Surprise, Surprise

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

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

By Monte Dutton

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

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

Barrie Jarman (Monte Dutton sketch)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kentucky Speedway (Getty Images for NASCAR)

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

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

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

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

(Steven Novak cover design)

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

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

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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

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

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

(Joe Font cover design)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Across the Lake

Imagine. All those football games began on fields like this one. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Imagine. All those football games began on fields like this one. (Monte Dutton sketch)
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Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, July 23, 2016, 9:26 a.m.

CowboysComeHome_CVR
(Steven Novak cover design)

It’s been an eventful week. I got a cover designed for my next novel, Cowboys Come Home. I started on a sixth, which doesn’t mean it has a name yet, only that it has two bitingly satirical chapters.

Last night I washed my bedsheets. Dried them, too. Put them back on the bed. It is my general policy to put another set on the bed when I wash the sheets, but last night I put the same ones back on.

As I fell asleep, I was so proud.

Another change is on the horizon. Shortly I will begin reporting on Laurens County sports for the Greenwood Index-Journal. Basically, I will be doing what I have been doing, only a bit more of it.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Two years ago, I wrote about high school and college games for several newspapers. A year ago, about this time, I started writing for the GoLaurens/GoClinton website, and that was a gig I really enjoyed.

This is home. When I was a kid, the Clinton Red Devils at Wilder Stadium — not the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, or David Pearson at Darlington Raceway — occupied the center of my universe. The Laurens Raiders were respected rivals from eight years up the road, on the Laurens-Clinton Highway, or, as it is known here, the Clinton-Laurens Highway. This year’s Laurens-Clinton, or as we know it in Clinton, Clinton-Laurens, game is on August 26.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I’ll be there, and I’ll be watching one or the other all season long, and then into basketball season and beyond, and with the Presbyterian College Blue Hose thrown in from time to time for good measure.

When Billy Dunlap, of GoLaurens/GoClinton, hired me to cover the Red Devils, and I later picked up the Raiders from time to time, I was just looking for a little spending money to sustain me during the erratic flow of book royalties. I write a couple NASCAR columns each week, too, and I often turn the basic facts of a game story into the more observational format of a day-after blog here at montedutton.com.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

My career is writing fiction. It is possible, writing fiction, to be imprisoned in an interior world of laptops, sporting events on TV, old movies, news, social media and guitar breaks. This world is necessary, too, if I am to become an overnight literary sensation after years and years of honing my skills and waiting for that big break, the coincidence in which someone important stumbles upon my work and likes it.

As I used to see young men post more often on Twitter than now, I’m not about that life.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I need to get out. I need to experience life, the better to create stories derived from the random interminglings of it. If I’m going to keep creating stories and characters, I cannot be a dull boy.

This Greenwood opportunity was unexpected. I had no idea the Index-Journal, where I took my first job and held it for 13 months 34 years ago, was interested in having me do exactly what I am doing now, only more of it. At the time I worked there, just out of college, thinking I knew infinitely more than I really did, I called it The Index Finger. When I talked to the executive editor, I had no idea the paper was interested in covering the sports across the lake.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

I walked in the front door of that building for the first time since 1982. It may have been 1981 because, when I last worked there, I never went in the front door.

The sports department is where the darkroom used to be. There’s no darkroom. Duh.

Personally, the significance is that this correspondent’s job is more than what I’m doing now and, the way I’ve got it figured, exactly the amount I want to do.

Billy and I are parting on good terms. I wrote my last GoLaurens/GoClinton story, at least for now, on Friday. He was glad to have me. I was glad for the work. He can’t offer me what Greenwood can. I can do what Greenwood wants.

And I’ll still be writing about the Red Devils, Raiders and Blue Hose. They are familiar. Seldom has a year passed in which they were not a vibrant part of life, whether following a Clinton playoff game on Internet radio from a motel room in Phoenix or sweating profusely as me and my arthritic knees make our way up the Wilder Stadium stadium steps.

K.C. Hanna Stadium at LDHS isn’t at the alma mater, but it is easier on my knees.

What I’d love for you to do is “take” the Index-Journal, but, for now, at least keep an eye on the website. Soon I will have stories posted there. Follow it on Twitter. Keep reading GoLaurens/GoClinton, too. And this website. And my literary site, Well, Pilgrim … You know where I am. I’m everywhere. Read my novels, and I’ll take you all over the country. None has traveled abroad yet.

(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 either Forgive Us Our Trespasses or Crazy of Natural Causes, and you’ll get a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs, absolutely free. Tell ‘em Mr. Monte sent you, y’hear?

(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 crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.

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

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

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).