The O’Fallon Progress
A Texas Ranger named Monty, a wild brown stallion, a woman boss Beth, the Circle B Ranch, its foreman Nathan and cowpokes Zach and Jake, and a manhunt seeking vengeance for his murdered sheriff father.
Retired Methodist pastor Dennis Doane took these elements and wrote an action-packed western, “The Blurred Hand.” It is now available from Newman Springs Publishing.
Doane, 82, began writing one night when he couldn’t sleep. In pain from recent knee replacement surgery, he headed for his computer. Words and phrases tumbled onto the page.
“I intended to play a game. I started writing a story. I couldn’t stop writing. I could hardly keep up with my thoughts. Three hours later, I thought ‘I got to quit and go to bed.’ The same thing happened the next night,” he said.
He discovered a passion for writing and found his voice.
“I continued until the book was finished,” he said.
It is dedicated to his late wife, Jan. After “The Blurred Hand,” the same pattern was repeated, and his second book was done. Now, three years later, he has four books completed. He is now working on his fifth book.
“I’m not under the same compulsion to write, but just for the joy of writing,” he said.
Currently, Doane lives in a retirement community in O’Fallon. He still bangs out fiction late into the night.
“There is no pattern. I just work on it. Time just passes by — I’m not aware of it. But I enjoy it,” he said. “I have to do reading for research. I want it to be historically accurate.”
“The Blurred Hand” has Monty Lane on a vengeance trail of some killers who murdered his sheriff father. They shot him in the back and then point blank in the forehead. Monty works on his fast draw until he is fast, “very fast.” His search leads him to working at a certain ranch where he meets a woman boss who was raised with a different set of values.
Doane wrote extensively about Mustangs and caring for horses in the book, one of his interests.
“I always loved westerns. When I was a boy, I’d go to the show on Saturdays for 12 cents. Westerns were on the screen,” he said.
He grew up in Mounds, Illinois, a small town in southernmost Pulaski County not far from the Kentucky border. He started college in Greenville, but a call to the ministry led him to McKendree University in Lebanon, then divinity school in Georgia. He eventually served congregations all over the state from 1955 until he retired in 2001.
As a teenager, he was working at a Kroger’s grocery store, felt troubled inside but he didn’t know why, and started praying.
“I said ‘Lord, whatever you want from me, I’ll do. I want to be your servant,’” he said. “My heart felt like it was on fire for a couple seconds. That’s when I decided on the ministry. I’m glad it worked out. I have never regretted it. God has blessed me all the way through it.”
United Methodist churches in Walnut Hill, Christopher, Shawneetown, East Alton, Harrisburg, Carmi, Mt. Carmel and Shipman were home, as were other locations.
“We moved around quite a bit,” he said.
“I loved it. I love people, and working with people, listening to them,” he said.
His wife of 61 years, Janet, aka Jan, suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and died in 2017.
“I miss her like crazy,” he said. “I never loved anyone but her. She was a sweetheart.”
They met in fifth grade, and officially started dating in high school. They married when he was 19, and she was 18.
“I had to get permission because I wasn’t 21 or older. My mother had to sign for me,” he said.
They raised two sons, David and Mark, and a daughter, Melissa. David and Mark are both pastors — a Lutheran congregation in Lafayette, Indiana, and a Methodist church in Virden, Illinois, respectively. Mark’s children are Jacob and Bethany. Melissa is married to Gary Peel and they have two boys, Zachary and Nathan, and live in O’Fallon, where she is a fifth grade teacher.
“I’m proud of all my grandchildren,” Dennis Doane said.
In fact, he named characters after them in “The Blurred Hand.”
In November 2018, he moved to O’Fallon to be closer to his daughter and her family.
Retirement was mandatory at age 70, so Doane said “I had no choice” but to retire. And his wife’s health meant he had to become a devoted caretaker.
“I had to take care of my wife. That was important. She was a big part of my ministry. She played piano and sang,” he said.
The western genre appealed to him when he started writing, and his wife was supportive.
“It was a lifelong dream. She encouraged me to do it,” he said.
After writing his book, Doane had to find a publisher.
“It’s different than it used to be — unless you are someone well known,” he said. “I would like to get to the point where they would pay me instead (of) having to pay to publish.”
He has another completed book, “In Pursuit of a Dream,” that could be published.
Previously, his only writing experience was the sermons he delivered every Sunday.
“I enjoyed writing them,” he said.
“The Blurred Hand” is available online at the Apple iBooks store, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.
Getting to know Dennis Doane
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: “Yes. God loves you and Christ forgives all your sins through the Cross.”
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: “My dad, Floyd Doane. He sacrificed so much for the sake of his family and taught us right from wrong.”
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
A: “The Reverend Billy Graham. He was a man of integrity and godliness. Something that is greatly missing in our society today.”
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: “‘The Bible’ and “‘Hearts Aflame.’”
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: “Read, get on my computer, and fish for crappie.”
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
A: “A store manager.”
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: “Being a good listener, caring and honest.”
Q: What irritates you most?
A: “Politicians, and non-caring people.”
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: “Several. Country western and religious.”
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Helping people find themselves and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: “Camping, traveling and fishing.”
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: “John Wayne.”
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
A: “My Bible, fishing pole, and food and water.”