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).

For Want of Coffee

Vince Pawless (left) and Andy Serna. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, December 13, 2016, 9:54 a.m.

The Patriots beat the Ravens.

I’m going out of my mind trying to sell my novels.

The new coffeemaker hasn’t arrived yet.

By Monte Dutton

Having to get up and drive out to the truck stop for a gigantic mug of Dark Roast is a chore, but now I’ve had it, and breakfast, and, inexplicably, I watched NASCAR shows on NBC Sports right up until Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe filled my high definition, and, now, thank God, Aerial America is coming on The Smithsonian Channel, and this blog will have a pleasant, soothing background.

Life isn’t exactly great, but it’s promising.

The Weather Channel has a live feed from Minot, North Dakota, and there’s a 30-percent chance of rain here. Just so someone else can write “we need the rain,” here it is. We need the rain.

Minor bowl games will begin on Saturday, and that’s a grand opening I’m probably going to miss because I will be out on free-lance assignment and hence unable to savor the New Mexico Lobos against the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. I might be home in time for the latter stages of Southern Mississippi versus Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

I don’t have a big rooting interest in those games.

Most weeks my novels sell better during the week than on weekends. This week, so far, is an exception. Cowboys Come Home, my western about a couple World War II vets coming home to Texas, surged over the weekend, probably in no small part because of its discovery in the part of the Lone Star State where the story takes place, and definitely in no small part because of the efforts of my friend Vince Pawless, who lives thereabouts.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredith Pritchard; cover by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Crazy of Natural Causes (2015) is on Kindle sale at a whopping $.99 until this year of my and America’s discontent finally ends. It’s about a football coach who loses virtually everything except his life (and damn near that) and mounts the big comeback in the most unexpected ways. In this one novel, I wrote about football, Jesus, music, weed, and sex, both hetero- and homo-. The central character, Chance Benford, is either a con man, a flawed hero, a man of God, a hypocrite, or, in the opinion of his creator (me, not God, Who would be his Creator), all of those things. In my view, Chance is basically a good man who does what it takes, however outrageous, to get his life back on track.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses (2016) is my best selling book to date. It’s been out since spring. It’s a story of small-town corruption that has the potential to burst out statewide. The man running for governor, Denny Frawley, has an alcoholic wife, drug-dealing kids, scheming mistress, brutal henchmen, and a taste for violence and cocaine.

Typical politician. The voters seem to think he’s a pretty good guy.

I’d like to think if you’ve read one, you’d like to read them all — the three above plus Longer Songs: A Collection of Short Stories (2016), The Intangibles (2013), and The Audacity of Dope (2011) — but my tales aren’t for everyone.

If you’re not sure whether my made-up adventures are your cup of tea — or vat of truck-stop coffee — sample them in Longer Songs. The short stories all started with songs I wrote.

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.

(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. Note that my third novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, is on Kindle sale at $.99 for the entire month. 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 the latest. It’s 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).

(Design by Steven Novak)
(Design by Steven Novak)

 

A Bit Reckless About Kelly

Reckless Kelly: from left, David Abeyta, Cody Braun, Jay Nazz, Willy Braun, Joe Miller. (Monte Dutton photos)
Reckless Kelly: from left, David Abeyta, Cody Braun, Jay Nazz, Willy Braun, Joe Miller. (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 23, 2016, 10:33 a.m.

Inexplicably, the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Giants are playing football in London. Not Ontario. Not Kentucky. England. It happens from time to time. Thanks to the miracle of television, I can have breakfast in London. This is usually the time for Formula One from Bahrain or somewhere. This afternoon F1 is racing in Austin. Football is this week’s Sunday-morning sport.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

This has little to do with the ostensible purpose of this blog, which is an explanation of why Reckless Kelly is my favorite band and has been for more than a decade. The Austin band, probably not because the Grand Prix of the United States invaded and snarled their home base but it sure came in handy, played in Shelby, North Carolina, last night, and I made a day – and a night – of it.

After four hours’ sleep – writing about high school football on deadline always leaves me sleepless, and so I watched a PAC-12 game until 2 a.m. – I stopped at the nearby Pilot for a mug of coffee that was about the size of a 7-Eleven Big Gulp but too hot to do so – and drove to Boiling Springs – not above Spartanburg in South Carolina but above Gaffney across the line in North Carolina – to write about a game between the homestanding Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb and the Owls of Kennesaw State.

The Owls won, 47-39, but, after trailing, 40-21, at halftime, Gardner-Webb ran out of downs twice in the fourth quarter needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion they never got. My story ran this morning in the Marietta (Georgia) Daily Journal.

Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.
Lou Lauer helped me repair my website. He could help you, too.

The last time I sat in a Gardner-Webb press box, it was on the other side of Spangler Stadium, which would be difficult to identify now if one was going by a photograph of its earlier incarnation.

There. I’ve frittered away most of five paragraphs without getting back to why Reckless Kelly is so great.

Well, to begin, see for yourself. Watch this YouTube video.

I would be hard-pressed to identify my favorite singer, even if I disqualified the 80 percent or so who are now dead. Most of the singers still singing have bands.

Cody and Willy Brown. The silhouette is Jay Nazz.
Cody and Willy Brown. The silhouette is Jay Nazz.

A small part of my nearly 10-year-old music book, True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, concerned Reckless Kelly, but it didn’t become my favorite band when I wrote the book. I wrote about Reckless Kelly because it was already my favorite band.

And you say you’ve never heard of this wild, western, windblown band? Reason number one is you, like I, don’t live in Texas. The Lone Star State has its own, lone, brand of music and an accompanying culture. Here’s a Dire Straits cover.

I did a modest favor for the band not too long ago, and the drummer, Jay Nazz, invited me to the Don Gibson Theater to watch and mingle. I mingled quite a while, and I’m acclimated to going to bed at 2 a.m. now.

Everything worked rather perfectly. I had covered the Kennesaw State-Furman game for the Daily Journal about a month ago. On Tuesday, the sports editor wrote me, noted that the Owls were playing at Gardner-Webb and asked if I was available to cover it. I looked at the schedule. Noon start. Perfect. Plenty of time to write. I picked up a gig, man.

According to my trusty phone, it is 9.5 miles from Spangler Stadium in Boiling Springs to Don Gibson Theater in Shelby.

Here’s a video of Reckless Kelly’s marvelous version of Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

I did have time to kill when I got to Shelby. I parked across the street from the theater for a while, listening to Alabama decimate Texas A&M. Fatigue started to set in, and I suppose I could have found a place to sell me another tub of coffee, but, strictly by random, I discovered that a place called Newgrass Brewing Company was located conveniently nearby. A visit there perked me right up and undoubtedly enhanced my enjoyment of the rest of the evening.

Kids, let the record note that I drank no more beer. By the time midnight closed in and I was ready for the trek home, I could have been no more sober had I been to the Newgrass Milkshake Company, and milk would have made me sleepier.

I saw friends there, some I expected and some I didn’t. Two great friends joined me, but they had to leave when the concert ended. I talked a long time with Cody Braun, and it’s still a mystery why I can’t remember the details of the time I spent with him and his brother, Willy, during the time leading up to the publication of True to the Roots. Incredibly, I was able to find a copy of my own book, on the shelf that hides the painting I did when I was 13 years old, on the edge of the living room. The book only has part of a chapter on Reckless Kelly. I quoted Cody and remember the conversation, but I can’t remember where it was that I interviewed them. It’s not in the book, either. It could have been Texas. It could have been Charlotte. I’m guessing that I didn’t get it worked out until the book was almost completed, and that’s why there isn’t a whole chapter on the band. It seems like yesterday and a long time ago at the same time.

What makes Reckless Kelly my favorite band is that everything – everything – resonates. I dig the songs. In some ways, the Braun brothers’ background – traveling around as kids, playing with their cowboy singer father, Muzzie – reminds me of my own boyhood sojourns with my dad, who was an auctioneer. Another reason is that their covers are invariably songs that I really like, too. They seem like songs I would sit down and try to learn how to play.

Willy Braun (center) joins brothers Micky and Gary and the other Motorcars.
Willy Braun (center) joins brothers Micky and Gary and the other Motorcars.

The older Braun brothers, along with Nazz, lead guitarist David Abeyta and bassist Joe Miller, make up Reckless Kelly. The evening began with the younger brothers, Micky and Gary, whose band is called Micky and the Motorcars.

I’m trying to think of a family I might find more entertaining. The Kennedys? The Barrymores? The Carradines? The Brontes? The Louvins? The Everlys? The Avetts? The Boones of baseball? The Mannings of football?

I can’t think of one. I’m not objective. It’s my favorite band, man.

They gave me the brand-new CD, Sunset Motel. I gave them a copy of one of my books. I’ve been listening to it while writing this. It sure beats the Rams and the Giants in London. Sunset Motel got me home last night, barreling through the night in my trusty pickup truck.

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs.

(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.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s 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 Weekend Is Progressing Nicely

Spangler Stadium (Monte Dutton photos)
Spangler Stadium (Monte Dutton photos)
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges
Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

dscf4073

Boiling Springs, North Carolina, Saturday, October 22, 2016, 11:04 a.m.

It’s brisk and blustery here at Ernest W. Spangler Stadium, which overlooks the artificial surface of Coach Norman Harris Field, glistening as the sun shimmers off it’s Kelly green, and some of this information is derived from the Charlie Harbison Scoreboard, which, to my right, tells me that it’s just under an hour until kickoff for the Big South Conference football game between Kennesaw State and Gardner-Webb.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Yes, the above paragraph reads like it was uttered by Brent Musberger.

I’m amped on a big mug or a small barrel of truck-stop coffee because I wrote about the high school game between Mauldin and Laurens last night, and the hectic nature of Friday nights left me sleepless and watching California defeat Oregon in overtime until 2 a.m.

I rose at about 7:30, put on some pre-truck-stop coffee, fixed my own breakfast, wrote happy birthday to everyone on Facebook, shaved, showered, and headed up the road to Gardner-Webb University, where I last ventured for a Furman game that was delayed by a thunderstorm three years ago.

Lou Lauer kindly fixed this website out of the goodness of his heart and the knowledge that I was completely incapable. Give him some business if need arises.
Lou Lauer kindly fixed this website out of the goodness of his heart and the knowledge that I was completely incapable. Give him some business if need arises.

This is a lovely campus and pleasant place to watch a game. The last time I watched one from the press box was about 25 years ago, when it was on the other side and the surroundings considerably less posh. I remember the old Gardner-Webb press box for two reasons: (1.) it was open-air and frequented by many bees, one of which stung me because the nervous sort sitting next to me insisted on trying to swat one with his rolled-up program; and (2.) it was 4-H Day, which meant halftime consisted of activities such as watching goats walk up and down ramps and having chickens hop through hoops.

It may be my second favorite halftime show of all time, topped only by the Stanford band’s presentation at halftime of a game in Palo Alto against Arizona State.

dscf4032Last night I was at the wrong big game. While Clinton was defeating Broome, 28-21, and further ensnarling Region 3-3A in uncertainty, Laurens, where my considerable bulk was parked, was falling, 29-22, to Mauldin. Good game, but the quotes don’t flow as freely when the local team falls.

Some NASCAR fans will guffaw, but I actually prefer to write pleasant, heartwarming stories, which I can prove with my love of high school contests.

The Raiders (4-5, 3-1 Region 2-5A) are headed to the playoffs, though probably not at home in the first round unless they upset Greenwood next week, and, yes, that is where I’ll be because Clinton’s finale against Woodruff does not occur until November 4.

Clinton head coach Andrew Webb
Clinton head coach Andrew Webb

The Red Devils (4-5, 2-2 Region 3-3A) will clinch a playoff berth if Chapman defeats Broome next week but will have to defeat Woodruff if the Centurions prevail. Newberry is the likely region champ, needing only to defeat 0-4 Mid-Carolina to wrap it up.

Tonight I’m going with friends to see Reckless Kelly, my favorite band, in nearby Shelby. This will undoubtedly pop up in a subsequent blog.

It’s going to be a lovely day and a memorable night, and I think I’m going to have more jam-up football to describe.

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs.

(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.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is the latest. It’s 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).

‘I’m Not as Good as I Once Was, but I’m as Good Once …

I spent much of the weekend here. This was from last year. THis year VISTO Days were April 14-16. (Monte Dutton photos)
I spent much of the weekend here. This was taken last year. VISTO Days were April 14-16 this time. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 18, 2016, 12:04 p.m.

I did something on Sunday — and quite a way into Monday — that I don’t think I could have done when I was younger.

This is encouraging. It might not have been wise, but I pulled it off.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

I left Gainesville, Texas, at 9:30 on Sunday morning and drove all the way home. I rolled in about 3 this morning. It wasn’t but 1,060 miles, give or take a few lane changes here and there. My phone kept telling me I was on the best possible route and that I was going to get home at 2:10 a.m. My phone changed it to 3:10 a.m. when I crossed the Alabama-Georgia line and the time became Eastern again. Though stupid about time zones, my phone was right about the ETA.

ETA is air-travel lingo for “estimated time of arrival.” I had informed my house-sitting nephew of my case of temporary insanity so that he would not come after me with a baseball bat when I walked in from the carport, dragging a suitcase, wearing a backpack, and carrying a guitar slung across my back.

My mother is at her house right now, expecting me home tonight. I’m about to call her and admit I’ve lost my mind.

I don’t often listen to a NASCAR race on the radio, but Carl Edwards led me and the Food City 500 across Louisiana. After it was over, I called a colleague to ask hinm what he thought. It always sounds more exciting on the radio, but I enjoyed the PRN broadcast, though. I just didn’t trust what my eyes couldn’t see.

Carl Edwards won the Food City 500. For most of it, I was driving across Louisiana. (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Carl Edwards won the Food City 500. For most of it, I was driving across Louisiana. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

My timing was exceptional. Each time I filled up with gas, I also filled up with the boldest truck-stop coffee available. As the trusty Dakota ran out of gas, I filled up with coffee. Another tank of gas. Another trip to the restroom. Another tank of coffee.

I did not plan to drive all the way home. I just kept going. I never got drowsy. I never got jumpy. Satellite radio was my greatest ally. I sang a lot. I listened to a tribute to Merle Haggard and a replay of the Friday night Grand Ole Opry. While I drove through Jackson, Mississippi, I switched to local radio for the broadcast of the baseball game between the Mississippi Braves and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts were leading, 1-0, when I drove out of range. I thought about stopping and watching the game. I thought about getting a room in Birmingham, Alabama, which is where I stopped the last time I made my annual Texas trip. By the time I got to Atlanta, I decided, well, I’ve gotten this far. I might as well keep going.

I had several such adventures when I was younger, but none was this long, and even though I may have been more, uh, vigorous and youthful, I had far less sense.

DSCF0021There’s a Robert Earl Keen live album in which he talks about joy-riding with friends to a bluegrass festival in Crockett, Texas, “armed with a case of Texas Pride beer and a handful of cheap amphetamines.”

I never fortified such a voyage with illegal pills, but once, I drove with a car full of friends from a basketball game in Charlotte to a football game in Cincinnati, through the night. We were armed with a diet supplement called guarana (NRGs, for “Nature’s Raw Guarana”) that consisted basically of a crushed-up plant, allegedly from the jungles of South America, rife with caffeine. We were popping those NRGs like candy and washing them down with beer. We also made up bawdy verses of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “The Authority Song.” We rolled into one Queen City, Cincinnati, after starting in another, Charlotte, and crossed the Ohio River as the sun rose.

Was that yesterday? No. It was over 30 years ago. As Tom T. Hall sang, quite possibly on my cassette player way back then, “Don’t forget the coffee, Billy Joe.”

Our friend, Stanford Jennings, then played for the Cincinnati Bengals. I’ve probably watched football games more attentively. About all I remember about this one is that it was cold. Also, we met Stanford on the morning of the game, and as I recall, he seemed mildly alarmed at our appearance.

Sunday’s trip was less exciting, but I expect I’ll remember it longer.

I’m a little slow getting started today. I ain’t a kid no more.

I also think I may lay off the coffee today. I got a bad taste in my mouth.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

It’s out. $3.49. You can’t afford not to!

Forgive Us Our Trespasses fell eight months and eight days after the release of Crazy of Natural Causes. Eight is my lucky number, and this is pure luck. Apparently, my speed is about eight months. It’s a good pace I’m setting. You can order Trespasses here.

Longer_Songs_Cover_for_KindleI have a new volume of short stories, Longer Songs, which you may examine and preferably purchase here.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes has been out since late July of 2015. It’s about colorful coach who loses everything and reinvents himself. Take a look.

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

The Intangibles (2013) is based on boyhood memories and is set in a small Southern town amid the tumult of the 1960s. Sample it. The Audacity of Dope (2011) is a freewheeling yarn about a pot-smoking songwriter who somehow becomes a national hero, and that comes with complications. It’s a trip.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here.

My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here.

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing) and @wastedpilgrim (more humor and opinion). I’m on Facebook at Monte.Dutton and Instagram at Tug50.

 

Coffee and Rain

Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman race at Kansas Speedway ojn October 5, 2014.  (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman race at Kansas Speedway ojn October 5, 2014. (Harold Hinson/HHP photo for Chevy Racing)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 8, 2015, 8:26 a.m.

The NASCAR judicial process has run its course. Order has been restored.

Danica Patrick is looking for new sponsorship. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won his first race. The greatest racing month lies mostly ahead, with Kansas preceding the Two Weeks of Charlotte and Indianapolis set to climax with the Coca-Cola 600 at the former and The 500-Mile Race the latter.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Meanwhile, I’m dealing with a personal crisis. Addiction is a terrible thing.

Coffee. I need coffee.

My coffee maker isn’t working. I messed around with it last night, feeling zombie-like after supper. I ordered a new one, using some “points.” I’m going to be going to the drive-through a lot in the next few days.

But enough about me. Rain is in the forecast in Kansas City. Like I wasn’t going to be needing coffee already.

I write again. Enough about me.

NASCAR practice comes on TV at noon. That’ll ensure that I need to go to the drive-through again around three. TCM’s running a movie called Purple Noon early, i.e., 11:30.

An American (Alain Delon) in Italy resorts to murder to have a playboy’s (Maurice Ronet) life and mistress (Marie Laforet).

Everything’s about Italy today, it seems. I don’t see any of these flicks diverting my attention from NASCAR.

Drivers, start your  Air Titans! (Getty Images for NASCAR)
Drivers, start your
Air Titans! (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Oh, let’s check the weather again. A tropical or sub-tropical something or other is anchoring itself off our coast, but supposedly rain isn’t likely here until Tuesday. In Kansas City, it’s listed as 20 percent today, 80 percent Saturday, and 80 percent Sunday. Sam Champion is interviewing a fan at Kansas Speedway. The kids are at Grandpa’s. Sarah Nelson is camping at the track with her husband. Sam says she needs to make sure she has The Weather Channel app.

Sam says there’s a 40 percent chance of a tornado. Storms in the area at race time. Beware hail and damaging winds.

What does he know? He looks like a foppish aristocrat by day. Oh, wait. I think that’s The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Hunker down, friends. Maybe this, too, will pass.

I’m hoping to finish a short story today or tomorrow. It’ll be posted at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. You can buy my books here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

I’d like to get a third novel published. You can help by nominating Crazy of Natural Causes for publication here: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/1H8P26P38KYW8

 

Just a Little Ways Down the Road

I try to keep a fine group of Newberry College students awake during an 8 o'clock class. (Jodie Peeler photo)
I try to keep a fine group of Newberry College students awake during an 8 o’clock class. (Jodie Peeler photo)

Gotta go...to an indie bookstore!

Newberry, South Carolina, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 1:34 p.m.

I’m in the “liebrie.” That’s how “library” is pronounced in these parts, and as I have lived most of my life in the aforementioned parts, I’m prone to say it that way, too. Just this morning, I was talking with a young Australian woman who is enrolled at Newberry College, where I was lecturing her communications class, and we talked about how pronunciation was often a consequence of dialect. This came up after she told me she was from a small town not too far outside Melbourne, which, of course, is pronounced “Melbun” the same way that, here in the South, Greenville is pronounced “Grainvul” and, as far away as Kentucky, Louisville is “Louavul.”

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I gave the young woman a simple observation that goes a long way in explaining the way Southerners speak. I told her we make long words short and short words long. A Southerner can take “damn” and make it four syllables, but the home of the Kuhtucky Derby is “Louavul,” not “Lou-ee-ville.” Same with “N’Awlins,” “Chat-nooga,” and “Coach K.”

(David Poole, tossing and turning in the hereafter, is grousing at the moment about the reference to Mike Krzyzewski. David was a graduate of the Uversty of Nawkuhlina, and he always insisted the school nearby was really the University of New Jersey at Durham.)

Being from Sawkuhlina, I’ve never allowed myself to be aggravated by such insignifica. When they play, I don’t even care who wins. I just want to see a good game, and most times I do.

Chill, kids. My song will not be on the test. (Jodie Peeler photo)
Chill, kids. My song will not be on the test. (Jodie Peeler photo)

I didn’t even get the young Australian student’s name, though she told me she was “shooting” the baseball game tonight, which meant, of course, she was taking photographs of it. I had mentioned that I was going to the game and that, in fact, when her teacher, Dr. Jodie Peeler, asked me to talk to her 8 and 9 a.m. classes, I scheduled my appearance based on the existence of a baseball game between the Wolves and Belmont Abbey.

I got to the “librie” as a means of killing time, or, actually, a secondary means, because I’ve already spent time sipping coffee and sampling the pound cake at a little café on Main Street.

Some people go to Hawaii or Vegas. I go to a town a great deal like Clinton, and only a half hour away, talk to students about the brave, new world they will soon face, talk the ears off their professor, which works all the better because we are friends, and drive around town, and wonder if anyone cool is playing the Opera House soon, and now sit in the fine local library and write a blog as a means of staving off drowsiness.

The coffee has worn off, and now I’m yawning again, but there’s baseball ahead, and I’ve got a blog, albeit a frivolous one, written, and a book about vampires to read, and of all the points mentioned above, reading a book about vampires is the only thing new.

So, buddy row (it’s one of those terms I don’t understand, but I’ve been hearing people called buddy row for as long as I can remember), believe you me, I am set. If I were any happier, I’d undoubtedly have a hot rod Ford, a two-dollar bill, and there’d be somebody good looking to say hey to.

Visit www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com to read my short fiction, and click on this link to buy my books, two of which are long fiction: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

Country Roads

I went by my favorite American road sign but in the opposite direction.
I went by my favorite American road sign but in the opposite direction.

[cb_profit_poster Travel1]Clinton, S.C., Monday, December 16, 2013, 9:47 a.m.

I’m back. I hope you enjoyed some of the old blogs I posted during the three days I was away and otherwise occupied. I can play a harmonica while driving – I never text – but I can’t write a blog.

It occurred to me that, having written more than 300 blogs this year, I could afford to re-release a few of my blasts from the past.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
I sang my new song, “It’s Only Fiction,” in several locations.

I’m traveling as inexpensively as I can these days, the better to string myself along and ease the “cash-flow” problems. I’m turning the corner, but, like the roads I drove on for half of Saturday, it’s a hairpin.

I used some motel points for a room after my book signing at Barnhill’s in Winston-Salem, N.C. It went well. I enjoyed the audience. They seemed to enjoy my songs and impassioned readings of The Intangibles. I had enough points from one chain to get three free nights if I choose cheaply, so I looked for motels along the route and picked a doozy for the first freebie.

I’ve come down a few notches from the NASCAR road.

It was a really strange room. It was upstairs, even though there were only a few cars in th parking lot at 10 p.m. I guess there must be an informal policy to make the guy using the points suffer.

Weel poot im upstayers!

The room was frigid, which was understandable since the heat was off and it was 25 degrees outside. I turned the heat on and fled to the nearby Hardee’s, where I used a coupon for some chicken planks and a perusal of social media on my gadget. When I got back, it was nice and warm, but when I undressed, I discovered the carpet was damp. Then I discovered that both spigots on the faucet ran hot water.

I didn’t mind much, though. Who cares about a crummy room when you’re checking in at 10 o’clock and leaving the next morning at 8? All I was going to do was sleep. I had some concerns about the shower, but they were only minor. It had hot and cold, but they were in the wrong directions. Cautiously, I set the temperature in the middle, and then when I got under the nozzle, it was a mite cool, so I moved the lever to the hot side, which was the cold side. Momentarily, I thought, oh, no, the hot water is out, but then I turned it the opposite way – at this point, it couldn’t have gotten any colder — and it heated right up.

It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry

Sun so hot I froze to death, Susanna, don’t you cry?
Oh, what? Ah. I forgot to tell you about Susanna.

It did rain all day on Saturday, but I still enjoyed a long, winding drive through mountains. I listened to the last vestiges of quality small-town radio, emanating through various translater channels in Virginia and Kentucky. I heard Dave Van Ronk’s version of “In the Pines,” and that might have made the whole trip worth it.

That plus the church that had an RC Cola sign out front, the body of water called Fish Pond Lake (is there also a Fish Lake Pond?) and Kingdom Come State Park, where I was afraid to stop.

I also came up with a new idea for a novel and daydreamed about it for the rest of the trip. I might do a little writing on it this week.

Hardee’s coupons came in handy. (They all expired on Sunday.) So did coffee. I particularly enjoyed the Dunkin’ Donuts variety that got me home last night from Asheville, N.C., which is less than two hours from the house. Asheville is a lovely city, and I regret the fact that I almost always just drive by it.

Maybe one day I’ll catch on in those parts.

Hmm. I hadn’t been out of town for anything except a football game in, well, months. There was that one time, Ella, Alex, Anthony and I went to the movies in Columbia, but other than that, it was only to Clinton and Furman games in places like Abbeville, Boiling Springs, Six Mile and Orangeburg.

Roving through the mountains was fun, but I’m fairly content being back home now. Except for occasional jaunts, it appears my days as a nomad are over.

I sold books, read from them, spent time with great friends and played my guitar a whole lot. Now I’m home with good memories and a few mementoes from the road.

The Intangibles – it’s a novel for grown-ups, now – is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as from the publisher and (autographed) this web site (click on “merchandise”). Signed copies are also available at L&L Office Supply here in Clinton, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., and Barnhill’s in Winston-Salem, N.C. If you’re interested in me, my writing, and/or what the South was like in the late 1960s, I think you’ll enjoy my second novel.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]

Chances Are My Chances Are …

I went to several minor-league baseball games, though not in Reading, Pa.
I went to several minor-league baseball games, though not in Reading, Pa.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]Clinton, S.C., Thursday, November 28, 2013, 3:50 p.m.

The year of my discontent is near its end. My job was eliminated after 16-1/2 years. On Jan. 4, I found out that Jan. 4 was my last day at the Gaston Gazette.

It was inevitable. Many of my friends had been dropping like autumn leaves for years. NASCAR had gotten kind of lonely. A year ago this time, I was marveling at how a man could feel so alone while surrounded by 80,000 people.

I had been fantasizing about trying to make it on my own, but I wasn’t ready for the leap of faith. Halifax Communications made the decision for me. I should be thankful, I guess.

A lot has changed. The most compelling aspect of the changes is that they weren’t as difficult as I thought they’d be. If I can figure out how to make a living writing books – at this point in my career, there’s really no practical alternative – I’ll be content.

Here some of the changes:

(1.)            A year ago, I had been to Fort Worth, Phoenix and Homestead in a span of three weeks. Now I rarely leave town for anything other than a football game.

(2.)            I haven’t flown since I got home from Homestead in 2012. Nor have I rented a car. I haven’t eaten a meal in a party of more than four. In 2012, I spent well over 100 nights in hotels. This year so far? Ten. Eight were on one trip.

(3.)            I’ve written a grand total of four songs all year, about a third as many as last year. That’s because I was finishing one novel and writing the first draft of another. As of last night, I’m 15 chapters into the second draft.

(4.)            While collecting unemployment, I applied for a little over 50 jobs. I interviewed for one. I was offered none. See what I mean about “no practical alternative”?

(5.)            On the positive side, the Boston Red Sox, my favorite sports team, won the third World Series of my lifetime and the past 10 years. Given the circumstances, it meant more. For a good bit of the year, the Red Sox were the only thing going right. They’re famously adept at beginning centuries.

(6.)            I’ve had to learn how to tell many people I can’t possibly donate any money to worthwhile causes I supported in previous years. When I catch up on paying for myself, I’ll catch up on giving to others.

(7.)            I told my book concierge the fourth novel is going to be called Nothing Ever Works. The plan is for it to be fiction by then.

I started taking more pictures.
I started taking more pictures …

(8.)            I feel better. Though I haven’t been dieting lately, I lost 30 pounds in the first half of the year. I still ache when I get up in the morning, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was a year ago. Most mornings I had to do stretching exercises in order to limber up enough to go to the track. Tuesdays were awful after the hustle and bustle of Mondays in airports.

This sketch of mine is a bit evocative of The Intangibles setting.
… and even sketching a few of them.

(9.)            I hardly ever go through a drive-through without a coupon.

(10.)       I like coffee a lot more. It goes well with writing. I didn’t even have a coffee maker at home until this year. Now I use it more often than the microwave.

(11.)        In the spring, my mother and two nephews received only minor injuries in a frightful automobile accident. In the fall, they were uprooted by a house fire that kept them in motel rooms for two weeks.

(12.)        I’ve had more hassles dealing with private companies than the government. By far.

(13.)        I once wrote a song called “I Got Cash Money (and I’m Workin’ Steady).” Now, when I sing it, I’m not lying. I’ve still got cash money. I’m still working steady. My goal is to get the cash money from the working steady.

(14.)        I hardly ever drink, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. Not really. Usually, when I drink, a guitar’s with me. Come to think of it, a guitar’s with me almost all the time.

(15.)        I’ve always admired people who risk everything in pursuit of their dreams. They deserve admiration more than I. I’m only pursuing my dreams because I’ve got no other choice.

(16.)        People say they can’t understand how the government can spend more money than it takes in. I get it. It’s the way I’ve been operating all year, but I’m making some progress.

(17.)        I have lots of friends whom I may never see again. That makes chance encounters mean a little more.

(18.)        The people who suggest things I’d be good at are never the ones who can make it happen.

(19.)        Some people are going to read a great deal of pessimism into this list. I just think it’s being realistic. I’m not unhappy. I’m happier than when I was writing about NASCAR. If I can pull this off, and earn enough money writing novels to be self-sustaining, I’ll be as happy as a Powerball winner, and my odds are better.

(20.)       I’d never say never, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I never saw the inside of a NASCAR track again. I’m content to watch it on TV, and it appears there isn’t shortage of people with that view.

I’m the captain of my own soul, but if you’d like to help, buy one or both or my novels, and I think it would help you, too, because, of course, “Reading is fundamental.”

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Them’s the Breaks

This photo of Landon Allison (10) leading the Clinton offens was taken earlier in the season. Last night's photos have been washed away.
This photo of Landon Allison (10) leading the Clinton offense was taken earlier in the season. Last night’s photos have been washed away.

[cb_profit_poster Speak1]Clinton, S.C., Saturday, November 16, 2013, 3:21 p.m.

Enough of my problems … seriously.

I'm okay now. Really. I am.
I’m okay now. Really. I am.

Saturday is the last day of the week. Whew. Not to bore you with the details – and that’s hard not to do – but herewith is a brief recap:

(1.)            My novel finally arrived and I discovered that dozens of nettlesome revisions and typos I’d made … were never fixed. Most of my friends know me to be a bit of a perfectionist. This being true, I will never get over this. I remain mortified. My head hangs in shame. I know it’s not as bad as it seems. It couldn’t be.

(2.)            Clinton High School lost its second-round playoff game, which wasn’t a shock, but it’s bad enough to have the lads beaten, 31-7, without having to drive 150 miles, round trip, sit through driving rain and trudge out of a place called Six Mile feeling like Napoleon’s army leaving Russia. The parking lot is about a mile from the visitors’ side at Daniel High School. It was raining. The Red Devils brought about as many fans as the undefeated Lions. It’s no wonder. I told the man at the gate I was glad my mama didn’t come. He said they had handicapped parking. I told him my mama wasn’t handicapped. She was just old.

(3.)            The rain ruined my iPhone, giving me something to do today besides watch football and write. It gradually started dying as soon as I got back in the car. It still isn’t dead. It just has dead places. The lady at the “phone store” told me if I covered it with rice, it might recover, but I got a new one without onerous expense.

(4.)            Sheer stupidity destroyed my coffee pot this morning. That would be mine. Note to myself: give it 15 minutes after awakening. My beloved espresso pot requires the use of the stove. After I forgot about it, I found it boiling over. I grabbed the pot, poured a cup, drenched the pot in cold water and placed it back on the stove … without cutting off the eye. A few minutes later, I noticed something burning. When I grabbed the pot, the handle came off in my hands because it was melting. I grabbed a potholder. That melted into the pot as I tossed it in the sink while turning on the cold water. My thumb is very slightly burned. The espresso pot was executed. Thus, I had to pay a visit to Walmart as well as the phone store. I hate Walmart, but I now have a coffee machine that cuts off automatically and doesn’t require a stove. The first cup was satisfactory.

Mysteriously, in spite of all this, I’m in a wonderful mood. I guess it’s a nothing-to-l0se mood. It’s a sitting in a rowboat, heading down rapids, might as well enjoy the ride, kind of mood. Ask Tashenna at the phone store. She’ll tell you about my wondrous sense of gallows humor.

Walmart always makes me grumpy. That’s three times I’ve ever bought something at the Superstore in Laurens. I joked while in line. I poked fun at myself and even told the checkout lady briefly how stupidity killed my espresso pot.

Now I just want to watch some ballgames and races in peace.

And play guitar. And read some Elmore Leonard. And remind you that The Intangibles, flawed as it may be, is available at amazon.com, neverlandpublishing.com and montedutton.com. I’ve got a book signing at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, S.C., on November 23, after the Wofford-Furman game, from 4 to 6 p.m.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]