The Dutton Deal: My July Newsletter

(Steven Novak cover)

This Week Only! Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for free!

By Monte Dutton

I think this new novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, is my best. Some won’t like the politics. In one way, it’s about a group of people who get themselves in a serious bind. In another, it’s about America, right now, and it hasn’t gotten a bit less timely since I wrote it.

It has not taken off, partly because I don’t have the money to spend promoting it. I need to get it out there in circulation, so I’m putting the Kindle version up for free.

That’s right. Free! Surely you can afford nothing. The sale (or lack thereof) runs from Monday, July 16, at 3 a.m. EDT, to Saturday, July 21, at 3 a.m. EDT (that’s midnight PDT).

Download it for yourself. Circulate word of its, uh, “freebieness” to everyone you know, emphasizing those who have been known to read. Go to Amazon, type me name, and that will take you to my Author Page.

It’s likely that you’ve already got a Kindle app in your device (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, etc.). If not, the app is free. Grab a novel. Don’t cost nothing.

(Steven Novak cover)

Now Available in Audio (Audible, Amazon, iTunes)

My stock car racing novel, Lightning in a Bottle, has been deftly narrated by Jay Harper. He did a great job. So did Kenyon Strecker, who expertly narrated Cowboys Come Home, my 2016 tale of a pair of World War II heroes returning home to Texas.

(Design by Steven Novak)

New Job

I am managing the county news site, GoLaurens.com (GoClinton.com is within it), and that takes me out and about to write about ballgames, political gatherings, and people who have done something of note. Also, editing. Lots of editing and layout. I’m enjoying it. If I didn’t love where I live, I wouldn’t be here.

Facebook Live

Each week, usually on Sunday night at 8, I go on Facebook Live (Monte.Dutton), to perform some songs, talk NASCAR and respond to anything else viewers want to discuss.

I also attempt to promote my Patreon fund-raising site, books, and blogs at montedutton.com and wellpilgrim.wordpress.com.

Between the live show and a replay made available, usually about 350-500 viewers tune in. Join me if you get a chance.

The Next Novel

All my other activities have slowed my progress, but I’m about a third of the way through the first draft of The Latter Days, which will be my ninth novel. It’s about an aging baseball scout and ex-big leaguer who finds a diamond in the rough and attempts to turn him into a big leaguer.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

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A Perpetual Edge Inevitably Dulls

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 10:27 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The world is in a haze, and it has nothing to do with the West being in flames.

The West is always in flames. It’s the figurative and literal reason for the haze. I have become inured to wildfires.

I’m inured to Russian interference, cops shooting the wrong guy, powerful men trading assistance for sexual favors, mass shootings, around-the-clock news and sports, and The Simpsons on TV somewhere.

Nothing surprises me except the strangeness of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries showing one Christmas movie after another in the middle of July. Hallmark must have gotten inured to replays of Columbo, Diagnosis: Murder and Monk.

Our current president has become so unpredictable, it’s predictable.

The summer haze is a short social-media video that keeps running over and over. Soccer players grimacing. Politicians screaming. Farmers Insurance knowing a thing or two because it’s seen a thing or two.

That’s my me, too movement. So many things matter that nothing matters.

Madness has become normal. If you don’t believe me, read your Facebook feed.

(Monte Dutton photo)

It’s hard to maintain passion because passion has become normal.

All of a sudden, little things mean a lot. Last night I was editing an obituary that had a small typo. The deceased reportedly once enjoyed riding around the county with her husband in their motorhome. Apparently they were as close to homebodies as travelers can be. I changed “county” to “country” and laughed for thirty seconds.

If the government put puppies and kitten in cages, no one would stand for it.

 

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

(Steven Novak cover)

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

The Word Around Here

I sketched this back in the old days when the USA made it. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 3, 2018, 8:56 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

When I was growing up, many local businesses closed on Wednesdays. That gradually diminished over time – for a long time, some still closed on Wednesdays at noon – but most locally owned businesses are closed for at least a day each week.

Some restaurants that used to close on Sunday are now closed on Monday. Undoubtedly, the ones that draw a Sunday crowd are more inclined to take Monday off.

You ask why I ponder such matters on this bright morning?

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Well, I’m cultivating within me the inspiration to write something more weighty. This involves sipping coffee, checking the email and social media, and playing a little guitar as a further means of getting the cobwebs out by trying to remember the words to songs I haven’t played in a while.

Normally, I fix a nice breakfast at home, skip lunch, and either nibble at night or go out to eat at a favorite haunt. When an evening assignment takes me to Laurens, I eat at a place there that we don’t have here.

This guy looks nothing like me, but he does like coffee. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Mondays are often relegated to a chain restaurant because so many local joints are closed. Last night I tried the new Arby’s, using a coupon I got in the mail. I was impressed by the speed of the drive-though. At local places, I usually eat in. That way I can read a book on my phone while awaiting the chow.

I managed to squeeze six paragraphs out of the most droll of topics.

My good knee’s been acting up. Perhaps it’s making a transition to being my bad knee. I should put ice on it. Maybe during tonight’s Red Sox game. It’s hard to write with ice on the knee. It falls off too easily.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Now that I’ve started editing obituaries, I’ve become a valuable source of information for my mother, who has occasionally lamented that half the time, she doesn’t know someone has died until he or she is already buried. It’s bound to be a vibrant part of our daily phone conversations.

Sweden is about to play Switzerland. I can’t help saying Sveden versus Svitzerland in my head.

Velly eenteresting.

I’m also thinking about considering Sweden as UCLA and Switzerland as Stanford. It appears the refs are wearing light blue. Advantage: UCLA! The teams are emerging. Sweden is wearing darker blue. California, then. The World Cup version of The Big Game! Switzerland’s red is too bright for Stanford, which, of course, is cardinal. I just can’t get into Cal versus Wisconsin, though.

Soccer, or futbol, or World Football, or whatever, is a solid accompaniment to writing. There’s that nice drone, that hum, constantly in the background, and the mad eruption when a goal is scored, or even when some chap untidily crashes to the turf. I pay attention for a few minutes and then go back to typing.

I watched the Russia win over Spain pretty closely. A mistake. The last time I rooted for Spain that much, I was reading Hemingway, and even then, it was a civil war.

It’s time to have breakfast and then be somebody.

 

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

(Steven Novak cover)

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

When the Roll Is Called in Homeroom, I’ll Be There

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, June 30, 2018, 4:02 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I’ve been working my ass off. No, that’s not right. I’ve been wearing my ass out. Mainly I’ve been sitting down.

I’m in the process of learning how to manage the county website. It’s not the official county website. It’s a news site, or two that are intertwined, GoLaurens.com and GoClinton.com, because Laurens County has two towns that are roughly the same size.

I’ve been learning how to lay it out. How to place photos. How to put together the police reports and the obituaries.

“Putting on the Hits” in Joanna a while back.

This reminds me of the late David Poole, who, when a race-car driver proclaimed that David had no business writing about racing because he’d never driven a race car, would get the look on his face that basically told the world, Thank you, God, and reply by saying, grandly, “I’ve never died, but I’ve written many an obituary.”

Now David has died. Everyone does. In the hereafter, he certainly doesn’t have to write obits.

I don’t write them. I just compile and edit them.

In this new job, my perfectionism works against me. I’ve spent a lot of times the past few days, changing numbers into numerals and numerals into numbers, making “style edits,” and I have concluded that Piedmont Technical College writes the best releases in the area.

State Rep. Mark Willis talking to kids at a local museum’s history camp.

I haven’t actually done my first crime report yet – I expect it’s a bit early with a Saturday night bearing down – but I’ve read the instructions. I scheduled one announcement on the site. It was an upcoming talent contest at a nearby church.

Without question, I write a bit too much news for my taste. I’ve done it before. I’m competent at it, but I’ve always enjoyed sports because the human emotion is so obvious. Lots of public officials are prone to choke at the corresponding free-throw line, but often they manage to do it behind closed doors.

My boss, predecessor and mentor has a sports bent, too. I’m fortunate to have him handy. I might be a tad hardheaded and independent for local tastes. I like a perspective that is different from others, and the freedom to pursue it is greater than it was in NASCAR, where the job has become a contest of competing versions of the same press conferences and transcripts. This week I wrote a story about a woman who won big on The Price Is Right, and I was proud of the tale I got.

A Little League fan from Greenwood accosted me last night. I was taking photos through the opening in a chain-link fence, and I told the man sitting there that I’d only be there for a few moments because I was taking some photos of the Laurens pitcher. I did not know that his grandson was batting. He said okay.

“Hey, buddy.” People who call me “buddy” or “brother” usually aren’t, the same way that people on social media always write that they “love” something they don’t. “You need to get your ass over on the Laurens side.”

I explained to him that I did not know that and would have waited if I had. I’m pretty sure he thought the pitcher and I were related. He cooled down after I politely defended myself, and another Greenwood fan told me he thought that fellow was “way out of line,” but I really didn’t think it was that big a deal. I never think things are as heated as those who watch them do. I’ve had shouting matches with Dale Earnhardt before, and having a shouting match with him was the best way a reporter could possibly get along with the aptly named Intimidator.

Now I’m briefly caught up, but I’m hoping to hear word of how the second game in the state championship Little League series* came out. I’m sure the Greenwood fan’s foul mood had something to do with Laurens scoring three runs in the first inning while hitting exactly three balls in fair territory, thanks to a fumbled bunt, three straight walks, a dropped third strike and other misplays that were too many to mention. Laurens went on to prevail by a 17-7 count.

Then I edited dozens of stories and either placed them on the site or scheduled them for later. Some Italian students have been visiting one school, and another school held a forensics clinic for high school kids interested in being the next Barnaby Jones. Leadership Laurens County graduated its latest class, and the Chamber selected its small business and small businessman of the year. I know where the bookmobile is headed and how Clinton is changing its garbage collection on the week of the Fourth.

I’m a regular fountainhead of information.

There is probably more potential inspiration for the next novel than there ever was in the infield media center.

*Laurens won, 11-4.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

(Steven Novak cover)

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Another Day, Another Fifty Cents

Retiring Gwen Kinard gets a Key to the City from Laurens mayor John Stankus. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 28, 2018, 10:14 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

It’s going to be another week that was. By definition. To quote one of my songs, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

This one, though, has been particularly enlightening.

I’m making a transition into a job running the county’s news site, GoLaurens.com, which also has within it a GoClinton.com because Laurens County is one of relatively few counties with two towns of roughly the same size. Laurens is the county seat, and Clinton is, oh, where the college, the Presbyterian one, is. The relationship requires some customizing. The short explanation above is absurdly simplified, but the purpose here isn’t a detailed analysis. I’ve been writing stories for GoLaurens/GoClinton for quite a while, but I haven’t ever done layout.

(Monte Dutton photo)

I’ve got to make plans and have meetings and learn all the facts and figures I didn’t know. My crowded life is getting more crowded, but that’s a familiar story, and perhaps now it will pay for itself again.

Wednesday was extraordinarily productive. I spent the day juggling, which sounds like fun, and is, but the balls in the air weren’t literal. I was writing, researching, editing, interviewing, picture taking, and updating as everything came in. By day’s end, I had five stories ready to go.

The best was an inspirational tale about a woman who miraculously made a small fortune on The Price Is Right.

Catie Rawls, who is in the Miss South Carolina pageant.

Another was about a Laurens girl who is, right now, competing in the Miss South Carolina Pageant.

Two more were about the all-star play of Laurens baseball in Little League and Clinton in Dixie Youth.

One was about the retirement of the much-respected City Clerk and Treasurer of Laurens.

Part of the reason all these stories converged was that I wanted a healthy variety to place on the site. This did not work out because the access I was granted did not give me enough of it to do any actual work. I spent a while on the phone with a company that administers web sites, only to find out that someone else has to grant me such access, and that person thought it was already done, and he’s a busy man, and he’s trying to get it straightened out but hasn’t yet. I held back one story and I’m hopeful that it will be the first one I truly take from start to finish.

This shouldn’t be hard for anyone to understand. Modern life is filled with such aggravations. Most days are not filled, as John Denver thought his were, with “easy country charm.” The country is considerably less charming, even for those of us who are out in it.

Personally, I think it’s one reason why so many people on social media stay ticked off all the time.

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

(Steven Novak cover)

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

A Man Must Carry On

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 9:49 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

How the mighty have fallen.

Okay. I was never that mighty. And I haven’t fallen. The last time I fell was on the sideline of the Clinton High School spring football game in 2017.

On Tuesday, I merely wilted.

On the practice fields, a half mile or so from Wilder Stadium, the current Red Devils were hosting a round-robin scrimmage of pitch-and-catch (7-on-7, it’s called) that also included Laurens, Daniel, Emerald, Ninety Six, Union County and Woodruff.

Chris Liner

It was hot. It was humid. All I had to do was stand around, take pictures and chat with players and coaches. I’m old. At the end, as Andrew Webb was talking to his team, I looked into the players’ eyes and realized I was worse off than they were. I interviewed the Red Devil coach. Then I walked over to the next field and interviewed the Laurens coach, Chris Liner, and then I looked off in the distance. Heat waves twitched between me and my truck, which was up a hill, across a road, maybe 200 yards away, and I realized the last time I was this exhausted, and this hot, and this dehydrated, was also when I was on a different practice field, in this town, 43 years ago.

Mistakenly, I thought such days were over.

Oh, I trudged up that hill. In the old days, it was a rule that I had to jog up another hill, and I couldn’t take off my helmet, and at the top of the hill, the rest of the way to the locker room was slightly uphill, and many were the days I was just as parched, just as exhausted, and, in 1975, I’d had less water than Tuesday because, in those days, they thought water might give me cramps. In fact, before I showered, I swallowed a fistful of salt tablets because, in those days, they thought salt would prevent me from getting cramps.

Much has changed, the most pertinent being that I am old and fat and no longer play football but write about it. The sole progress is that I write about it a good bit better than I ever played it, which isn’t necessarily saying much.

I got back to the truck. The interior made me think of a live volcano. I pushed a button that opened the windows. I cranked the truck and its air conditioner. It took a while to get up the energy to drive.

To drive!

When I got home, water sure tasted great. It took a while to get up the energy to write.

To write!

I processed these photos, which were better than I thought possible because I do much better taking photos by looking through the camera than by holding it away and shooting via the video display. Looking through the camera had been impossible because the humidity had turned the viewfinder into a fog. Then I wrote two stories, one about the human drama of the athletic competition and another about Laurens’ summertime workouts in general. I had already written such a story about Clinton.

I’ve written faster in my time. Many nighttime sporting events come to mind.

Eventually, I felt fully recovered, shaved, took the day’s second shower, and headed up to Laurens to write about City Council in action. It was cool. The only problem was the air conditioner made it a little difficult to hear what people were saying. A minor annoyance. It was much easier than feeling faint as my mind processed the events of farflung games of catch.

I’m not as good as I once was. In fact, I’m not even as good once as I ever was.

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Steven Novak cover

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Serenity in Name Only

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, June 14, 2008, 10:59 a.m.

By Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)

Shelby Alexander barely lets the reader take a breath in this opening salvo of Craig A. Hart’s series of thrillers. Serenity is not to be confused with the noun. It’s the name of the town in northern Michigan that, based on the hero’s experience, is hardly apt.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover)

Hart writes my kind of books. I wasn’t ten pages in before the hero started reminding me of Hal Kinley, the flawed counterbalance of evil in my political thriller, Forgive Us Our Trespasses. Hal plays second fiddle to the despicable Denny Frawley, a politician headed to the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion regardless of how many he has to kill and imprison in order to get there.

Hart’s protagonist figuratively plays lead guitar. He is at the center of every spine-tingling scene, and someone is out to kill him in most of them.

Shelby is a tough guy, an ex-boxer who who has been involved in his share of tawdry business. Fate puts him in harm’s way … constantly. He allows himself to be drawn into a territorial war between meth dealers, or at least that’s the way it seems. It’s hard to see the truth because the bad guys keep dying while they are enthusiastically attempting to kill him.

Serenity – the town, that is – has a new sheriff who is either awfully naive or terribly crooked. Shelby has a girlfriend, a honky-tonk angel, who is half his age. He has a meddling daughter determined to patch up relations between Shelby and his former wife, her mother. A friend, retired from the Detroit police force, comes in handy.

Hart’s yarn affords precious little time to relax. Someone is trying to kill Shelby most every time he stops moving. Hart has crafted a hero capable of carrying many more installments, provided he can manage to survive the perpetual action. I expect he will. His is a valuable franchise.

(Steven Novak cover

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.