Why did I write The Intangibles?
The first motivation was that I wanted to communicate what it was really like in the South when schools were integrated. In the midst of problems we face as a society today, I wanted to provide some perspective into the times that molded the parents – and even the grandparents – of today. I thought it important to reacquaint readers with those troublesome times.
A side effect was personal. I had a need to confront the events, many of them traumatic, that shaped what I became in subsequent years. The novel is older than I. Most of its events take place when I was ten years old.
The Fairmont of The Intangibles is similar to Clinton, my hometown, but it could just as easily be any small Southern college town, Newberry, for instance, which is only twenty-five miles away. I’d say there’s about an even number of characters, half based on real people and half made up. Many of the “bad guys” were made up, in particular.
The time is a bit skewed, as well. The actual school year of integration here was 1970-71; in The Intangibles, it’s 1968-69. Why did I make this change? Because 1968 was such a pivotal year in American history. More and more people were rising in opposition to the Vietnam War. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. In South Carolina, it was the year of the Orangeburg Massacre. Lyndon B. Johnson decided not to run for reelection, and Richard M. Nixon became the 37th president. The time was chosen in the name of artistic license.
Today we struggle to adjust to rapid changes in technology. In 1968, America, and more to the point of the novel, the South, was adjusting to rapid changes in society. It was an earthquake that occurred when tensions that had been ignored, postponed, and shoved aside all erupted in a cataclysm of pent-up anger. It was hard for blacks and whites alike. The world, the way it was, wasn’t much, but it was what they’d had, and the countervailing forces were both powerful and uncompromising.
The most difficult part was finding common ground. The first such ground was where high school football was played.
The Intangibles is frank. It shocks some. It deals with all the issues – civil rights, war, sex, drugs, religion – that together created an atmosphere of revolution and reaction. I thought it important to examine the effect it had on the world we live in now, and I discovered it to be important personally because it forced me to contemplate how my life progressed beyond the time in question, right up to today.
Reading it might be painful. I think it’s still a pain we need, and that’s why I wrote it.
The Intangibles and my first novel, The Audacity of Dope, are available at amazon.com, bn.com and in many independent bookstores. You may order a signed copy at montedutton.com. Here in Clinton, signed copies are available at L&L Office Supply.