Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open


My social calendar stays relatively free. Mostly, I get invited to events because people want me to write about them, or it, or them and it, whether they are ballgames, media conferences, or something else.

I don’t think people trust me. They think I might write about them. Which is true.

By Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)
By Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)

Not by name, though. Not in truth. In fiction. I try to watch people and put the observations away, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, where they might be fetched in relation to some character. They aren’t precise. They are derived from scenes that set my imagination afire.

For my entire career, I have fought a natural inclination people harbor toward writers. They don’t trust them. I understand it. I’ve said to hundreds of race-car drivers, players and coaches of various sports, and friends I wanted to make friendlier:

If you tell me something is confidential, I won’t tell my mama, but you’ve got to understand that, if you don’t tell me it’s a secret, it’s my job to tell everyone in the world I can attract to my words. We’ve just got to keep that straight.

That’s the truth. I know a few things about famous people, and a few just famous to me, that I have never told a soul, not even in fiction and not even to Mom.

Memorable incidents, even those whose significance makes them memorable only in a certain context, pop up in a variety of ways. Some are wildly useful.

As an example, oh, about three or four years ago, I went to a local sports bar that has since changed name and ownership, and, presently, is closed. I just dropped by for some wings and didn’t even have a beer. I just sat in a booth, and, while waiting for the order and sipping Diet Coke, watched the interaction between a pretty young student and a young man who was either her boyfriend or about to be. He struck me a bit disreputable, drinking, stepping outside for a smoke, dressed in shabby but preppy attire, and my imagination created a story between people to whom I never spoke.

First I wrote a song: “Stuck in a Rut.”

Then it blossomed into one of the short stories in my collection, Longer Songs, so named because all eleven of the tales are derived from tunes I wrote. The original story was posted on this blog.


Now one of the main characters in my next (and sixth) novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (it’s not italicized yet because its rough draft is only about 35,000 words at the moment), is based on the girl in the bar, whom I wouldn’t now recognize if she rang the doorbell in the next few minutes.

Okay. She was pretty. I would recognize her.

I’ve found a lot of use for that young woman. My observations may have been wrong. She and the boy I found decadent may now be married. They may be in the Peace Corps. I doubt it, but the importance of the observation was the food it gave me for thought.

I’ve written a short story about a lonely man sitting at the next table at a fast-food restaurant. I based another on a fellow at a fruit stand. Lately, I haven’t done much of that because I just haven’t had the time for short stories. I’m racing ahead on full tales, the long and winding ones that constitute novels.

At the moment, I’m trying to get a modern western, Cowboys Come Home (it has a cover and an edited, proofread manuscript, so I’m arbitrarily granting it italicized status), and as soon as I prepared it and shipped it off to the Amazon KindleScout program (there may still be time for you to nominate it!), I started on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which is a return to the freewheeling, irreverent style of my first, third and fourth novels.

A man’s got to make a living.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written four novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes.

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

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

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

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Most of my sports columns are at

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)
(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).

(Steven Novak design)
(Steven Novak design)

Coming soon: My fifth novel, a modern western, Cowboys Come Home. If you’d like to sample it, and, perhaps, nominate it for publication in Amazon’s KindleScout program, try this link. If you nominate it, and it is published, you’ll receive a free download in advance. Time’s almost up. Hurry.




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