Next Time I’m Buying Junior Mints

The No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. evokes David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Matt Kenseth and others. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, July 2, 2017, 10:45 a.m.

I went to bed hoping to find some clarity in the spectacle of the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida, The Birthplace of Speed!

By Monte Dutton

Also, The Cemetery of Race Cars.

Unfortunately, I dreamed about NASCAR, so I awakened with my thoughts enshrouded in smoke, fire, and shrapnel.

A little iodine. Some Triple Antibiotic Ointment. I’m fine.

For many watching, the good news was that Junior won. The bad news was that it was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has now managed at last to get past the shadow of Ricky Stenhouse Sr. Victory at Talladega and Daytona will do that for a young man.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

It doesn’t bother me. I admire Juniors even though, personally, I’m not one. My father’s middle name is my brother’s first. My first name is one grandfather’s. My middle name is the other’s. I go by a contraction of the middle name. I’m equally divided between my late grandfathers but unaffected by my father.

I hasten to add that this is just in name. My father bequeathed me a myriad of virtues and vices. Likely, I am not alone … but back to Juniors.

When I was a kid, Junior Gilliam played for the Dodgers, and Junior Miller helped my father cook barbecue. Junior Johnson was the Last American Hero, and I believe this because Tom Wolfe wrote it and it must be right. Buck Baker was Elzie Wylie Baker Sr. Buddy Baker was Elzie Wylie Baker Jr.

Raymond J. Johnson Jr. popped up on virtually every television variety show for no apparent reason. Strangely, I don’t recall him saying, “But you can call me Junior!” He was fine with Ray, Jay, Raymond, Ray J., etc., as long as no one called him Johnson. I’m confident many readers don’t recall the repetitive saga of Raymond J. Johnson Jr., and will thus live slightly more interesting lives.

Early in my sportswriting career, Junior Reid played for the Hornets. Folks called him Junior because he preferred J.R., at least in the press room when he wasn’t around.

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges


I don’t think Barbecue Junior Miller lived to see his namesakes play tight end or race modifieds. Early in his career, fans used to claim that Dale Earnhardt looked down from heaven and guided Dale Earnhardt Jr. to victory. Perhaps my father’s barbecuing assistant helped his namesakes slather sauce on some ribs.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

Earnhardt, by the way, used to bristle at the notion that he was “Senior.” He said there wasn’t any such thing, that it was Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Then, often in the same paragraph, he would refer to “Tony Sr.,” referring to the Eurys, who were to Earnhardts and racing what Junior Miller was to Duttons and barbecue.

Brad Keselowski (2), Ryan Blaney (21), Chase Elliott (24), Kevin Harvick (4). (Getty Images for NASCAR)

When Junior is a name of itself, it is sometimes shortened to June, though not in the cases of Allyson, Lockhart and women in general. Darrell Waltrip has used this method, and added a bug, and, over time, that bug has managed to sting everyone who watches NASCAR on TV to one extent or another.

In conclusion, the main result of that race is that it’s left me writing aimlessly, shell-shocked by all the sound and fury, most of which signified nothing.

I’m glad I was far away, safe from the ravages of an unnatural disaster. It was a human-generated earthquake saved by no one, to the best of our knowledge, getting hurt.



(Steven Novak design)

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).

Yippi-Yi … Ki-Yay!

Elmore Leonard just imagined Arizona. This is the Painted Desert.
Elmore Leonard just imagined Arizona. This is the Painted Desert.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, December 18, 2013, 12:22 p.m.

Oliver Hardy would have said, “Another fine mess you’ve got us in,” and called me Stanley. My daddy would’ve said, “If that ain’t a Dutton deal, damned if I’ve seen one.”

Jimmy Dutton was prone to hyperbole. He also said something was “the damndest thing ever I heard” at least five times every day I was around him.

His older son, slightly over 20 years after he died, has lost his marbles.

I mean, I've got a pair of boots and a hat. Should I start wearing them?
I mean, I’ve got a pair of boots and a hat. Should I start wearing them?

That would be I.

You see, I’ve got this notion that I’m going to write novels for a living. It’s not a hard decision. I have little else to do besides this blog and the occasional song, but I’m busy because I’ve got this odd notion that I can make a living out of it.

How busy am I? Yesterday I found a sheet of paper with the words to a song I completely forgot writing. As a result, I’ve completely lost the tune. The lyrics are good, though. It’ll come back around now that I’ve found it, but it’ll be a while because there’s another one whose words I’ve got to memorize, and I just can’t do that but one at a time.

I’m trying to promote, and in quite a few cases sell, my second novel, The Intangibles. I’m at the second-draft stopping point for a third that I intend to be called Crazy by Natural Causes. Last week I started a fourth, which is a crime novel of undetermined title, and now I’ve decided to write yet another … at the same time.

Definite Dutton Deal. It’s not a term of industriousness. It’s a testimony to the considerable occasions in which Duttons attempt to defy odds, tilt at windmills and embark upon personal Pickett’s Charges.

It’s more fun that way, right up until disaster ensues.

The reason I am writing two novels at the same time is that, last week, fresh upon my excitement at completing three chapters of the crime novel, I was informed that there was a potential market for me writing a western.

Unfortunately, these aren't singing cowboys (Vince Pawless photo)
Unfortunately, these aren’t singing cowboys (Vince Pawless photo)

A western!

At the time, my view was that writing a novel is so damned difficult that I can’t really justify any project that doesn’t absolutely, positively, undeniably excite me.

Then I drove up, down, through and around a bunch of mountains, and damned if I didn’t come up with a preliminary plot for a western.

How could I possibly write a western? Well, (1.) I grew up on a farm around horses and cattle, (2.) back in ancient times, I actually knew rodeo cowboys and took part in events in which youngsters lunged after dollar bills attached in the ears of calves, and (3.) I occasionally participated in horse shows, though not with particularly notable success. I think my entire cowboy career soured on the humiliation of fifth-place ribbons being pink, even when boys won them.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve read some really great ones by Larry McMurtry and Elmore Leonard, and I’m a big fan of those that have pictures and move at the whims of John Ford and Henry Hathaway.

Plus, one of my idols, the recently departed Elmore Leonard, started out writing westerns and based them all on a couple weeks he spent wandering around Arizona. I’ve wandered around Arizona, though not for two weeks at a time.

My favorite western is a modern one, McMurtry’s Leaving Cheyenne, and one started forming itself in my mind as I pondered that novel and the sad movie “The Misfits,” directed in 1961 by John Huston from a script by Arthur Miller.

If Arthur Miller could write a western, channeling Disney, “why, but, oh, why, can’t I?”

Now I’ve got four chapters of crime and one of western typed out. Can I switch back and forth? It’s like the “Tuggy the Tugboat” of my childhood: I think I can, I think I can …

[cb_profit_poster Acting]

Finding Time for Music

The first time I played music in front of a crowd was at a place in Clinton called The Study Club, which is now Tony's Pizza. That was in 2009.
The first time I played music in front of a crowd was at a place in Clinton called The Study Club, which is now Tony’s Pizza. That was in 2009.

[cb_profit_poster Guitar1]Clinton, S.C., Monday, August 26, 2013, 10:39 a.m.

A disadvantage of songwriting is that it detracts from song listening. It’s a good problem to have, all in all, I reckon, or, at least, not a terrible one.

It’s just that, back in the previous decade, I was knowledgeable. I wrote a book called True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed (University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, 2006). While compiling the information for that book, the experience of hobnobbing with performers such as Robert Earl Keen Jr., Slaid Cleaves and Jack Ingram led me to teach myself how to play guitar passably and then to start writing songs and performing them in front of audiences that were mostly small. That experience also led me to turn the main character in my first novel into a singer-songwriter, Riley Mansfield. In The Audacity of Dope, Riley isn’t based on any one person but rather drawn from characters I encountered on the road. That wasn’t originally the novel’s name – for the longest time, it didn’t have one – but the second draft was an extensive rewrite because I turned Riley – I can’t remember whether that was the hero’s original name or not – into a pot-smoking musician who becomes an unlikely and reluctant hero.

This is the cover of my first novel. Some might find it shocking. I find it appropriate.
This is the cover of my first novel. Some might find it shocking. I find it appropriate.

Audacity was always a suspense thriller. It always involved politics, but the main character’s audacity didn’t evolve into “dope” until after I finished True to the Roots. I was anxious to find a publisher, and this re-creation (and recreation) of the hero set it apart, I hoped, from other novels on the market. It worked. I found a publisher, and now Neverland Publishing ( is getting my second novel, The Intangibles, ready for release in late October.

The Intangibles is also, uh, not for the kiddies, but it has many more characters and is set in a small South Carolina town during public-school desegregation in the late 1960s. Fairmont is a college town, which is similar to Clinton but also Newberry, Greenwood, Anderson and many others. Some of what happens fictionally is based loosely on actual events, but just as much is created for the purposes of the story.

When my job was eliminated, I planned to put some effort into getting some of my songs published and on the market. What has happened is that I’ve become so immersed in prose – selling one book (Audacity), editing another (Intangibles) and writing a third (Crazy by Natural Causes) whose first draft is close to completion – that I’ve had little time for music. I still play songs at appearances for The Audacity of Dope – after all, I wrote the lyrics that are quoted in the text as Riley’s songs – and go to the occasional local jam session, but I’ve written only two or three songs all year.

What’s more, I haven’t listened to music as much. Most of my music listening takes place while I’m riding, either on the highway or around the yard on my lawn tractor. I started musing on this subject late Saturday night after the Bristol NASCAR race was over and Wilco was featured on PBS’s “Austin City Limits” show.

Another factor is that I don’t have much money to spend on music, but it’s mainly because I’m obsessed with writing novels. I keep hoping someone will read Audacity who is (a.) interested in making a movie out of it, which would rock, or, (b.) impressed enough by my lyrics to want to hear the songs, or, oh, maybe, record one or two or a dozen.

As far as comparing songwriting to novel writing, I love both. I’d say songs are more fun. Novels may not require more discipline, but they require it in greater length and intensity. Novels I find a bit more rewarding, mostly because they require so much more time. There’s a mite more agony in novels and a tad more ecstasy in songwriting.

Not that I’m Michelangelo or nothing.

Some songs I write are written to be catchy and commercial. Others are written because I feel I have something to say, even though it might not be suitable for prime time. I take personal pride in some songs that have little chance of drawing widespread interest from others.

I get a lot of, “Man, that’s a damn good song,” and not much, “Hey, I’d like to record that song.”

The bottom line, though, is that I write because I love it, and that applies to books – I wrote a bunch of non-fiction books before I tried fiction – and music. As a musician, well, I’m a damn fine writer. I’ve always paid more attention to words than music, and that defines my strength and my weakness. Most of my songs that begin with words are simple in terms of chord patterns. If chord patterns define a song’s origin, it’s still not complex, but the melody is more interesting.

I like irony and offbeat rhymes:

A cyclone has wrecked Bangladesh / Yet somehow I still feel quite refreshed.

It won’t be smokin’ cigarettes or drinkin’ hard liquor / Ain’t nothing killing me like living is.

If you ain’t an outlaw / You can’t play outlaw music / If you ain’t got money/ You can’t buy no car / If you can’t drive / You can’t race in NASCAR / And no matter where you go / There you are.

You’ve just got to find a way to find a balance / Between what you want and what you really need / A man can only get so far on talent / And he can’t make a living just on dreams.

What’s my favorite line in a country song? Probably Roger Miller’s:

Spent the groceries and half the rent / I lack 14 dollars having 27 cents.

My favorite verse? That’s Tom T. Hall’s:

Past some hound dogs and some dominecker chickens / Temporary looking houses with their lean and bashful kids / Every mile or so a sign proclaimed that Christ was coming soon / And I thought, well, man, He’d sure be disappointed if He did.

My favorite hook was written by Hank Cochran:

You wouldn’t know love / If it looked you in the eye.

Take a deep breath. It’s so perfect it hurts, and that was Cochran’s plan.

Thanks for reading my daily electronic scribblings. My iPhone is a modern cocktail napkin, and my laptop is a file cabinet. Let me know what you think, and consider the advertisers if you think of it.

[cb_profit_poster Storytelling]