Finding My Audacity

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

Nowadays I write novels in order to make a living, or, at least, that’s the direction I’m headed. Free-lance sportswriting provides some regular income. Royalties come in bits, snatches, and clumps. They’re slow when I need them and flood in when the crises are past.

I’m making progress.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

When I got my first novel, The Audacity of Dope, published (, I was still traveling the country, writing about NASCAR, and had it not been the age of journalism’s slow, painful death, I’d probably be doing it yet. Always, though, I wanted to write fiction. Somewhere around here — perhaps in a box in the utility building, or under the bed in the utility room — an old typed manuscript from the 1980s is slowly deteriorating under a coat of dust.

Funny. Back then I turned to journalism to make a living. Twenty-five years later, after having my work syndicated and non-fiction books on the market about NASCAR and music, I turned back to fiction.

The Audacity of Dope provided what little foundation I had.

Originally, it was about a terrorist plot to cause mayhem at a major sporting event. I’m guessing I wrote at least 25,000 words before I became dissatisfied with the story. As I was going to a lot of sporting events at the time, I paid close attention to the security safeguards. I think what may have dissuaded me from continuing that story was the realization that, by writing it, I might in some way be putting me and my colleagues in harm’s way.

Robert's Western World, Nashville (Monte Dutton photo)
Robert’s Western World, Nashville (Monte Dutton photo)

Meanwhile, I was writing my first non-fiction book that wasn’t devoted to sports. While traveling the country to write about races, I started looking at music listings and setting up interviews with musicians I liked who also happened to be nearby. I spent otherwise free time, via frequent-flyer miles and motel points, going to Nashville and Austin to hang out with musicians. The result was True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed (University of Nebraska Press).

All that research taught me a lot about musicians. I even took up guitar and started writing songs. Then I started playing little gigs on the road: a barbecue joint in Richmond; a honky tonk in Charlotte; a lakeside bar/restaurant in Michigan; a lounge at the Dover, Delaware, casino; and a few others that have slipped my mind.

I've played for tips before.
I’ve played for tips before.

What would happen if a singer-songwriter, by sheer happenstance, foiled a guy, presumably a terrorist, who was trying to blow up a plane? Thus did Riley Mansfield appear in my mind. Riley became an easygoing, freethinking songwriter content to play his songs, do his thing, and smoke his weed. I paired him with a bored schoolteacher and a Rolling Stone writer and pitted them against a president running for reelection who had something major to hide and a desire to make sure poor Riley didn’t know all about it, which, eventually, he did.

They should have left well enough alone.

I wrote songs for Riley. I sent him, Melissa, and Adam Rhine to seven states and the District of Columbia, leading various kinds of political operatives and government agents on a chase that was at times merry and at others dangerous.

Why did I choose it for a first novel? (1.) I felt like I knew Riley and Melissa. They were vivid in my mind; (2.) I could see that the mood of the country was changing in regard to marijuana for medicinal and recreational use; and (3.) it just seemed at the time that there were many instances of powerful men and institutions forgetting right and wrong in the all-encompassing desire to perpetuate their power.

I remain proud of The Audacity of Dope. It’s a buddy book. A chase. An exciting yarn that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

(This graphic was designed by Meredith Pritchard)
(This graphic was designed by Meredith Pritchard)
(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

              If you haven’t read The Audacity of Dope already, it could be because you haven’t really heard of it, but if you’ve read another of my novels, you’re bound to like it.

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

              Most of my books, fiction and non-, are available here:

              I write mostly sports and occasional other non-fiction ruminations at You can find me on Twitter @montedutton, slightly more irreverent @wastedpilgrim, and slightly more literary @hmdutton. Consider me for friendship on Facebook at monte.dutton, and occasionally I post doctored-up photos on Instagram at Tug50.

              Thanks ever so much for your continued support.


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