Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, April 3, 2017, 9:26 a.m.
What a weekend.
A new novel, Lightning in a Bottle, is out. Brad Keselowski won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (just remember, MENCS) race in Martinsville, Virginia. The University of South Carolina won the women’s basketball national championship.
The Boston Red Sox open today at Fenway against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I’ll be glued to the set. For now, let’s get to the heart of the matter.
This novel is crucial to my career. I need a hit. It doesn’t have to go platinum. A gold record would be super.
On the one hand, no recent racing novels have been notably successful. On the other, there haven’t been many. I’m betting on a modest market arising out of the void. On the one hand, racing fans are not generally correlated positively with readers of fiction. On the other, a high percentage of those who follow my writing are racing fans. Do they love racing enough to read fiction about it? Some do. I need many.
I am a racing fan and have been for almost my entire life. I spent a mere twenty years traveling around the country writing about it. It is generally acknowledged as my field of expertise. Writings about it have generated most of my awards. Undoubtedly, someone will read my novel and exclaim that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I doubt I’ve ever written anything about racing where no one said that.
I am sick and tired of reading racing stories by people who don’t know anything about it.
I’ve written on site about more than 500 races, sir.
After four years watching on TV and writing about stock car racing from a distance, I started missing it during the past offseason. For the first time, I had a desire to go back. I offered my services. A few people wrote me that they “had something in mind.” Apparently, it’s still there.
I spent a lot of time in the winter thinking about racing. This isn’t unusual. Race fans pine for the roar of engines like a hunter for his best bird dog.
Racing changed a lot from 1993, when I first started writing about it full-time, and the beginning of 2013, when my job of 16-1/2 years’ duration was eliminated by corporate management. I thought about what was great about back then and what is awful about now and started thinking about a reasonable conciliation of the generations.
Racing needs a brash, bright, brilliant kid who came up the hard way. The racing fan base is growing older. The sport needs someone to bring back the young fans. Jimmy Buffett sang about “a hot Roman candle from the Texas panhandle,” but he meant a country singer. My racer is a rare bird from Spartanburg. Sorry. If I’d been worried about rhymes, I’d have put him in Calabash.
Barrie Jarman showed up. I don’t know where I got the name. He just introduced himself to me while I was trying to get some sleep. I got out of bed that January morning bolt upright. I cleared the few cobwebs with the rudimentary chores of preparing the coffeemaker to make coffee, then sat down at this laptop and wrote the Prologue of what was not then but became Lightning in a Bottle.
Then I headed off on a weekend road trip and got back to work on it when I returned. The Prologue was a product of January 15. Publication, hastened by doing it myself, was a product of March 28. I wrote a draft, worked my way back through it, decided miraculously that it was ready, sent it to a friend to edit a little and proofread, worked with an artist on a cover design, laid out the interior, and, as amazing as this seems, completed it. What’s amazing is that it’s possible, not that I managed to do it.
It’s 240 pages. A quick read. Written conversationally through the eyes of Uncle Charlie.
By the way, I sat aside nearly 90,000 words on a novel that could not be more different. Now I shall return there, once I get some boring requirements of contemporary life completed. I’m not ready, anyway. I’ve got to wrap my mind back around the serpentine tale I left unfinished.
And sell the hell out of the one I’ve got out now.
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 montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise)
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.
The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.
Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.
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.
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).