I have demonstrated my allegiance to fiction. At present, I am about seventy-five percent done with what will become my sixth novel. Three – Crazy of Natural Causes (2015), Forgive Us Our Trespasses (2016), and Cowboys Come Home (2016) — have been published in the past two years. It appears likely that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, will be ready for the spring of 2017. I also compiled a collection of short stories, Longer Songs, that was published in spring 2016.
I don’t know if I’ve got John Grisham’s hang of it, or Stephen King’s, or Larry McMurtry’s, but I’ve got my own. I’ve got to get a better hang at selling them if anyone save my friends and relatives is going to notice.
I love my novels. I would. I wrote them. One of my favorite writing sayings is: “Nobody writes shit on purpose.” There’s a lot of shit out there, but the poor slob who wrote it thinks it’s good. Therefore, it’s particularly gratifying to writers when readers say they like it because it provides evidence that someone out there, someone apparently as deluded as I, likes it.
I make this stuff up. Some people seem to think there is really no difference between fact and fiction, and that only the names have been changed to protect the guilty and innocent alike. I always think of that as a bit of an insult. One of the characters in my current project is writing a novel that, apparently, is true to life except the names and places have been changed. She is doing so because she believes it’s the best way to create a first novel, and that she will acquire the gift of making shit up later.
Oh, I’m there. I put myself in the minds of my characters. I try to think the way they would. Two major characters in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, have a part of me in them. All have a little.
For instance, I play guitar. So does Riley Mansfield in The Audacity of Dope (2011), my first novel. He leads the bad guys on a wild, across-the-country chase that culminates on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. At the time I wrote it, NASCAR was leading me on a less merry, across-the-country chase.
The Intangibles (2013) was the most personal. This town, where I grew up and now live, is similar to the Fairmont of the story. The time of the tale, though, is 1968. I was then ten years old. I remember that year of assassination, war, civil unrest, and rapid change distinctly, but what I wrote is more a result of experiences in the 1970s adapted to what I witnessed as a child of the sixties.
For most of my life, I have been a sportswriter. I still write free-lance stories. By 2015, it had become obvious that my time as a journalist, at least a full-time one, was over. It didn’t matter what I wanted. What mattered was that no one wanted me. Crazy of Natural Causes was a tale of a man, Chance Benford, who lost everything and had to reinvent himself. Hell, Chance isn’t based on me. He succeeded.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses (2016) is a tale of small-town corruption gone wild. Denny Frawley and everyone around him – wife, kids, mistress, minions – drifts into doomed madness. It has to be stopped. Hal Kinley is the only one who has any idea how. It’s an over-the-top parable on the corrosive effects of patronage.
They all have flawed heroes. They all have nefarious villains. They all have violence, drugs, politics, atrocious language, and sex, and the virtues aren’t much better than the vices. After all this time, and writing all those words, my favorite man is still Riley Mansfield, and my favorite woman is Melissa Franklin, the schoolteacher who leaves everything behind to go walk with Riley on the wild side.
The new one is quite the departure. I took the story back to a year when my mother was six years old. I used the experience of growing up around horses and cattle, of having relatives in Texas who told me tales of World War II in the Pacific, and friends in the area where the story is based. Cowboys Come Home (2016) is about the profound effects the war had on two young men who were thrown into an unfamiliar world that made peace elusive once they returned.
The next one is quite the return. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has an ensemble cast, like The Intangibles, and a far-flung set of locales, like The Audacity of Dope. One major character is a sportswriter. Two others are budding novelists. Another theme of my fiction is the loss of humanity. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is powered by men and woman who have become lost out there in the great technologically induced, drug-addled muddle.
Something personal is in every last character, but there isn’t one who is really I.
If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Cowboys Come Home, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise)
I’ve written five 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.
Crazy of Natural Causes is on Amazon sale all December for $.99.
The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.
My new novel is a western, Cowboys Come Home. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.
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. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.
I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.
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.
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).