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The Intangibles Perfect Paperback – October 26, 2013
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A few pages into Dutton s second novel, The Intangibles, you'll know you're in trouble, because you re going to have to sit with this one and read until the undercurrent of suspense and danger which seems to creep in from all sides unfolds and meets in the middle with a bang. This compelling, finely crafted reflection of a mighty turbulent time and place in our history strikes the perfect balance of warmth, humor, action, terror and depth. And it's going to make you wish adults learned to play by the same rules that the best football teams do. -- --Robert Edelstein, author of NASCAR Legends: Memorable Men, Moments and Machines in Racing History
''The Intangibles transports readers back in time and into the lives of teens and adults in a small town on the verge of profound change. It's the late 1960s. All that was solid in the South is melting into air, and the people of Fairmont, South Carolina, find themselves coping with challenges created by forces that are more powerful than they ever expected. Our God-fearing hero, Frankie Hoskins, discovers the temptations of the flesh, girls, and teenage rebellion. At the same time, the sudden reality of racially integrated schools shifts the ground under his feet and those of everyone around him.
''Disorientation is the order of the day, but it's a joy to watch Monte Dutton's fundamentally good-hearted people muddle through as best they can. This is a serious tale told with humor that's often gentle, sometimes sly, and gut-bustingly raucous when it needs to be.
''Just as importantly, the story rings true. The Intangibles captures both the tensions and the small triumphs of those difficult times. The people we meet along the way -- black and white -- remind us of ourselves and our neighbors, in all our complicated, infuriating, and lovable glory.
''Dutton spins a great yarn. This one will sweep you along from beginning to end.'' --John Edwin Mason, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Virginia
About the Author
Monte Dutton lives in Clinton, South Carolina. In high school, he played football for a state championship team, then attended Furman University, Greenville, S.C., graduating in 1980, B.A., cum laude, political science/history. He has written regularly about NASCAR since 1993, and has written for the Gaston Gazette (Gastonia, NC) since 1996. He was named Writer of the Year by the Eastern Motorsports Press Association (Frank Blunk Award) in 2003 and Writer of the Year by the National Motorsports Press Association (George Cunningham Award) in 2008. His NASCAR writing has been syndicated by King Feature Syndicate in the form of a weekly page, "NASCAR This Week." Monte Dutton is also the author of Pride of Clinton, a history of high school football in his hometown, 1986; At Speed, 2000 (Potomac Books); Rebel with a Cause: A Season with NASCAR's Tony Stewart, 2001 (Potomac Books); Jeff Gordon: The Racer, 2001 (Thomas Nelson); Postcards from Pit Road, 2003 (Potomac Books); Haul A** and Turn Left, 2005 (Warner Books), True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed, 2006. (Bison Books); and is an Editor/Contributor of Taking Stock: Life in NASCAR's Fast Lane, 2004 (Potomac Books). The Audacity of Dope, 2011 (Neverland Publishing) was his first novel, The Intangibles is his second and he is hard at work on his third.
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It is taxing, however, when two of them have books released within weeks of each other. Such is the case here.
Monte Dutton, one of my old chums from a lifetime ago when we both covered NASCAR racing for different newspapers in the Carolinas, recently had his second novel, "The Intangibles," published.
Salley McInerny, a colleague from the old days when we both toiled in the same newsroom at The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, had her first novel, "Journey Proud," hit the bookshelves at almost the same time as Monte's.
Monte and I exchange e-mails often, and have great fun writing snarky retorts to each other's Facebook postings, so I had a pretty good idea what his book was about. I knew only in general terms what Salley's was about, but the more information I got, the more it sounded like she and Monte had written about the same thing.
So I figured I'd wait until I'd read them both and then do the old high school English "compare and contrast" review of both. A two-fer.
Here's the taxing part: Both wrote excellent books about growing up in the South in the 1960s, but the stories are so different that it would take a review about the length of both novels to make sense of a comparison.
Both books are about how black people and white people who occupied the same territory for 200 years struggle to find common ground when desegregation forced them together in ways they'd never anticipated.
On the surface, "The Intangibles" is the story of how two high schools in the fictional town of Fairmont, SC, become one through the combined football team's learning to live with - and maybe even love -- one another in a "Friday Night Lights" sort of way. But H.G. Bissinger's book stops short of the raw truths Monte exposes. "The Intangibles" is fiction, but it is honest.
And, if sharing six-packs and tall tales from our youth in crummy motel rooms all over the Southeast was a foreshadowing of what was to come, I was sharing those experiences with Frankie Hoskins, the unintended hero of Monte's novel. The book's not Monte, but it's close enough to know it's him in spirit, if not in fact.
The image that popped in my head after a couple of chapters of "Journey Proud," however, was "Christina's World," from the Andrew Wyeth painting. But instead of gazing wistfully across a brown meadow at a forlorn-looking farmhouse, Annie Ward is posed in the grass looking at a mighty Southern live oak tree, and she's not alone. Her best childhood friends, Buck, who's older, and the younger Twig, and maybe Twig's older sister Briddy, are there as well.
Each of their lives is tied to the magnificent tree, which they have given the name "The Old Lady." She was a playground in their youth, a place of refuge, and ultimately a place for an unspeakable horror that changed their lives.
But The Old Lady was also a powerful enough talisman to draw them together again as adults when her very existence was threatened by "urban sprawl," a term as unheard of in the early 1960s as "integration."
Oh my, these are two good books. But, compare and contrast? It would be like saying, "OK, Mama, which of them two young'uns do you love the most?"
You've got to trust me on this. Their writing is a whole lot better than my writing about their writing. It's cliché to say it, but they are two good stories well told.
Which is why it's nice to have friends who write books.
PS: This is not a paid advertisement. I just want them to sell enough of this one that they'll be able to try to top it with the next one.
This is a book worth reading, from an author of undeniable Southern roots who does not hold back in depicting the time and place.