The Big Surprise Is Here

(Cover Art by Steven Novak)


By Monte Dutton

This blog is a news release. I’m sending it out to many people. Why am I making it available to you? Perhaps you have news to disseminate. Perhaps you have a blog. Perhaps you follow mine. Perhaps you are on social media. Perhaps you like reading. Perhaps you like fiction. Perhaps you like motorsports. Perhaps you can help me spread the word in some form, via reviews and references and shares and follows.

I hope you will consider giving me a little help. I’ve got a lot riding on this sixth novel of mine.



The secret is out. It’s an April Fool’s prank. Only this one is real.

Many readers have requested it. It matches Monte Dutton’s generally acknowledged field of expertise. His sixth novel, Lightning in a Bottle, is about stock car racing.

Barrie Jarman is the hope of racing’s future because he is a link to its past.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

The teen-aged native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, is talented, articulate, intelligent, brash, and mischievous. To the image-conscious braintrust that runs the sport, Barrie is a wild Mustang – and, yes, he drives one – who must be broken.

Ain’t no way.

The yarn is told mostly through the narration of Uncle Charlie, a racing veteran who took in Barrie at age 16 and helped him get a shot at the big time. Only Charlie, it seems, can nudge Barrie in the right direction, and only Charlie knows when it’s time to get out of his way.

This novel, Dutton says, began as a shot in the dark. “I have another novel that is almost complete. One night in January, I was down in the dumps for a variety of reasons and had a sleepless night. Most of it was just brainstorming. Some of it I probably dreamed. I finally got up, gave up on sleeping, put some coffee on, and sat down to write the Prologue because I didn’t want to lose it.”

Writing the entire novel took less than three months. He finished it in two drafts. In the past, it took three. An editor agreed that it was ready.

Meanwhile, Dutton kept it a secret.

“That’s probably part of the reason I got it done so quickly,” he said. “I want this to be a complete surprise. Only three people know anything about it. One is the editor. Another is a close friend. The third is my mother.”

Until … now.

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Dutton crisscrossed America for 20 years, writing about automobile racing. After authoring several sports books, the Clinton, South Carolina, resident and Furman University graduate turned to fiction.

“I’ve had a really good March in sales,” he said. “At the beginning of the month, my worldwide author rank on Amazon was about 220,000, it was 14,000 the last time I looked. In literary fiction, I went from 7,294 to 573.

“That doesn’t mean I’m doing great, but it means that all the books are creating people who want to read the others. My social-media following is heavy on race fans. That’s why so many have expressed to me their desire to have me write a racing novel. I didn’t ever have a great aversion to it. I just needed a story that excited me. I just needed a sleepless night.”

Here’s a homemade video about the book.

Monte Dutton may be reached via email at or by phone at (704) 913-1143.



(Joe Font cover design)


The Audacity of Dope (2011)

The Intangibles (2013)

Crazy of Natural Causes (2015)

Forgive Us Our Trespasses (2016)

Longer Songs: A Collection of Short Stories (2016)

Cowboys Come Home (2016)

Lightning in a Bottle (2017)


(Melanie Ryon cover design)


What was the inspiration for Lightning in a Bottle?

“I guess I was doing the kind of off-season meditation that any fan goes through when the tracks are silent. I thought about how racing had changed during the twenty years I wrote about it. I thought about how much more colorful the big names – Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, Darrell Waltrip – were back then. I thought, what would happen if a kid came along with the spirit and background of those guys? A kid with that old-time folksiness but the attitude of the present generation? My first thought was, ‘Why, they’d eat him alive,’ and away I went.”

Why no racing novels until now?

“I still write about it on a website and my own blog. Until recently, I wrote a weekly column at Bleacher Report. The commentary sort of filled my urge to write about racing. Besides, I wrote a number of non-fiction books about racing while on the beat. I was never averse to it. The first novel, The Audacity of Dope, was descended from a manuscript with a racing theme that I discarded.

“The simple truth is I didn’t have a story about racing that I loved until this one showed up one sleepless night.”

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Why do you think Lightning in a Bottle will sell?

“Where I’m concerned, sales is a relative term. Last year’s Forgive Us Our Trespasses is by far my biggest seller, and all of my novels are moving along. I think I’m gaining a reliable, loyal, if still relatively small, following.

“Now, racing fans are not widely known as voracious readers. The question is whether or not they will be interested in racing fiction. I think many of them will be, and they turn my promotional reach from bad to good. Of the roughly 10,000 people who follow me in various forms of social media – this figure accounts for the overlap, by the way — probably about 70 percent are interested in auto racing. They identify with me for my opinions about the sport more than my fiction and other interests. They know my views about the sport. They are sympathetic to my established views.

“I think – and my editor backs me up on this – the story will also be interesting to readers of both my other novels and other novels in general. Lightning in a Bottle has the same spirit, the same irreverence, the same frankness, as the first five. I don’t think you have to be a racing fan to enjoy it, and I hope I can get you to give it a try. Maybe expanding my novel to a wider audience will expose racing to a wider audience, but I wouldn’t pretend to have any such influence. I’m just a struggling author trying to make a buck.”

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Why the secrecy?

“That’s why I self-published it. I didn’t even try to find a publisher. I didn’t want anyone to know about it. It’s quite a relief, getting this great secret, this great surprise, off my chest.

“I haven’t ever indicated that I would consider writing a novel about auto racing. It was an abrupt decision. I didn’t know I was doing it till I did it. I decided it ought to be a shocker. It was a shocker to me. Why not?

“Now it want it to take the racing world by surprise. I want it to have shock value. I want people to say, ‘Wow, look at this!’ and, maybe, ‘Holy #@*!’

How do you expect the book to be received?

“Some are going to love it. Some are going to be offended. What I hope everyone recognizes in Lightning in a Bottle is honesty. I have followed auto racing since I was seven years old. In all the time I’ve written about it, I’ve criticized it because I loved the sport, not because I hated it. I think my readers always got that, and I think they’ll get it now.

“I think Barrie Jarman is what stock car racing needs. That’s why I invented him.”


If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Lightning in a Bottle, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at (

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

I’ve written six 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.

Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. 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.

(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.


(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).





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