Only the Best I Can Do


Maybe one day I'll write a novel that is towering and majestic. In the meantime, I just do the best I can. (Monte Dutton)
Maybe one day I’ll write a novel that is towering and majestic. In the meantime, I just do the best I can. (Monte Dutton photo)

I’m waiting for the race to start — I write a column on NASCAR every week for Bleacher Report — and pondering the promotion of my upcoming novel. I’m also watching the Boston Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays.

I’ve been reading the reviews. Not the reviews of my books. The responses to blogs I’ve written recently about the momentous developments of the past week. Mostly they have been greeted with approval, but, as always, the bile is more bilious than the plaudits are plauditory.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

That’s fine. I particularly like it when the brickbats are humorous. I can laugh at myself. Most fat folks can. It’s an acquired talent. Furthermore, if I only wrote what would be popular, not many would read it. A life mostly lived in the newspaper business is good training. A long time ago, I realized that, if I didn’t piss off about fifteen percent, I was putting the readers to sleep. That’s the price one pays for candor. I respect other opinions. It’s common for me to consider the following reply:

Thanks. When I wrote this blog, I had no idea how you felt. So I had no choice but to write my opinion.

Not everyone is going to like Crazy of Natural Causes, the novel that will be out in about a month. It would be an awful story if everyone agreed with it. I’m not afraid of negative reviews. I’ve seldom had a problem with them in the past, but I really think if everyone who read Crazy, or the two that preceded it, loved it, then it would be a sure sign it’s not very good.

I don’t think I’d give my own novel “five stars,” though I certainly will appreciate those who do. I think it’s damn good, naturally, since I wrote it, but I don’t think it compares with A Confederacy of Dunces, or East of Eden, or Don Quixote, or A Prayer for Owen Meany, or Leaving Cheyenne, or many other of my favorite works of fiction.

My whole career, success and failure alike, has been grounded in honesty. Honesty is easy. So is writing what I want to write. When I write something as ambitious as a novel, I can’t justify all that effort on the basis of anything other than love. I have to love the story I’m telling. I have get inside the heads of the characters. I have to think the way they think.

At the beginning, the protagonist unravels. (Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
At the beginning, the protagonist unravels. (Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

It’d hard to write to expectations: the market, public opinion, what’s out there, what isn’t.

It’s hard to write a story that’s close to 100,000 words. It’s requires great organization. It requires a willingness to get rid of items that, while amusing, don’t happen to move the story along. That’s the most significant of the lessons I’ve learned from writing books, and that lesson becomes more and more sophisticated with each one I finish. At my age, many tasks are more difficult than when I was younger, but as a writer, I get better and better, or have so far.

When this book is released, and you have it on your Kindle, your tablet, your laptop, your phone, or the device you often use to watch video or listen to music and just realized it can be used for reading, I hope you’ll give it a fair shot. You won’t have a lot of money invested in it, but since you paid for it, I hope you’ll stick with it.

At the beginning, Chance Benford is a pretty disreputable fellow. He’s going to change, though. He has no choice. He’s going to wind up a pretty good fellow. He’s never going to get perfect, but he’s going to embark on a great adventure in which all sorts of issues rise up to impede his progress.

That’s most of what Chance and his creator have in common. We’re both getting a little better.


              While you wait for access to Chance Benford’s adventure, let me invite you to consider my other books, most of which are available here:



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