Still Chipping Away

I made this sketch to illustrate one of my short stories, but it reminds me of James Leverette in The Intangibles. (Monte Dutton sketch)
I made this sketch to illustrate one of my short stories, but it reminds me of James Leverette in The Intangibles. (Monte Dutton sketch)

No, I’m still not through with the first draft of Forgive Us Our Trespasses. This morning I completed the forty-fourth chapter. It’s getting there. Two or three chapters more, and a postscript. I would write “you can’t force these things,” but maybe you can. I can’t. As I bring this crime story to a close, it still requires a good bit of consideration, commiseration, plus occasional alliteration, at every step.

I’m looking forward to getting it done. Then I’m looking forward to setting it aside for a while. I’m going to give another manuscript, Crazy of Natural Causes, one more coat of polish, i.e., a fourth draft. I doubt that will take too long. I hope it doesn’t. I hope I don’t go off on some bender in which I decide it’s not any good and start making radical revisions. I don’t think that will happen. My third novel, while unpublished as of yet, is a story of redemption. The main character, Chance Benford, isn’t a very nice man at the beginning. The trick becomes making him interesting enough so that readers will stick with him. That’s the principal area where Crazy of Natural Causes needs work.

I have a hard time with titles. The Audacity of Dope got its name shortly after I read President Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope. The two have nothing in common. No one remotely like Barack Obama appears in The Audacity of Dope. It’s just that the title, appropriate on its own merits, occurred to me when I glanced at the Obama book, which was sitting on the love seat in my living room while I was working on the novel. I had a “Eureka moment”: Well, I’ll be. That would be the perfect title.

Reminds me of Al Martin in The Intangibles, but Al wouldn't have been wearing No. 30. This sketch was also for a short story.
Reminds me of Al Martin in The Intangibles, but Al wouldn’t have been wearing No. 30. This sketch was also for a short story.

The Intangibles comes from my own past. When I played high school football, the locker room walls were full of slogans that we all had to know and recite. Our coach called these slogans “the Intangibles.” I played in the seventies, but the novel is set in the sixties. I drew on both my boyhood and my meager athletic career. Some of the characters are based loosely on people I knew and events that happened, but it’s just as much based on things that might have happened but never did.

In other words, it’s fiction.

Here’s a surprise. Forgive Us Our Trespasses came to me while I was reciting The Lord’s Prayer. Weird, huh?

One common experience for a writer is to have people make suggestions, as in, “Hey, I tell you what you ought to write …” Most of the times, the suggestion is for non-fiction. A tell-all book based on the time I spent writing about NASCAR, for instance. I wrote lots of non-fiction books, once upon a time. It all began with a locally published history of high school football in this town, Pride of Clinton, in 1986. Later on, I wrote several books about NASCAR – a collection of columns (At Speed), profiles of Tony Stewart (Rebel with a Cause) and Jeff Gordon (The Racer), an account of the 2002 season (Postcards from Pit Road), a book of jokes and anecdotes (Haul A** and Turn Left) and a collection of stories by me and seven others that I edited (Taking Stock). Then, shortly before I started writing fiction, I wrote a book about music, True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, that led to my first fiction protagonist, the pot-smoking songwriter Riley Mansfield.

As best I know, all of the books above, with the exception of Pride of Clinton and the two not yet published, can be found from online booksellers. More information is available at http://www.montedutton.com and http://www.neverlandpublishing.com.

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