Who can deny Dallas Seavey another Iditarod victory? Andre Jute checks the confidence behind the smiles.

So what will it take to win the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and who can do it?

Yesterday, we considered whether one of the currently dominant Seaveys, Dallas (left) or Mitch (right), can win a straight sixth victory in the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. What we saw was that the Seaveys have plenty of experience in winning.

We concluded that what decides the outcome among all these hard men and women is a small quantum of luck, the weather — and experience.

Luck and the weather are, by definition, outside of the mushers’ control. That leaves experience.

We’re not talking about skill or gritty commitment here. For practical purposes all the possible winners are equally skilled and equally gritty as competitors.

In most sports, what predicts the likelihood of success is — previous success. The question is choosing the right kind of success, because not every kind of success defines an overall winner.

What predicts an Iditarod winner more certainly than anything else is top ten finishes, preferably recent top ten finishes. Sure, a rookie can come along and temporarily upset the rule, as Robert Sorlie did with a rookie win earlier in this century; but Sorlie was a musher’s musher, a racer with huge depth of experience of winning in Scandinavia. His “rookie” status was artificial, to say the least.

So here we go.

Nearest thing to a sure thing?

Dallas Seavey, with a side bet on his dad, Mitch Seavey. Been there, done that. There are more interesting questions to answer.

An upset winner?

I was very impressed with Jessie Royer’s run into fourth place in 2015, a bad year for mushers; she’s 40, in her prime as a musher, with experienced dogs she rested eight hours for every five they ran in the  Yukon Quest! Those pups are just warmed up and raring to go. Melinda Shore also picks Jessie for an upset.

[I wrote this article before the race, and I publish it unchanged on the evening of the second day of the actual race as most of the mushers are on the trail from Tenana to Ruby. Jessie lies 11th on the road, but because she has not taken the mandatory 8 hours to rest the dogs yet, Martin Buser, who has, while behind her on the trail, is in fact about 7h15 ahead of her (including the starting differential adjustment), and the same applies to all the mushers who’ve served the 8-hour break as far back as Dave Branholm currently 39th on the trail.

All the same, I publish the article as I wrote it. You have to take your chances and I’m betting Jessie knows what she’s doing putting off that mandatory break to keep up with the real contenders. It’s a lesson in how tricky it is for the mushers on the trail, who don’t have even a fraction of the information you and I have to hand.]

Joar Leifseth Ulsom is 29, the right age to make his mark, and has a stunning record of four top-7 finishes in four Iditarod starts. He’s the most promising runner in the race, but we’d like to see him deliver a credible threat to the mushers in front, and soon, or he’ll be perceived as a technically competent and athletic competitor who lacks the killer instinct a top athlete must possess.

The usual top-ten suspects, ex-champions,  habitual front-runners, and another Norwegian

These all finished under 9 hours last year, as of course did both Seaveys and Ulsom, a distinction shared by only 13 mushers (including those named here) in the entire history of the Iditarod. In the order in which they finished in 2016:

From the top, left to right, more top ten finishers who in 2016 crossed under the arch in Front Street, Nome, under 9 hours: Aliy Zirkle — a multiple runner-up, Wade Marrs, Peter Kaiser, Nicholas Petit — three young lions who everyone expects sooner or later to be champions, and Ralph Johannessen — current Norwegian champion. Plus Jeff King, a four-time champion — only 46 seconds north of nine hours!

This is as frightening a collection of smiling hard cases as any defending Iditarod champion would rather not meet on the trail.

Of these, Wade Marrs [just checking into Ruby as I post this!], who’s been improving radically year by year, is a dark horse whose time could arrive at any moment.

And Nicholas Petit has won several middle-distance races this season to give his team confidence. Any edge is worth having when you go up against competitors riding high for five years already.

Expect to see most of these in the top ten, or challenging for the win.

This is basically the same list as Jake Berkowitz published in the Alaska Dispatch News, and for the same reasons. Berkowitz has a top ten finish in the Iditarod himself, and a bunch of mushing awards, so he’s a talent spotter who merits respect. Berkowitz includes another strong finisher in his list:

“Richie Diehl: The only musher on this list who has never been in the Top 10, Diehl’s best Iditarod was last year’s 12th-place finish. But Diehl had another strong performance in this year’s Kuskokwim 300, surging in the second half and taking third. Look for him to come on strong along the Bering Sea Coast.”

What with the weather this year, I think Berkowitz is right: a fast finish could be the making of a surprise winner.

IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute
IDITAROD a novel of The Greatest Race on Earth by Andre Jute

Andre Jute is the author of Iditarod a Novel of the Greatest Race on Earth, available in paperback and ebook. Get it at:

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GAUNTLET RUN by Andre Jute, Dakota Franklin & Andrew McCoy

There’s currently also a free full-length novel by André and friends on Amazon, Google and all the vendors above:
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andre_jute_singapore André operates a special page for live Iditarod race reports where you’re welcome to join him.



“Stieg is dead. There are three books. We should leave it at that.” — Eva Gabrielsson

Eva Gabrielsson (Photo courtesy The Age, Australia)

According to Der Spiegel, Eva Gabrielsson now says there will be no fourth volume joining the Millennium Trio.

“Stieg is dead. There are three books. We should leave it at that.”

Of course, it isn’t up to Gabrielsson to decide. It is up to the rights-holders, who are not Gabrielsson but Erland and Joakim Larsson. If they decide there will be a fourth, or for that matter fifth and nth volume, that’s what will happen.

STIEG LARSSON Man, Myth & Mistress,

A quotation I can stand by

“Good novels are not written, they are rewritten. Great novels are diamonds mined from layered rewrites.” — André Jute/Writing a Thriller

This is the most quoted remark for writers on the net. It is so well known that

  • it has motivated a best-selling novel of authorial wish-fulfillment
  • it is now being attributed to everyone’s favorite writer — see Who else has stolen from me?
  • it has been ripped by Launchpoint for at least ten cashinquick books (they’re all mostly the same inside) for writers, which is quite a bit more than fair use.

I suppose I should be flattered. The words are  from my WRITING A THRILLER. They encapsulate the writer’s need to persevere to success, and a professional attitude and outlook, and the concept of writing not as a splurge of self-gratification but as a process aimed at communication with a defined audience.

One has to ask how Launchpoint defines its audience if the same material (including the quotation from me) serves for freelance journalists, autobiographers, novelists, those in search of their writing voice, non-fictionalists, short story writers, those planning a novel, and business writers.

I’ve heard of packaged books, and of one-size-fits-all clothes, but this is ridiculous!

Clearly, for some, the words no longer relate to the writer burning the midnight oil, sweating over every adjective and subsidiary clause. Instead the quotation has for them become a meaningless mantra.

It’s definitely a quotation I can stand by, but can Launchpoint and those authors who have appropriated my words, or permitted their fans to appropriate my words on their behalf, say the same?

Being first with the most for too long makes you old hat

A relevant and rather pointed pair of question were posted by Mrs B about the forthcoming 4th edition of WRITING A THRILLER. Mrs B demands to know: “Why does a successful textbook for writers need to be rewritten? Surely good writing is a timeless art.”

That’s a good point. Much that is in WRITING A THRILLER is timeless, applies to every novel and every creative profession. But the process of good writing is not “timeless”. It changes over time. And WRITING A THRILLER was the agent of that change in the last quarter of the 20th century. But now we’re in the 21st century…

I can give you an example, Mrs B. You go on to say, “I never saw the need for the second and third editions, which catered to ever more advanced writers. The first edition was a perfect eye-opener, and cheaper too because it was thinner.” We’re running the risk of conflating several matters here, so I’ll leave the desire of publishers for ever thicker editions for later. The phrase we want to focus on is “a perfect eye-opener.” From the mouths of babes… (No, I don’t know anything about Mrs B. I’m not referring to that sort of babe.)

On one of the Amazon sites there is a condescending review of WRITING A THRILLER, saying it is a useful book but there is little in it that the reviewer hasn’t found in other books. I laughed aloud when that review was drawn to my attention; I would bet money that whoever wrote that wasn’t born yet when the first edition of WRITING A THRILLER came out. Certainly, all the “other books” he refers to were written after WRITING A THRILLER.

When WRITING A THRILLER first appeared, it was a radical departure from the textbooks for writers then available. The preface explained why, and named the only other good book — in my opinion —  for writers then available, Writing a Novel by John Braine, author of Room at the Top. Writing a Novel was then out of print; it was eventually reprinted at my repeated suggestion.

Among other things, WRITING A THRILLER

  • Shifted the focus of the thriller from plotting to characterization.
  • Redefined the plot from a creaky mechanical contrivance operated by events to a structure driven by characters through the events they motivate.
  • Became the most quoted book for writers ever through its insistence on professional behavior for writers.

All of this is now commonplace because in the intervening quarter-century so many writers have followed where WRITING A THRILLER led. Your library shelves will demonstrate a big change in thrillers. All those villains, previously so many cardboard cutouts, now have proper motivation. In fact, I’ll probably burn in hell for being the impetus behind so many sympathetic serial killers!

So, Mrs B, a new, fully revised edition of WRITING A THRILLER is required because the first three editions caused a shift in the emphasis between the elements of good writing that now makes it seem a little old hat — because everyone else has caught up to where I stood a quarter-century ago. The new edition’s emphasis will shift to strengthen what has been made into general practice by the earlier editions, and address what is bad (a very great deal) about current practice. It will also have to address a vast new army of writers who unless they receive help will be empowered by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (new name of DTP) and Smashwords to publish before they are ready.

New challenges for a new century.

Glad hand

Hi. I’m André Jute. That’s my photograph in the banner above, kissing the Blarney Stone, which is about 40 minutes  up the road from where I live on the Carbery Coast of West Cork, in Ireland. There’s a longer biography and booklists and suchlike in the dropdown menus above.

I’m a writer. I write novels and non-fiction texts in subjects related to my various professions; my hobbies soon turn into professions or books or both. There are well over two hundred editions of my books in a dozen or so languages, and many thousands of reviews in the performing arts, my preferred form of journalism. It’s many years since I counted my books: the first editions take up five shelf-feet.

The occasion for this blog is the 25th anniversary release next year (2011) of the entirely revised 5th edition of WRITING A THRILLER, first published in 1986, and since reissued in three ever fatter revised and expanded editions, with a fourth enlarged edition currently being prepared for the Kindle. I’m preparing to create an entirely new 5th edition, and later this year that will for a while become the main subject of this blog. Meanwhile there are other books from my backlist to rewrite and launch onto the electronic seas, and several books by others that I’m helping with.

My schedule is pretty full, so I shan’t be sticking strictly to the writing of one text-book. I expect this blog to touch on any and all aspects of writing and books that occur to me. Though my hobbies and rants will be in other blogs my publishers are giving me space for, in this one I shall add notes about the music I listen to, the videos and films I see,  the books I read, and a few other things I do, simply because a writer doesn’t live and work in a vacuum. You may ask, What about newspapers and magazines? I don’t read any; if they contain anything I need to know about, someone is sure to give me the gist of it. I rarely watch the news on television either.

Readers are welcome to ask questions or make suggestions of topics I should cover.