The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Imagination

(Steven Novak cover)
By Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 6, 2018, 10:45 a.m.

This week has seemed slow. Most seem fast. Yet my life has been full of activity.

First the audio version of my stock racing novel, Lightning in a Bottle, was released. The audio version is fantastic, thanks to the diligent work of narrator Jay Harper. He made the very best of what I wrote.

(Steven Novak cover)

Then, on April Fool’s Day – I trust the date is not telling; Lightning in a Bottle was released on the same date a year earlier in print and Kindle – my new novel, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, hit Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Meanwhile, my next novel, The Latter Days (unless a better title happens by), is five chapters into a rough draft. It’s about baseball. Last year’s novels – Life Gets Complicated is the sequel to Lightning in a Bottle – were quick reads, humorous and fun to write. The Latter Days is going to follow that formula, except not about stock car racing.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a return to the serious. You won’t find a book on the market that is more current. Out of all the tasks I’ve undertaken in the year to date, by far the most time has been devoted to writing a new ending. America may go to war next week. The world is turning so fast that it’s impossible to keep up for long. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at least hits the ground running.

Readers who like the way things are won’t like the brand-new tale of crime, politics, and corruption. It might make them mad. It’s almost impossible not to make people mad. That’s another characteristic of our time. Many people assume anyone who disagrees with them is stupid. That lack of civility – that inability to respect the view of others – is itself stupid. The only people who are really stupid are those who think everyone who disagrees with them is.

Of course, you may disagree. If so, there’s no need to read Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

I’m kidding. Everyone should read it. I’m jaded, too.

(Joe Font cover design)

Lightning in a Bottle was the most fun to write of any of my novels since the first, The Audacity of Dope, which was published in 2011. By the way, it seems pretty current these days, too. I knew it was ahead of its time when I wrote it.

In Audacity, Riley Mansfield is a rebellious, pot-smoking, hard-headed musician. In Lightning in a Bottle and Life Gets Complicated, Barrie Jarman is a rebellious, hard-headed stock car racer who would smoke pot if his career would let him. I had lots of fun inventing both of them.

I like flawed heroes matched against unscrupulous villains. Like what I encounter in real life, the world of my fiction contains no saints and only a few sinners. Most characters are somewhere in between, though evil lurks out on the fringes in the form of villains such as Jed Langston (Audacity), Ned Whitesides (The Intangibles), Buckley Cumberland (Crazy of Natural Causes), Celia Tragg (Forgive Us Our Trespasses), Glen Trimmel (Cowboys Come Home), Cade Rawlings (Lightning, Complicated), and Wade Sanderson (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).

Three of them are still around at the end of their respective yarns.

Perhaps one day I’ll settle into a pattern, a formula. I’m just waiting on one that works.

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.


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