It was absolutely lovely to find out, just a day or two ago, that David W. Dutton’s novel, ONE OF THE MADDING CROWD, won first place in The 2019 Delaware Press Awards. This means the book will now compete at the national level!
It was absolutely lovely, a few years ago now, to meet and begin reading David’s manuscript in The Milton Workshop. From the first day I heard him read it, David’s manuscript was so satisfying. And why is that?
To begin with there is David, a sweet, kind, older gentleman with a wicked sense of humor and a slight southern accent. Let’s also not forget about the very interesting mustache. David, as many have said who have since interviewed him, is a delight.
Let’s move on to his writing. His writing, for this novel and for every piece I have heard him read, is easy, like turning-off-the-alarm-and-forgetting-your-obligations easy. It doesn’t matter if the subject is light-hearted, sinister, murderous, or romantic, it all goes down easy. This is tricky, because it makes it tough to stop reading, and it makes you, the reader, agree with things you normally might not agree with. Be on your guard.
And let’s be honest, David is an older guy. He is not going to have publishing houses knocking down his door no matter how good he is, because he is not the next bright young thing.
But David is a compelling and irresistible author whose work should not be ignored. David’s writing was among the catalysts that compelled me to begin what would become Devil’s Party Press. David’s book, I knew from the first pages, deserved an audience, and I wanted to give that to him.
And now, David’s book has won first place in the state competition and will advance to the nationals.
We are currently having a competition of our own. . .to see if we can find 500 readers to order David’s book this week. Below is the Prologue to ONE OF THE MADDING CROWD, which I think will leave you wanting to read more. Enjoy this excerpt from the novel the DPA has recognized as the very best in the state!
Thanks for showing older authors the love, and congratulations to David!
ONE OF THE MADDING CROWD
THE ENGLISH NOVELIST AND poet, Thomas Hardy, understood the world in which he lived. I wish I could say the same of mine. Mid-twentieth century America was much like Hardy’s Victorian England… a self-confident world consumed by its own busyness.
The small, coastal town of Martin’s Neck seemed little different from any other town of its time; seemingly, it was part of the general milieu which comprised our nation. Only in later years did I began to realize how different my personal niche actually was. Even now, with much of my life behind me, I have difficulty understanding and coping with its reality… or what passed for reality.
As a young adult, I began to view this microcosm with different eyes. In many ways, our lives were divorced from the outside world, much like the characters in Hardy’s 1874 novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. Still, we could not avoid being affected by national and international situations and trends. I suppose it was this duality I found so hard to understand. We lived our lives with one foot in isolation, the other as active members of Hardy’s “crowd.” The two worlds were constantly at odds, each trying to replace the other. Both forces were equally strong… and equally unsuccessful. As a result, we were caught in the middle, torn apart by conflict.
Our ancestors had created and fostered a world designed to form a cocoon around its inhabitants. In doing this, they constructed their own definition of reality from which there was no easy escape. As such, this world endured from generation to generation. With the growing complexity and strength of our global society, one would have expected this microcosm to slowly collapse and disappear, but this did not happen. Instead, it remained solid, holding its inhabitants securely.
That we found it hard to escape society’s grasp should not be viewed as any weakness of character. Quite the contrary. Most were strong, forceful people with high ideals and aspirations. Some tried to escape, but few succeeded. Some escaped for a time, only to be wooed back again. Most viewed any alternate life as an anathema not to be considered. All were victims, willing or unwilling. The tragedy, it seems, is that no one recognized the truth.
In retrospect, our lives were filled with pain, upholstered with the best that life had to offer. We lived our lives fully, disastrously, and sadly… and accepted life without understanding what was really happening. I suppose I should be happy about this fact since there was nothing anyone could have done to change things. In that sense, we were all making the best of an impossible situation.
It frightens me to acknowledge these realities… to finally reach a measure of understanding. It frightens me to see our own children continuing the traditions thrust upon them– traditions which are so much a part of their lives that they don’t realize their existence. It frightens me to have this knowledge and know there is nothing I can do to reverse what has happened or to prevent it from happening again. This fabrication is cyclical, self-perpetuating, and insidious– an ever-present monster which dines with us daily.
First, you must understand I am mad… not in the sense of being angry, or, as is politically correct, having a mental health condition. Like many, I have successfully hidden this affliction for years and will probably continue to do so. Sure, I’ve seen my share of psychiatrists and psychologists over the years– who hasn’t? It’s simply that each engagement has resulted in being cured or learning to cope, or whatever buzz word is in vogue at the time. This has nothing to do with my madness. I was born with it and have fostered it diligently for many years. It has grown and matured and reached a sophistication which cannot be matched. It is a marvelous thing, this madness. It almost has a life of its own. It is almost a separate entity. Yes, it is a very dear part of me, a friend of sorts– the kind of which one does not approve but loves in spite of his or her faults.
You must read this story with these things in mind because they color everything that follows. I would love to be able to tell you exactly what happened, but I can’t. I can only tell you what I remember. Good or bad, with this you will have to be satisfied. Besides, there is no one else who even suspects the truth, let alone understands it. This pathetic treatise is as close an account as will ever exist.
Please read with tolerance, remembering that these were and are real people. They have the same fears, hopes, and faults inherent in us all. Most of all, they are kind, loving individuals who only wanted the best for those around them despite what actually happened. They cannot be blamed, only pitied. They were and are victims of a life fashioned exclusively for them, a life from which they could not escape. Please remember that, above all, they are human with all the frailties which accompany that condition.