From Chris Orcutt Books

On Recognition and Accolades: Why I Drank the Metaphorical Motor Oil this Year

OHMFM_Cover_188x300It came as a complete surprise to me last week when I found out that another one of my books had been chosen by IndieReader as one of the best books of the year. Last December it was my short story collection The Man, The Myth, The Legend, and this year IndieReader selected my modern pastoral novel One Hundred Miles from Manhattan as a Best Book of 2014.

If you haven’t read it yet, consider picking it up for yourself or a friend as a Christmas gift. It’s available as a Kindle ebook, or in print.

No writer, if he wants to go on living, holds his breath waiting for good reviews or accolades. There are long periods when nothing happens on the recognition front, and in fact a writer can publish a book and have years go by before anyone notices it at all.

That’s why, when the recognition and modest accolades come in, you have to acknowledge them and be thankful. As a writer, you cross many vast deserts alone, spending a lot of your writing life thirsting and starving for some kind of recognition. The trouble is, if you don’t get the delicious cold spring water and the picnic table full of food somewhere along the way, you become willing to take recognition in whatever form it comes to you, no matter how unhealthy it might be.

There’s a scene near the end of the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace in which Bond dumps the bad guy in the middle of a desert, probably 100 miles from anything, and he drops a can of motor oil on the ground and says, “I bet you’ll make it twenty miles before you consider drinking that.”


Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quantum of Solace: Bond dumps the bad guy in the desert with a can of motor oil. Nice.


I have to tell you, folks—earlier this year I was in that desert, and I’m ashamed to say that I drank the motor oil.

And rather than quenching my thirst at all, it only poisoned me. I won’t go into detail about the form that that motor oil took; all I’ll say is that I craved the real thing (professional recognition and sales) so much, I was willing to accept fawning and adoration as a substitute.

But that was earlier this year. As I go into 2015, launching the next Dakota Stevens mystery, A Truth Stranger Than Fiction, on January 1, I’ve had my hunger for recognition and accolades temporarily satiated, most recently by the IndieReader honor, a long profile in The Poughkeepsie Journal, and a highly favorable review of 100 Miles by Kirkus Reviews.

I realize there will be more deserts in my future as a writer, but knowing what I know now—that the motor oil in no way quenches your thirst; it only poisons you—I won’t be drinking it again.


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The Next Dakota Stevens Mystery is Done

If you only knew what a hellish year this has been, and what a *miracle* it is that I finished this novel.


After 90,000 words, 6 drafts, endless polishing, and countless tweaks, spell-checks and fact-checks, the next Dakota Stevens mystery, A Truth Stranger Than Fiction, is finished.

The novel will be available for pre-order by December 22, and will be released on January 1 or 2.

The reason for the January release is so I can get a full year (2015) with the book as a new release—for marketing and publicity purposes. This was the publicity company’s advice, and I am going to follow it.

Besides, as one reader (a self-described fangirl) pointed out to me, it’s good that it won’t be available during Christmas because you probably wouldn’t get anything done until you finished it.

Maybe I’m prejudiced, but I think this might be the best Dakota novel of the three. But I’ll let you be the judge. In January.

This will be my last update about the book until it’s up for pre-order on Amazon. At that time, I’ll have a blurb about the book. There might even be a book trailer.

Thank you for your loyal support and encouragement.



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Kirkus Reviews Gives 100 Miles a Rave

Photo: Spencer Ainsley/Poughkeepsie Journal
Photo: Spencer Ainsley/Poughkeepsie Journal

More than anything, we writers want readers—particularly discerning readers and critics—to get our work. We want readers to see the parallels to other literature and to make the comparisons without our having to point these things out. We want readers to appreciate the long hours that we put into making our books as close to perfect as our talent allows us.

Recently Kirkus Reviews gave my new novel One Hundred Miles from Manhattan a stellar review. But beyond any praise that they give the book, what I most like about the review is that the reviewer saw the parallels between my novel and Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, as well as the stories of John Cheever. I’m pleased by this because, although I have never said as much outright, I was absolutely influenced by those works in the writing of 100 Miles.

In the last sentence of the review, the reviewer writes, “Though not quite as sensitive an observer or exceptional a writer as Cheever, Orcutt lies satisfyingly in his shadow.”

While I’m incredibly flattered to be compared with one of my heroes, I do wish that last sentence read as follows:

“Though not quite as sensitive an observer or exceptional a writer as Cheever yet, Orcutt shows promise of reaching Cheever’s level in time, and for now lies satisfyingly in his shadow.”

Below is the Kirkus Review in its entirety. My thanks go out to the anonymous reviewer who took the time to read my work with care and to craft a well-written review.

KIRKUS REVIEW of One Hundred Miles from Manhattan


Welcome to Wellington, New York, where, in this loose novel, readers can eavesdrop on the lives of the uber-rich and those who cater to them.


Think of a very, very upscale Winesburg, Ohio—with no inhabitant nearly so innocent as young George Willard. Or think John Cheever, for this is certainly Cheever country. Wellington is about a hundred miles north of Manhattan, populated by such as the well-named Hamilton Highgate and his trophy wife, Caprice, and Carlton Hale, M.D., the wives’ favorite doctor. And there’s Jimmy Tatko, the studly contractor who decides to make a circuit on foxhunt day, apologizing to all the rich wives he’s schtupped and then forsaken. Things don’t turn out well for Jimmy, considering his stomach cancer. The most Cheever-esque story of all may be “Garbage Feud,” in which after the unnamed narrator throws his trash, innocently, into the wrong dumpster, now the feud is on and there’s no backing down. Things escalate until Crawford, the narrator’s nemesis, flips his truck with a disastrous outcome—but in a twist for our times, a literary agent sees the newspaper account, so there’s likely a million-dollar book and movie deal in the offing. Unlike some framed stories, main characters in one chapter will reappear, often as cameos or just references, in another. Readers do get a sense of Wellington as a real place where lives intertwine. Jimmy, for instance, may pleasure a fellow’s wife in one chapter, then turn up in another to give an estimate for his kitchen remodel. For all their wealth, most of these people are not happy—an old trope, of course, but one that Orcutt slightly twists. There are random acts of kindness, and in a heartening episode, someone steals an abused dog. Sometimes, even for those characters who are disagreeable or worse, there are hints that even they deserve our pity.


Though not quite as sensitive an observer or exceptional a writer as Cheever, Orcutt lies satisfyingly in his shadow.

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When Your Fetal Book Starts to Kick

Since mid-June, I’ve been earnestly at work on the third Dakota Stevens mystery novel, but it wasn’t until last week that I felt the fetus that is the new book begin to kick.

Baby getting started as a writer on an L.C. Smith Corona.

I’ve heard mothers, some of them friends of mine, describe the thrill of feeling the gestating baby kick for the first time. Many of them have told me that as soon as that happens, the fact that they’re bringing another life into the world becomes very real for them.

The literary equivalent of a baby kicking in its mother’s womb is when a writer is in the middle of a second or subsequent draft of a work, and the writer is startled by something that comes out on the page. By startled I don’t mean that what comes out is necessarily shocking, but it’s surprising in some way. The characters do something unexpected. A scene the writer hadn’t imagined before suddenly unfolds in front of him. Or a line in the narration or in the dialogue knocks the writer on her heels and makes her say, “Damn…this is really becoming a book.”

Over the past two months, I’ve had several of these moments, but a few stand out as true surprises that made me laugh or smile inwardly in aesthetic pleasure.

Mind you, some of these lines might not affect you the way they have me, but that’s because I’m the one carrying this baby, not you. :)

Following are just a few of these moments from Dakota 3. (By the way, I had a title for the new novel but didn’t like it, so I’m working on a new one.) I hope you enjoy these little kicks as much as I have.

And don’t worry—there are a lot more where these came from.


To borrow from the old James Bond movie poster tagline, “Dakota and Svetlana will soon be back, and better than ever!”

From the New Dakota Stevens Mystery Novel by Chris Orcutt:

In all, since our last case a couple of months ago, Svetlana had managed to win four chess tournaments and write a second chess book. Meanwhile, I hadn’t even dropped off my dry-cleaning yet.

A pair of Italian men in their 20s who could have been models for Armani walked in wearing belted black leather coats and ribbed black turtlenecks. They had that fashionably unshaven look and enough styling product in their hair to be a fire hazard.

For a fat guy, he moved lightly and fast, and before I could react he got off a decent punch. It only grazed my ribs, but it still felt as if I’d been hit by an 80 mph fastball. In reply I thrust from my legs and put a hard convincer into his gut—a blow that would have buckled a smaller man and heaved him off the ground—but in this case my fist felt as though it was sucked into Swedish memory foam.

Sherilyn was that rarest of redheads—a wavy auburn red—and all it took was one toss, one quiver, of that hair to make me shove Reason into an oncoming bus.

From the moment my headlights swung into a rutted gravel parking lot and raked across a building with faded clapboard siding, I knew the kind of restaurant we were in for: the kind that serves dispirited coffee in brown, hourglass-shaped mugs and that spells plurals on the menu using apostrophes (e.g., “burger’s”). Regrettably, I was right on both counts.

A young woman sat at a barstool behind the desk. She had butter blonde hair pulled back in a smart updo, and the sheen of it was almost blinding. In contrast to the hair—as if she were deliberately “de-prettyifying” herself—she wore large black-framed glasses. I think the look was called “hipster,” and I didn’t care for it.

The two Asians sat bolt upright in separate double beds. They wore nothing but tighty-whities and were eating Kentucky Fried Chicken from buckets between their legs. Their hands froze with drumsticks on the way to their mouths, and they gaped at me as I held the gun on them.


I hope you enjoyed these baby kicks, these “previews” of the new novel. I plan to release the novel this Christmas, and it will be available for pre-order in late November. Please check back here for updates. Thank you for visiting.


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Success at the Millbrook Literary Festival

I can officially say that this past Saturday’s Millbrook Literary Festival was an unmitigated success.

I was concerned about my reading, but it went fine, as did the Q&A afterwards. I also sold quite a few books. Here is a video of the event:


And now, a few photos taken by Alexas during my reading and the signing in the book tent:

Listening to a reader who ended up buying all 4 of my books.
Listening to a reader who ended up buying all 4 of my books.


During the reading in the library.
During the reading in the library.


Relaxing in the shade, waiting for another reader/customer.
Relaxing in the shade, waiting for another reader/customer.


Answering a question during the Q&A.
Answering a question during the Q&A.
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High Stakes for Me at the Millbrook Literary Festival

1553112_710153725693215_7318415197670883238_oIf you happen to be in Millbrook, NY this coming Saturday, June 21, drop into the library at 11:15 a.m. and you can hear me read from my new novel, One Hundred Miles from Manhattan.

This year marks the 6th annual Millbrook Literary Festival, and I’m being featured in an “Author Spotlight” during the day-long event.

My practice reading and book signing at Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook last month was a success, and if you care to see it, the video is below. I was introduced by friend and fellow author Dave King.


Since last month’s reading, I’ve continued to rehearse, polishing my delivery and the voices of the various characters. The section I read is only about 2,000 words (or 15 minutes) long, but contained in it are 9 characters, and I’m trying to make each of them distinct.

The pressure is on for me because the novel is about a fictional community very much like Millbrook (Wellington, NY), and this is my hometown.

I spent my summers here as a boy, graduated from high school here, was a newspaper reporter here after college, and settled down here again about 8 years ago. I’m a fixture at the diner, the post office, the library, and the Chinese restaurant. Every day I bump into someone with whom I went to high school.

DSCN5778The point is, I’m going to have to show my face around the village after this, so it better be good.

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A Successful Interview with Pam Stack on Authors on the Air

This evening, I did my first-ever LIVE radio interview, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Host Pam Stack asked me some thought-provoking questions and gave me the opportunity to give detailed answers.

There was also a wonderful, unexpected call-in—my friend and colleague Hillary Leftwich, who praised my new novel, One Hundred Miles from Manhattan, and asked me, “If you could have dinner with only one of the characters in the novel, which one would it be?” It took me a good minute to think of my answer. To hear it, you’ll have to listen to the podcast below. :)

I really enjoyed Pam’s conversational style; after the first 10 minutes, I relaxed and felt as if we were having a conversation in her living room.

Anyway, I think I did a good job on this, my first LIVE radio interview. I hope you enjoy it as well.

New Books Internet Radio with Authors on the Air Books Too on BlogTalkRadio

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A Written Interview with Authors in the Spotlight with Lucie Dunn

In my blog post yesterday, I mentioned my upcoming internet radio interview with Pam Stack, host of Authors on the Air, on Wed., April 30 at 8:00 p.m.

Well, as a corollary to that interview, Pam’s co-host, Lucie Dunn, does a written interview with authors appearing on Pam’s show and publishes them to her Authors in the Spotlight page on Facebook. I thought Lucie asked some terrific questions, so I wanted readers of this blog and the internet at large to have access to this interview.

Lucie’s questions are presented in the bolded text, and my answers appear below each question. I hope you enjoy it.


86ca3b59-5d7d-441d-82df-56cccef2ba1b_authors_on_the_airYesterday I had the distinct pleasure of doing a written Q&A interview with a very articulate and intelligent man. His most recent novel, One Hundred Miles from Manhattan, was released at the end of March, 2014. He has the first two novels in his acclaimed Dakota Stevens Mystery Series published and I am told he has enough ideas stored for quite a few more. He comes to us from New York but is a true New Englander having been born in Maine. I present to you Chris Orcutt!

OK, first question: Were you always a reader?

Absolutely. This is going to sound apocryphal, but I taught myself to read at age 3. The story is that I walked into the living room and started reading out loud from Time magazine. My parents were dumbfounded. So, yes, I’ve always been a reader, and I enjoy reading the very best writing. I’ve also read my fair share of junk over the years, but over time I learned that life is short and you can’t waste your time reading the junk when there are so many masterpieces to read.

Very true! How old were you when your first manuscript idea came to you?

Well, if by “manuscript” you mean stories, then I began writing them at about age 12 and would read them aloud to my friends on the school bus. I serialized the stories so every day, or every other day, there would be a new installment. I still remember some of the characters I created. One was a James Bond-esque spy, another was a detective.

Is this the detective that went on to become Dakota Stevens?

No, not at all. Dakota came much later. I got the first name of my detective, Dakota Stevens, when I learned that a girl I went to middle school with had named her boy Dakota. I filed that away. “Cool,” I said to myself. Then I wrote a humorous story with a PI named Dakota Perez—a story that mirrors the short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” Anyway, the first glimmers of what would become Dakota arrived on the scene in my early 20s, but it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I decided I wanted to start a PI series. I was laid up for weeks with a back injury and did nothing but read Chandler and Parker novels, and that’s when I said, “Hell, Chris—you can do this.”

And you did!!! Are you working on book three, assuming there will be a few more?

Yes, I’ve already written the first drafts of what I think will be books 3 and 4, and I’ve been taking notes for book 5. Honestly, I have more than enough ideas for a dozen Dakota titles. To me the ideas have always been easy; it’s the execution that’s hard. The writing and polishing of the work takes the most time. If I were content to simply publish my first drafts, I could have a dozen titles out in no time, but I’m not content with that. I want everything I write and publish to be the very best work I’m capable of.

That just means you take total pride in your craft. And there is nothing bad about that.

Writing is my life. It’s ALL I do.

You have a great resume though. A High School History teacher for instance. Are you a history buff?

I do enjoy U.S. history and am fairly knowledgeable on the Civil War and WWII—especially D-Day. I’ve been to Normandy, stood on Omaha Beach, and I’m in total awe of what those men did. I’ve walked the long walk up to Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg and been in awe of both the Union and Confederate soldiers. I enjoyed teaching history for a couple of years—the students I had were wonderful, talented, bright kids (and I stay in touch with some of them!)—but other opportunities came along and I pursued them.

Well as a reader, I’m glad you did.

Thanks! I especially enjoy going to historical sites, because I’ve always believed that there are certain things you can’t know about an event unless you’ve been there. For example, when I went to Omaha Beach, I got there at low tide, just when the U.S. soldiers landed, and let me tell you, it’s a LONG way from the water to any kind of shelter from the withering fire they endured.


It’s at least 300–400 yards. At least.

THE GREAT GATSBY print by Litographs.
THE GREAT GATSBY print by Litographs.

So tell me about reading The Great Gatsby. You have read that several dozen times. They say that you never really read the same book twice. After reading The Great Gatsby that many times were you able to walk away with a different perspective than you came away with the prior reads?

The Great Gatsby, in my opinion, is an absolute gem. I have a framed version of the book from this terrific little company Litographs, which prints the entire text of the novel (and many other novels) on a poster, in a nice pattern. It hangs in the hall outside my bathroom. Let’s put it this way: Every time I come out of the shower, I stop and point at a random place on the Gatsby print, and every time I see something new: some new metaphor, some delicious use of an adverb, some joining together of words that you’ve never seen before. Original.

When I was first publishing the Dakota books on Kindle, I weighed epublishing vs. traditional publishing, and the touchstone I used was Gatsby.

The question I asked myself was this: Are the words of The Great Gatsby any less poetic and utterly perfect presented in e-ink than they are in print? No. In fact, I submit that you could paint those words on a dark cave wall and they would still be as great. Great writing is great writing, regardless of the medium in which it’s published or who decided to publish it.

One point to add to that: Each time you reread a book (and we writers do a lot of re-reading), you see different things—and you especially begin to understand how the writer does what he does. I wrote a [loving] spoof of Gatsby titled “The Magnificent Murphy,” which I’m very proud of. It’s in my [short  story] collection The Man, The Myth, The Legend.

How did you come up with the ten men and their professions for The Man, The Myth, The Legend? I particularly enjoyed the homicidal violinist.

What can I say? I didn’t come up with them. These characters just arrive on the doorstep of your brain and insist that you write about them. They start talking to you. You ask “What if this? What if that?” a lot.

The African big-game hunter, Buck Remington came from reading some armchair safari books. The road sign engineer came from speculating about what such a man (and woman) would be like. As for the homicidal violinist, that came out of a summer when I had been fantasizing a lot about finding a bully from my past and confronting him. Not killing him, obviously, but confronting him. Instead I saved that energy for the story. I had been listening to Beethoven’s “Kreutzer Sonata” over and over all summer long, along with eating a watermelon a day and hacking into the watermelon with a big Henckel’s chef’s knife. It’s the “bits of string” idea that Nabokov talks about—these stories and novels come from the collecting of these little bits of string and fluff.

I loved Buck Remington’s name, being a hunter and having Remington as your last name is just so apropos for a hunter.

That was exactly why I gave him that name.

It was a great read and I am not generally one for short stories.

Thanks! One of the things I try to do in my short stories is to actually give the reader what I call a “distilled novel” experience. Finish the thing and feel like you’ve experienced a novel, but it didn’t take you days to read.

I like that, “distilled novel.” Tell me about your first two books, Nick Chase’s Great Escape and I Hope You Boys Know What You’re Doing. I am thinking I would definitely love to read the latter.

I wrote Nick Chase and I Hope You Boys back in my mid–late 20s, and they were the best I was capable of at the time. They’re well-written, humorous stories—Nick Chase is a comic novel; I Hope You Boys is a collection of mainly humorous stories—but not only has my writing advanced profoundly since then, I as a person have evolved and deepened. When you’re young, Life hasn’t beaten you down very much, but as you get older and have some bad things happen to you (and some good things), you gain perspective.

What I would say about those first two books is that I’m glad they’re out there in limited quantities (they’re no longer published) as a record of my early work, but if readers want to read fully matured work, read my latest four books.

I think the I Hope You Boys appealed to me because I am a Mom, and I could just picture saying that to my older son and his friends…MANY TIMES!

Let me tell you where that title came from…

My friend Carl and I were “landscaping” for a very old woman (her son hired us), and our idea of landscaping was this: When in doubt, cut it out. Every so often the old woman would come out on the porch and yell at us, “I HOPE YOU BOYS KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOIN’!”

Ok, last question. I think I know what one part of the answer will be, let’s see if I’m right. Every writer has a “toolbox.” You know, things that you must have or must do when you sit down to do some writing on your work in progress. What is in your toolbox?

A still from "Chris Orcutt: Pencil," a documentary by Jason Scott.


For me, it’s a thorough knowledge of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and storytelling principles. Because you don’t want a lack of knowledge of these things to slow you down. And when you know them, when you know the rules, you know when you can break the rules.

Also in my toolbox is desire. Desire not merely to become a good writer. There are plenty of good writers. I want to become a great writer. My heroes are Chekhov, and Fitzgerald, and Cheever, and Hemingway, and Chandler, and Fleming, and Nabokov. The desire is a major tool because it gives me something to strive for. Sure, I’d love to be selling my books by the bushel, but it’s more important to me to write work that will last.

Very nice.


I would like to thank Chris Orcutt for his generosity and time! It was definitely a tremendous pleasure chatting with him! I invite you all to go and check out his website at and if you would like to pick up any of his awesome books you can find the links on his website. If you would like to pick up his latest novel, One Hundred Miles from Manhattan, here is a direct link to the Kindle book:, or if you prefer a paperback:


Thank you, Lucie! It was a pleasure.


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ONE HUNDRED MILES FROM MANHATTAN — A Novel by Chris Orcutt — Now Available!

Please forgive the cumbersome title of this piece. I’m still sick and a little delirious, but I don’t want to put off my readers any longer. I also wanted the title of this to be easily noticed by search engines and such.


This is just a short announcement to let you know that, after months of waiting, I’m finally releasing my new novel One Hundred Miles from Manhattan. You can learn more about the novel, including why and how and I wrote it, here.

The novel is available for Kindle, as well as in paperback.

I hope you all enjoy the novel.


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One Writer’s “Vacation” in a Psychiatric Hospital

Last Monday, March 17, I said that I was going on a little “vacation” because I had exhausted myself while finishing the novel. The novel had exhausted me, but contrary to what I and others might have suggested, I did not go to a cabin in the woods, nor to a remote, sun-dappled island.

The truth is, I have been in a psychiatric hospital for the past week.

It's amazing how quickly you become used to having this on your wrist all the time.
It’s amazing how quickly you become used to having this on your wrist all the time.

I have had bipolar disorder (manic depression) for over 25 years, and have been diagnosed with the disease for about twenty. For the past two months I had been experiencing what’s known as “ultra-ultra-rapid-cycling”—extreme swings in mood from low to high that include sobbing, irritability, impulsivity, anger, laughter, etc., with changes in mood coming sometimes within time spans as short as an hour.

These mood swings are triggered and/or exacerbated by periods of intense stress, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, or, in my case, all of the above, coupled with working to exhaustion on making my new novel as perfect as I could make it.

The hospital I went to lured me in with photos of a finely-appointed parlor, fireplaces, swimming pools and walking trails; but once I got there, I discovered that those amenities were for the celebrity-centric detox program, not the “Acute Care Unit” with its 24-hour lockdown, which is where I was put.

For a week, I was given new medication and observed around-the-clock by psychiatrists and nurses. My only communication with the outside world was via a pair of monitored telephones in the hallways; I had no access to the internet or any electronic devices.

On the plus side, I collected some great material for a future book. I learned a lot about myself and came to respect my fellow patients for their bravery and support. We watched The Shawshank Redemption (“Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'”), plotted coups involving TV usage, played chess and Scrabble, strolled the euphemistically-named “deck” (an Alcatraz-like exercise yard in miniature), ate meals together, debated the merits of various medications, took side bets on minutiae including when the kitchen would open, gave each other nicknames (like “Green Lantern,” for a guy who wore only a Green Lantern hoodie) and shared our experiences in group discussions.

A typical room in the psychiatric hospital where I stayed—albeit a little bit more nicely furnished.
A typical room in the psychiatric hospital where I stayed—albeit a little bit more nicely furnished.

The photo shown is of a typical hospital room. Alexas described the hospital in general as “a Travelodge with nurses, full breakfast, group meetings and 15-minute bed checks.” The rooms, as well as the entire hospital, are designed to be low-stimulus, low-stress. Miraculously, however, I did manage to get a little writing done at the desk in my room.

While I was in the hospital, I debated whether or not to tell everyone the truth about where I’ve been and why it’s taking me a little longer than I’d hoped to release One Hundred Miles from Manhattan. And then while inside I met a remarkable young woman (she’d just been diagnosed bipolar; she had been rapid-cycling; and she was mature, talented and intelligent beyond her years). It was she who convinced me to “lay it out there, Chris.” She said I should do whatever I can to reduce the stigma. So, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Thumbnail of the cover of One Hundred Miles from Manhattan (cover by Elisabeth Pinio).
Thumbnail of the cover of One Hundred Miles from Manhattan (cover by Elisabeth Pinio).

However, my doctors’ orders include sleeping, eating better, and not driving myself as hard in my work. So, please be patient with me as I work (gently) to release the new novel. I just want all of you to understand why it might take me a little longer than I originally promised. The hospital stay helped, but I am by no means “cured,” and I need to learn to take things easier.

Thank you for your continued support.


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One Hundred Miles from Manhattan—A Modern Novel by Chris Orcutt

Recently I completed work on a book that began as a collection of stories, and which ended up being what I term a “modern novel.” The book is now with my ebook formatter, Lisa DeSpain, and, barring unforeseen complications, will be available for purchase sometime in the next couple of weeks.

The title of the novel is One Hundred Miles from Manhattan. It tells the story of a fictional wealthy community in Upstate New York, where the village and the surrounding rolling hills conceal tales of love, lust, tragedy and small wars.

Cover by Elisabeth Pinio. *Photo credits and permissions at bottom of this page.
Cover by Elisabeth Pinio. *Photo credits and permissions at bottom of this page.


The novel provides glimpses into the lives of wealthy “hilltoppers” and modest townies. There are lavish estates, horses, guns, Wellies, weekenders, Range Rovers, redheads, contractors, a country club, a train line, a diner and much more.

Now, some of you might be wondering why I call One Hundred Miles from Manhattan a “modern novel.”

Well, because it’s told from 10 different points of view, and because the timeline is segmented.

Four seasonsBasically, you know how the movie Pulp Fiction is one story, but it’s chopped up and the scenes are presented out of order?

That’s what I do with this novel. It’s the story of one year in this community of Wellington, New York, but the events are presented out of order. The book starts with a chapter that begins in the late spring/early summer, then goes to the early spring, then the fall, etc. It is not in chronological order.

Each of the chapters is from the POV of a different character, and so we see a small part of Wellington through that character’s eyes. Many characters overlap between the chapters, and so do the events. The POV characters include a trophy wife, a medical doctor, a single mother, a contractor/local Casanova, and a Manhattan book editor.

jane-austen-pride-and-prejudice-bookThe reason I wrote it this way is because as much as I admire the single POV novel—e.g., Pride & Prejudice, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Great Gatsby—in today’s ultramodern society, where everyone is a star (or considers himself one; Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat), everyone’s story or POV contributes to the story as a whole. Nowadays, it doesn’t make sense that any one person would be capable of telling the complete story of a town.

Also, the community of Wellington, like some other wealthy communities we know, is highly stratified, and there isn’t a great deal of interaction between the wealthy and the poor, or even between the old money and the nouveau riche.

I first got this idea of writing a novel about a wealthy community 22 years ago, back when I was a reporter in a small town similar to Wellington. But at the time, I could only envision the story being told from the POV of the local reporter. I’m so glad that I waited to write this book, because I think the 10 points of view gives the reader a richer, broader experience of the town, and because 22 years ago, my writing skills weren’t even close to what they are now.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the novel. In this scene, a Manhattan book editor is driving into Wellington for the first time, so we see this rarefied community through an outsider’s eyes:

Although I’d had several authors from Wellington over the years, including a former editor pal turned bestselling mystery novelist, not one of them had deigned to invite me to so much as a cocktail party up here. Creeping through the village that Saturday morning in a rental car, I passed a shiny aluminum diner and myriad antiques dealers and continued on through a hamlet mysteriously called Rabbitsville (although I didn’t see a single rabbit to warrant the name). From there, I followed sandwich boards pointing to Fox Hill.

The road ribboned out in front of me, over rolling green hills and miles of black wooden fence. The sky was a soft summer blue. In the hollows, pockets of thin fog hovered over the grass. The whole countryside had a vaguely mystical aura, like Mr. Darcy’s Derbyshire.

Most of the drive from Manhattan, however, had been tedious. Droning along the empty and wooded Taconic Parkway, still half-asleep, I had started to question the wisdom of traveling two hours upstate for a young woman with whom I had done nothing but have inordinate sex—and that only in her favored cowgirl position. To be fair, we had managed to squeeze in a few substantial conversations—about books (for a young woman of prodigious sexual appetites she was surprisingly well-read, Chekhov’s stories being her favorites); about technology (she embraced the useful, citing her automatic lights and a robotic vacuum cleaner that perpetually crawled around the apartment); and about lifestyles (she adored simplicity bordering on the Spartan; every room in her apartment contained minimal furniture and absolutely no knickknacks)—but since those conversations invariably took place before or after sex, I considered them suspect, and not representative of how we would relate under less sybaritic circumstances. For that reason, the weekend was a test, or, as she had put it, “a trial run for us.”

— from One Hundred Miles from Manhattan
    by Chris Orcutt


I will post again when the novel is released, and I hope you buy it and enjoy it. Without question, it is my best writing to date.

This book has taken a great toll on me physically and emotionally, but I think the result is worth it.



*The author has permission and/or Creative Commons rights to use the following photos from Flickr on the cover of this book: “Hunters Wellies CARNABY BOA…” and “Turquoise and Brass Earrings and Necklaces…” by Maegan Tintari; “DSC_1255” (the fox hunt) by Bethany; “Fall Foliage” by Kimberly Vardeman; “Rape Seed Field” by Les Haines; “Mansion on a Hill” by Lucas Wihlborg; “Just a Perfect Day” by Alison Christine. The photo “Wellington Sign” is by Karen Kruschka.


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My Radio Interview on “Murders, Mysteries and Mayhem”

Today my interview on the Murders, Mysteries and Mayhem program (part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network) aired, and it was a terrific success.

The show is hosted by the friendly, knowledgeable and engaging Stephen Campbell, and as I mentioned a few days ago, I was taken aback by how well-prepared he was (he had read all of my work), and the penetrating questions he asked.

Using the SoundCloud player (below), you can play the interview right here on this webpage, or you can download a copy of the interview and play it on your computer offline.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please leave me your comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great holiday and an even better 2014.



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