the track is officially in Concord, though Harrisburg is right behind the back straight – used to be a time of special editions and the accompanying gnashing of teeth.

Now it’s just a place to renew acquaintances. Next week’s workload will be heavier. Next week’s race will be longer. I am, in fact, writing more than just this tonight during the running of the fabled Winston Select Open Nextel Sprint All-Star Shindig Presented by Monster Energy of America the Beautiful.

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson (42) lead the field. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The day is already a success. During the hike in from the badlands, I managed to slip past a man I truly despise without him noticing me, and, of course, the people who can’t stand each other are the ones who most proclaim the opposite, so I’m happy I didn’t have to participate in this farce.

What you been doing with yourself? Space travel. That’s nice. How’s the family? Still nonexistent. Tell your daddy I said hello. It’ll have to wait. He died in 1993.

All in all, though, seeing people I haven’t seen in 54 months – a few, once or twice – has been pleasant. Yes, friends, I used to be Monte Dutton.

Tell the story about you missing the start in Texas. What was that place in Michigan where you used to play your guitar on race weekends? Remember that time we went to Austin and saw Billy Joe Shaver?

The best aspect of the day was that Howard A. Wheeler Jr., better known as “Humpy,” enjoyed a separate, more noteworthy, return. Hey, did you hear? Humpy’s outside. Humpy correlates as positively to Charlotte as its high banks – everyone says the place has humps — and it hasn’t seemed like the same place since he left.

Humpy and I share many views about what NASCAR needs, and I expect my new novel, Lightning in a Bottle, races right down the middle of his front straight. We talked for quite a while, and he left with a copy.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, May 21, 2017, 10:43 a.m.

The good old days have returned. This I concluded on the way home.

After I completed my writing – I’ve already “written through” the Competition Plus notes I filed late last night, I hit the road home and, fueled by a vat of truck-stop coffee, my eyes were still wide open when I hit the dirt road to the house at roughly “oh-dark-thirty,” an old David Poole term, which computed to about 2:15 a.m.

The long drive was marred by an unfortunate decision to buy a biscuit pinning together egg, cheese and sausage, all of which were virtually tasteless.

I listened to a lot of bad country music, which translates to what is on the radio, and thought about the racing I had witnessed on monitors in the infield media center.

Kyle Busch (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Joe Gibbs Racing is not on top officially, but his Toyotas did sweep the exhibitions. Kyle Busch’s All-Star victory was his first in a Cup car at the 1.5-mile track residing in the unofficial NASCAR capital. It wasn’t like Busch ever had any problem figuring it out. His victory in Friday’s night Camping World Truck race was his seventh. Throw in the Busch/Nationwide/Xfinity Series, presently the latter, and he’s won 15 times at CMS.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

The Open is a mere gateway to the varsity on this weekend, but Daniel Suarez, the rookie from Mexico, won it and thus made it historic. It was a better race than the main event.

A triumph in the Open is no clear harbinger of greater success. In the past, it has been won by David Ragan, Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Riggs and the late Dick Trickle. It has also been won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart.

It could be Suarez’s springboard. It could be his zenith. Time will tell.

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).

The Dimming of the Stars

Charlotte Motor Speedway. William Byron testing. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 19, 2017, 10:01 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’m not going to reminisce about past NASCAR all-star memories. Most of them are distant.

I was in the grandstands the first time it was run at night. I’ve told that story before. I’ve told all the stories before. I remember those heady days when The Winston – it’s had many names, no telling what it is now – rivaled the Coca-Cola 600 that followed it. The longest, most grueling test of NASCAR’s Finest followed a slam-bang, thrill-filled extravaganza.

Turns out it’s the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. It’s Saturday night.

Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, race fans took great pride in their all-star race. The stock car racers all did it for love, but love was even better after a $1 million payday. They didn’t go through the motions the way they did in the all-star matchups of baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

Now, 25 years after I watched Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Petty and Davey Allison wreck each other on the final lap – Allison won, though the concrete walls of the speedway knocked him cold, and the makeshift victory lane was a hospital bed – NASCAR All-Star has gone the way of all the other all-stars.

Chase Elliott (24) racing Kyle Larson in last year’s Sprint Showdown. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Money’s still unimportant. This is apparent because no one talks about it anymore.

The Winston Select Nextel Sprint Monster All-Star Race, combining all the titles from nicotine to caffeine and a heap of talking on the phone in between, has ranged from 70 to 113 laps and from one to five segments. Seven-time champions (Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt) have won it seven times (Johnson 4, Earnhardt 3).

On the other hand, Michael Waltrip won it in 1996 before he ever won a Cup race anywhere else.

The last three years the winners have been Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. I couldn’t have told you that without the Internet. The most recent I covered was in 2012. The most recent I remember was a year earlier, mainly because the driver who won that race, Carl Edwards, practically destroyed the winning car sliding through the grass when the nose scraped up a metal drain. Or something.

Joey Logano won last year. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

The Winston used to be as addictive as cigarettes, and it wasn’t that much of a coincidence. Tickets were cheap, a lot of free ones were floating around, and the idea was to get people there and send them home wanting more.

The ultimate significance of the All-Star Race is its effect on the sport as it now stands. The game-show format changed racing and was slowly, over three decades, integrated into the conduct of all the races. This is also the root of the race’s problems.

Some drivers are there already. Some race their way in. Some get voted in. It’s as complicated as a presidential election. So is everything else. A man who masters crosswords puzzles isn’t going to get excited about a mere game of checkers anymore.

The easiest way to resuscitate this Monster would be to ease off on the mad science everywhere else.

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This is unlikely to happen.

So where does it go from here? More, ahem, innovation?

One segment through the infield? A-racing we will go, a-racing we will go, high-ho, the derry-oh, a racing we will go.

Run the race backwards? Run the race in reverse? Parallel-park on pit road? A wall of flame at the finish line? One segment consisting entirely of pit stops?

The Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race has already stretched all bounds of credulity, civility and civilization, and had all the other races advance into the new territory, accompanied by bureaucrats carrying government regulations.

Where once the race sat at the foot of a mountain, now it is perched on the edge of a cliff.

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).

Gimme That Old-Time Promotion, It’s Good Enough for Me

The Talladega draft. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 4, 2017, 6:25 p.m.

It occurred to me yesterday morning. What NASCAR needs is a ground game.

Monte Dutton

Just hand the ball to Jimmy Brown, or pitch it to Gale Sayers. (It’s not that I’m old enough to use the names of heroes many today know nothing about. I take relish in it. There was really no need to use this comparison at all. By ground game, I meant the kind politicians talk about, the one that used to be called “getting out the vote.”)

NASCAR needs to put fannies in seats. Empty seats don’t buy hot dogs. They don’t even stand up to hear Restless Heart perform the national anthem.

Oh, the excuses.

It was a tad warm. It was a little cool. The race takes too long. I might miss The Walking Dead. The wi-fi’s slow. Some tickets are cheaper than they were five years ago. All sports are experiencing a slump (which explains the 5,000 who watched Alabama play Auburn … in volleyball.)

TV is all that matters. Never mind that TV ratings are swooning, too.

You can feel the rumble every time the the steel chariots roar by. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo for Chevrolet)

NASCAR has managed to run off its once-loyal fans, and the ones who straggled in when it became fashionable are now really into mixed martial arts. Or, hell, they might spend all their free time watching President Trump.

For the umpteenth year in a row, the Emperor spent the offseason buying new clothes, and once again, more and more people notice he’s really naked.

If tracks disassembled, detonated, and melted more grandstands into scrap metal, they’d be phone booths. The goal, openly divulged, is to increase the market value of the remaining seats. In other words, it will be easier to charge $100 apiece for them if there are fewer.

What would I have done? I’d have left those desolate grandstands on the back stretch, recruited scout leaders, baseball coaches, bandleaders, Campfire Girls, Future Farmers of America, Beta Clubs and the Royal Ambassadors of the Baptist church to sell the tickets for 10 bucks a pop, let the kids keep $5 of each ticket for themselves or their organization, park the buses and expose them to racing, no matter if the whole program did no better than break even.Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

The first step in rebuilding this fan base is getting them while they’re young. If the only way kids watch is on TV, it’s the most they’re ever going to do. No one has to make them think that being there is important. Being there really is important. They’ve got to feel the vibrations, smell the fumes, hear the fury of powerful engines, and experience the pulse quickening that unfurls with the wave of a green flag.

It’s breathtaking. Take some breaths.

That’s what I mean by a ground game. Turn out the fans. Don’t just open the gates.

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).

Big Red Gets Devilish in Soccer

Luke Mann (6) scored the first Clinton goal. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 9:52 a.m.

Red Devil soccer has developed gradually over the years. I was away, writing oddly about race cars that go around and around, for most of its history, but it has been my theory that Clinton High School added a soccer program at just about the time sporting goods manufacturers stopped making blocked-off shoes for straight-on football kicking.

By Monte Dutton

From time immemorial until the end of the 1980s, Red Devil football had exactly one soccer-style placekicker, and the reason I am so attuned to this phenomenon is that the sidewinder in question, in 1978 and 1979, was my brother, Brack, who also played cornerback in the latter year’s Shrine Bowl. Have you ever noticed how seldom it is that a placekicker plays another position nowadays?

What I’m suggesting is that the motives might have been slightly mixed when a soccer team representing District 56 finally took the field.

On Tuesday evening, amid conditions that were almost perfect, Clinton won a Class 3A soccer playoff game for the first time … ever. All I was there to write was this. I took a few photos during the first half and then retired to the sidelines, there to complain about the officiating and be swept up in partisan fervor.

The score was Clinton (11-11) 3, Chester (8-9) 2. The Red Devils will go to Walhalla, an outpost on the far side of Clemson from here, for another match on Thursday night.

Here comes Parker Duncan.

Luke Mann, whose father once played football with me; Parker Duncan, son of our Congressman; and Elvis Fitz, who coincidentally kicked field goals and extra points for the football team last fall; scored the goals. The Red Devils outshot the Cyclones, 20-12.

Clinton took a 1-0 lead on Mann’s goal. Then it was 1-1. Then Clinton took the lead again. And Chester tied it. Duncan’s game-winner occurred in the 71st minute, three after Chester’s Jeffery Gulish scored.

At the time, things looked ghoulish. I couldn’t resist.

Duncan’s game-winner led 30 parents of Cyclones to yell aloud something like “oh, fiddlesticks!” and something less wholesome under their breaths, and about 50 Red Devil fans to exult in much the same fashion. The tone was markedly different.

Clinton: “Damned if we didn’t score! He got it! He got it! Who was it? Parker Duncan! Woo-hoo! Go, Parker!”

Chester: “Day-ummm.”

Duncan, whose thirst for the net is as great as his father’s political ambition, also had an assist, as did Jesus Gonzalez and Patrick Nelson.

If one is standing on a sideline, surrounded by others among the faithful, listening to jeers rising from the little wooden grandstand where the other team’s pilgrims have set up camp, reality gets distorted.

It was as if the officials were willing participants in a seedy attempt by the visitors to brutalize the local lads. Fans were howling for mandatory incarceration, no parole, and all the refs had to offer was a single, solitary yellow card. I even went so far as to suggest one of the co-conspirators might need an update in the prescription for his spectacles. Oh, wait. The ref wasn’t wearing glasses. Contact lenses, undoubtedy. Something was distorting his view.

Many of the fans were quite knowledgeable about the game, no doubt a result of carrying kids all over the Upstate to play club soccer for “select” teams.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

If Clinton should win at Walhalla against the Razorbacks – it seems particularly unique a nickname for soccer – then I’m told they will play Berea, the Greenville school that is, according to a reliable source standing next to me, the No. 28 team in the nation.

I’ve got my share of problems, but I’m glad I haven’t been tasked at trying to figure out the top 50 high school soccer teams in America. Lots of variables, I’m thinking.

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).