The Mystery Immerses

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, May 12, 2017, 9:43 a.m.

Many readers – okay, at least one – have comfortable refuges and guilty pleasures. Read something heavy – a bulky bio, a literary classic, an historical tome – and then scurry back to relaxing, reliable delight. It might be a comedy – a Carl Hiaasen or a Dan Jenkins – or hard-bitten crime – Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler – or one of John Steinbeck’s short novels of whimsy, or a Larry McMurtry western …

By Monte Dutton

… Or a mystery. A Dick Francis mystery. Francis died a few years back. Fortunately, he was so prolific that I’m nowhere near reading all his reliable tales of horse-racing intrigue.

(I’m running out of Leonard. That’s a problem.)

In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen, fills my void. It quenches the thirst left in the aftermath of Francis’s illustrious career, and it echoes a favorite television show of mine, Foyle’s War. Mystery, coupled with World War II intrigue. What a smooth combination.

It all starts with a thud. On the estate of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, a parachute fails to open. Though the body found on the estate, Farleigh Place, is clothed in a British Army uniform, the remains are those of an impostor. From the field where the body lies does the plot spread and thicken.

Ben Cresswell, confined to desk duty after surviving a plane crash, is sent by M15 to investigate why an apparent German spy has crashed into Farleigh Field. It all gets mixed up in love, family, loyalty, and, well, geography.

The reader winds up playing chess with the author, and it’s a lovely match. Disloyal members of the English aristocracy, the Gestapo, the French Resistance, and all five of Lord Westerham’s daughters take part with gusto. A dashing hero arrives home from a prisoner’s camp. Personal loyalties wither against the tide of war.

It’s a rousing yarn Ms. Bowen has woven into form.

(Steven Novak design)

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)

(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.

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

LightningBottle_CVR_LRG
(Cover design by Steven Novak)

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.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(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).

 

 

As The Salesman Says, You Can’t Afford Not To …

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 28, 2017, 11:15 a.m.

I spend a lot of time writing, and I spend another considerable chunk writing about how you need to read … my writing.

Tell my whyyyyyy, whyyyy, why, why, why! Whyyyyyy, why should you read my boooooks?

By Monte Dutton

Among the reasons is I have expenses. I have bills to pay. This is how I make my living. Sort of.

I always use the analogy of the baseball scorebook. You know that one, right? There is only way to score a baseball game. That’s the way that works for you. Many more options are available than skinning a cat, though I’ve never done it, so I can’t say. There is allegedly one way. Google it, and I’m satisfied there’s more than one.

Wait a minute. The actual saying is, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Never mind. Thank goodness for Google.

Lightning in a Bottle is lightning in a wraparound cover. It’s in paperback (and Kindle, of course), so it has no book jacket. It’s built in. It’s still lightning, though.

The lightning is Barrie Jarman. He left home to make his fortune in stock car racing. He also chases women, drinks moonshine, and plays guitar. His daddy is an alcoholic. His uncle has been working on race cars for thirty years. He’s another reason Barrie leaves home. He gives him a cabin to live in. He spreads the word that his nephew wields a magic wand disguised as a steering wheel.

From the start, after Barrie signs a contract with Ford Racing and lands a ride in FASCAR’s Enervation Series, he and the ruling body are at odds. He speaks his mind and believes it’s necessary to do so in order to bring kids like him back to the sport, if not in the cockpits, then in the grandstands. FASCAR doesn’t want him to do anything his own way. The whippersnapper is supremely confident that he knows what he’s doing.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Barrie’s got to be good. He won’t last long, popping off at the mouth, if he isn’t. Winning races isn’t the problem. He starts doing that right off.

He’s lucky, though. He’s a brash kid and a throwback at the same time. His owner, Jerry McCarley, is a throwback, too. His manager, Frank Maglie, knows every FASCAR act of duplicity like the back of his hand. He knows how they think. He keeps Barrie aware of it.

Barrie is at his best when his back is to the wall. He thrives on controversy. His greatest knack is being lucky in the aftermath of being unlucky. Like all great racers, he’s most impressive when there are obstacles in his path.

If you’re a race fan, this novel is going to wow you. You’ve never read anything like it. It’s as fast as the cars.

If you’re not a race fan, it’s going to interest you because its lessons can be applied to many other pastimes. It’s about racing and race, love and deception, the temptations of youth and money, and learning how to adapt from being on the wrong side of the tracks to the wrong side of the (racing) law.

You’re going to love it. Some of it may offend you, but some of it is definitely going to make you laugh.

(Steven Novak design)

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)

(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.

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.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(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).

 

 

The Thunder Rolls, but Will the Lightning Strike?

Smoky Mountains, I-40. In Lightning in a Bottle, Barrie Jarman and Uncle Charlie spend lots of time on the road. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, April 13, 2017, 9:27 a.m.

Lightning in a Bottle struck me.

By Monte Dutton

It’s my new novel. I’ve written six. Right now I’m making up mind whether to start working on seven or eight, both of which are in progress. I guess the winner gets to be seven. I’m not stuck because of content, or deciding which yarn I want to unravel. I’m stuck because I’m obsessed with the one that just hit the market.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Last night I was sleepless in a way similar to the in January when Lightning struck.

Most of Wednesday was spent working on a newsletter, updating the email list, sending it out, and checking the latest sales figures too many times. They spiked last night, but it hasn’t taken off yet, at least not the way it must if it is to be a success. I’m not overly worried. It’s self-published. Word is still getting around. Everyone who has let me know he or she has read it has raved about it. The Amazon customer reviews have been “five-star.” So far, there are only two of them, but I’ve also gotten positive reactions via email and social media.

You’re one prolific novelist!

This is awesome!

Lightning in a Bottle will only stay on my bookshelf until my next flight! Can’t wait to read it.

Awesome fiction. Almost real. Best racing book I’ve read in a long time. Monte really did an awesome job on this one!

I think you have written your best book yet. It’s a shoo-in for your racing readers, but I think it has an appeal for a crossover audience, too. Anyhow, I really enjoyed reading it. EmmaJanes

It’s an old story with my fiction. People like it. I just need more of them. I can only spread the word so many ways, at least without spending a fortune, and what small amount I’ve spent already has not been overly cost-effective.

I need your reviews, whether they’re positive or not. I need your retweets and your shares, your gifts to others who would like it, your recommendations and your references. Even in a world in which information is so prevalent, a lot of it gets lost.

Lightning is a quick read. It’s frank. It’s shocking. It’s controversial. It’s honest. It’s funny. It’s my answer to the question, “What if a wild kid from a tough background happened upon the corporate-obsessed stock car racing of today?”

What if there was a real Barrie Jarman? Would he save the sport? Or would the sport eat him alive?

The jury is still out on Barrie and the novel about him.

(Steven Novak design)

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)

(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.

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.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(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).

 

 

From Books to Movies, without a Hitch

(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, April 1, 2017, 4:14 p.m.

Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Both long dead. Both masters of a genre. They wrote about crime fiction about hard-boiled detectives. Both are known more for the movies made from their novels than the novels themselves.

I wanted to read Chandler and Hammett. I had for years. I watched many of the movies, and knew about Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, not to mention the Thin Man. A while back, I reviewed Chandler’s The Big Sleep here, and now I’ve completed Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

By Monte Dutton

Once I thought Larry McMurtry’s most closely matched the characters of the miniseries to the characters envisioned in my mind while reading it. While working on my book True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, I interviewed the author’s son James. Larry is one of my favorite novelists and James one of my favorite songwriters. James told me that his father’s view of the characters conflicted with mine. He didn’t think the characters fit. That knowledge left me astonished.

If you have ever seen the movie version of The Maltese Falcon, the fit is snug. Humphrey Bogart was a perfect Sam Spade. Everyone – Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Ward Bond, Elisha Cook Jr., et al. – is perfect. The dialogue is mostly word for word, even though the script was written by director John Huston.

Greenstreet, as Casper Gutman, is exactly as I concocted him in the novel.

“By gad, you are quite a character, sir.”

My favorite scene in the movie is when Gutman (he’s Casper in the book, Kasper in the movie credits) discovers the statue is a fake. Greenstreet really looks like a man having a heart attack, even though he isn’t.

The book does not include the most quoted line in the movie, almost the last one. Detective Tom Polhaus asks Spade what the bogus statue is, and Spade replies, “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

But the last line of the film is, “Huh?”

I guess this is more film than book review, but what impressed me most about the book was that it was as identical to a movie as a film can be. A book has incidents and details that a film cannot hold. Huston must not have really written the script. He must have edited down the novel.

Hammett is a slightly faster read than Chandler, who will stop a reader in his tracks with the mere wonder of his metaphors. The easy call is that they are both masters. The hard one is deciding which is better. In fact, it’s impossible. It’s a matter of style and preference. I think I’ll sample one more apiece. I’ve got The Long Goodbye in mind for Chandler and one of Hammett’s Continental Op tales.

And, eventually, others.

 

(Steven Novak design)

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)

(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.

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.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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).

 

 

Even the Best-Laid Lies …

 

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, March 20, 2017, 10:56 a.m.

Jesse Few lives in the suspended adolescence of the power life.

Suddenly, all of his indiscretions come back to haunt him at once. So goes the irreverent narrative of Lying for a Living, Steve McCondichie’s debut novel.

I traffic in such irreverence myself. Its smirk is reflected in some of my own fiction.

By Monte Dutton

The family Jesse has blithely ignored falls apart. No. It explodes. The wife has divorced him. The mistress is estranged. The son has been busted for drug possession. Unfortunately, JJ’s partner in crime is the daughter of a sleazy evangelist. The job is collapsing. The mother is acting mysteriously and apparently losing her marbles. In summary, hounds are baying at Jesse’s door.

What did Jesse do to deserve all this? Why, everything.

The trick is in the redemption of the tarnished protagonist. It’s a case worthy of Perry Mason (via Erle Stanley Gardner).

Jesse never lets responsibilities interfere with the aging playboy life until he finds that life has turned on him. He attacked life until life had enough and fought back, leaving Jesse out of options. It’s hard for a 49-year-old man to confront the maturity he has been fleeing for decades.

A story has to run its course. Jesse has to turn his world around, and that’s a shame for the reader who has found his bullshit art so richly malodorous.

Jesse isn’t such a bad guy, after all. Oh, bother. He was so good at it.

It’s a gun-running, whisky-swilling, pot-smoking, pill-popping, fornicating, Bible-thumping romp, but it has to end, and McCondiche ably gives the reader a soft and satisfying landing.

cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

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)

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

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.

(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.

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.

(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).

 

 

Mystery When It Was Cool

(Monte Dutton sketch)
(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, February 9, 2017, 11:24 a.m.

All that I found questionable about Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was how much it rains in Los Angeles. It was published in 1939. Perhaps it’s climate change.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to read the masters of crime and mystery, principally Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Writing complicates reading. While pecking away at my own fiction, it’s hard to find time for reading. It’s the same way that learning how to write songs diminisheS opportunities to listen to them. The camaraderie that develops between writers also begets a compulsion to read the writers of fiction by people who enjoy one’s own. I’ve got such a novel on this desk, posing and enticing me to dive into it.

Sometimes it’s a face plant.

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

I’ve been a fan of the movie for decades. It’s a Howard Hawks film, starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as Vivian Rutledge. It’s hard to beat Bogey and Bacall, and, if so, only by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, or John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Okay, maybe William Powell and Myrna Loy. Or James Stewart and Jean Arthur.

Few are the comparable teams. The movie version of The Big Sleep isn’t being reviewed here. It led me to the book, though it took about 35 years.

As is most often the case, Chandler’s novel is better than Hawks’ film. I want to watch the movie again because, until now, I didn’t fully understand the story. It sort of works in the film, but it can be difficult to decipher. The flick is so skillfully done that adding it all up becomes secondary.

The novel requires nimble reading, but the dance is pleasurable.

I’ll read Chandler again. It doesn’t matter if the plot is complicated. I’ll read him for the similes and metaphors.

Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants …

… decorative trees trimmed as carefully as poodle dogs …

… she had little sharp predatory teeth, as white as fresh orange pith and as shiny as porcelain …

… the outward-turning earlobes of approaching dissolution.

… as carefully as an out-of-work showgirl uses her last good pair of stockings.

And their perfume has the rotten sweetness of a prostitute.

(Monte Dutton sketch)
(Monte Dutton sketch)

Those are in the first chapter. They flow like cake batter in a mixer.

A dying man of wealth hires Marlowe to look into a blackmail scheme involving his two bohemian daughters. Murders occur all around Marlowe, most while he is either lurking in the shadows or contending for the hit. Sexual tension hangs in every dank scene. Everyone smokes, most stylishly. Everyone drinks, ditto.

Things are, quite often, not as they seem.

Now I’ve got to talk myself down from this ledge from whose perch I have been peering through the mind of a master.

That way, perhaps, I can write again.

cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

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)

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

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.

(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.

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.

(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).

 

 

Take Jada Ryker’s Novel and Run … with It

(Monte Dutton sketch)
(Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 11:45 a.m.

When I started reading Jada Ryker’s Take the Body and Run, I thought it was a mess. I couldn’t keep up with all the characters. This was also the way I felt when I started reading Doctor Zhivago several decades ago. I stuck with Boris Pasternak’s classic and was glad I did. The same was true of Ms. Ryker’s first novel.

I may just have encapsulated the similarity between this author and that one.

Take the Body and Run takes place on a sprawling college campus where things are not as they seem. Macey Malloy (not her real name) has taken a job formerly held by a woman who looks a lot like she does. She is fleeing from her past. Most everyone else has something to hide, too.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

It’s a lot to keep up with in the early pages. What keeps the reader, uh, reading is the author’s sense of humor. No matter how morbid the events become, Ms. Ryker keeps the reader amused. If the principal character occupies the center of the story, then there is always another pivotal figure nearby, quite often in Macey’s large purse, because the other character is a large black cat named Wikket. Wikket is unusually intelligent for a cat. Wikket is more intelligent than many of the humans.

When she begins her new job, Macey is surrounded by people who don’t particularly like her. They are fueled by resentment, suspicion, and evil intent, none of which Macey did anything to deserve. It takes much of the story to uncover all the layers of reasons why this is the case.

Only Wikket is really there for her. Wikket is a better judge of character than Macey is.

The author unabashedly categorizes her novel as “chick-lit,” which alone might have prevented me from reading it as I am not a chick. I read it because she read my 2015 novel Crazy of Natural Causes. She is a Kentuckian, and that novel is set in Kentucky. She was kind in her review of Crazy, and this gave me an incentive to read Take the Body and Run.

It is a whodunit in the classic sense. The effectiveness of a whodunit is predicated on the reader really and truly not knowing “who done it.” The reader speculates as the pages pile up. My books to this point have not been whodunits. In my books, “who done it” is obvious. The theme of my books has been finding out how “who done it” can be stopped.

This difference gave me something in the margins to ponder.

Over the years and particularly when I was younger, I experienced many raucous nights in bars but none so raucous as the one Macey experiences with her university colleagues and affiliated characters whom the reader is destined to know better.

By the end, all the mysteries are unraveled, the motivations revealed, and the mysteries resolved. One facet Ms. Ryker’s yarn shares with mine is that the story speeds to a breakneck (literally in several cases) conclusion. If the first pages are confusing, then the last ones are frantically enlightening.

When I got through, I said “whew.”

cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

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)

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

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.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is on sale for 99 cents all January as a Kindle download at amazon.com.

(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.

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.

(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).