Book Reviews

TV's MadMen Script was written around the same time as Don Hutcheson's screenplay Out of Fear.

Mad Men depicts the 1960s world of advertising. Out of Fear takes on the ad world of the 1980s in Atlanta, GA.

“Mad Men’ twenty years later”
GBW  Atlanta, GA  (April 22, 2011)

Mad Men is my all-time favorite TV series. Being a 25-year advertising veteran is probably why. Like Mad Men the story of Out of Fear takes place in the world of advertising. But in the mid-1980’s vs. the mid-1960’s when Mad Men happens.  It is told in first person, which is always riveting, and follows a 30-year-old creative superstar, Will Stallworth, through three weeks of his tumultuous life and career.  Believe me, more happens in this young man’s life in three weeks than happens to most people in three years. It’s a barn burner: super sexy and irreverent with

…more happens in this young man’s life in three weeks than happens to most people in three years.

penetrating, often scorching insights into the world of advertising, it probes deeply into the dysfunctionality of families and the complexities of personal and professional relationships. The writer’s go-for-broke, Holden Caulfield, tell-it-like-it-is style, pulled me through it like a blizzard. I read it on a Saturday. Guess you can tell I highly recommend this book.

“This psychological drama had me from the start”
Maynard Brusman  San Francisco, CA (April 15, 2011)

Out of Fear is everyone’s story: how do you break the bonds of fear that we are born into? This psychological drama had me from the start and kept me mesmerized. I experienced every heart-pounding moment with Will—everything he thought, felt and despaired about.  This is a moving and timeless story. I highly recommend.

“Erotic, irreverent, gut-wrenching and penetrating”
William Aydlotte  Atlanta, GA  (April 23, 2011)

I’m a fan of Mad Men, so I was immediately attracted to this book. I’m also a 40-year veteran of the ad business, so this turf is nothing new to me. What I found so refreshing, however, was the brutal honesty with which the author tackled the entire story. He captured the arrogance and anxiety of the 30-year-old  hero, Will Stallworth, from page two when he throws up in the azalea bushes because he’s so nervous about making his debut at the fancy anniversary party of his new ad agency. Then there’s a great early scene where he is instantly captivated by a ravishing beauty that represents his perfect fantasy. He has a chat with her that is a funny and accurate portrait of every first meeting that every young man and young woman has ever had.

One of the great quotes …from … Beowulf:  “Fate often saves a warrior when his courage endures.”   Will is saved because his courage endures and in the end he faces down his demons.

Hutcheson’s style is anything but traditional.  His use of repetitive words and ellipses to show Will’s anxiety and tension are very effective.  He also goes light on the metaphors.  Too many writers want to fill every open space with beautiful imagery. It gets old very fast in my book.

I want insights and ideas and dialogue that tell me something new or talk about something I care about from a fresh angle. The message of this novel resonates for me: If you want to lead a life of purpose and meaning, on your own terms, then be about the business of learning who you are and what you want and don’t cut any corners.  Life is hard, but it can be fair, too, if you show up with enough courage.  One of the great quotes of the book is fromthe ancient story, Beowulf:  “Fate often saves a warrior when his courage endures.”   Will is saved because his courage endures and in the end he faces down his demons.

Beowulf depicts a man facing his demons

Robert Zemeckis’ 2007 film depiction of the classic Beowulf portrays the classic story of a man confronting his demons.

“Out of Fear is a candid look into our frantic, greedy, business-dominated world”
Maria Grazia Spila, Rome, Italy  (March 3, 2011)

First, it is a contemporary story of one man’s journey to liberation—an in-depth look into three tempestuous weeks in the 30th year of protagonist, Will Stallworth. Will is a rising star in the glamorous world of advertising in 1984—a successful writer and creative director who is at the moment going through a serious melt down, just when he is given the chance to run the creative department of a hot ad agency and lead the pitch for a $100 million account. While Will is successful in his work, his striking good looks and confidence make him an irresistible magnet to women. Immediately upon returning to his hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, he gets involved with a beautiful sales representative for a top TV station. They begin a torrid affair.

[Will] must contend with horrifying nightmares of a long-lost brother and panic attacks that render him incapable of performing.

Behind the bulletproof façade, however, Will conceals a fragile troubled soul. He experiences life as a listless automaton. He must contend with horrifying nightmares of a long-lost brother and panic attacks that render him incapable of performing.

Secondly, Out of Fear is  the story of three generations in the lives of a broken and emotionally bankrupt American family replete with deep, incomprehensible hatred; and enduring love and commitment that knows no end. Will despises his controlling, bigoted father and blames him for everything wrong in his own life, especially for the death of his cherished brother, Randall, years before. Will thinks he has rid himself of his father’s control over him after 12 years away, living on the West coast.  But as his sister Maggie reminds him, “He still runs your life, Will. ”

The ending scene with Maggie and Will and the memory of Randall made me cry.

He loves Maggie dearly, although their relationship has been mightily strained for a decade while Will ran away and hid from the demons and fears of his past. Their bond has tightened since Will’s return to Atlanta and is one of the tenderest portrayals of forgiveness in the novel. The ending scene with Maggie and Will and the memory of Randall made me cry.

Thirdly – this novel  is more than simply Will’s personal story  or the story of his family. target=”_blank”>Out of Fear  is a no-holds-barred look into our competitive, insensitive, frantic, greedy, business-dominated world. The advertising microcosm of the novel represents the values and dynamics of our entire society’s macrocosm: Outward appearance  matters more than inner wisdom or values; money and success are the most revered goals; rivalry and cutthroat competition the modus operandi for the majority of us . People live  like lemmings according to Will’s perceptive and sensitive sister, Maggie. Few individuals have the courage or conviction to take the road less traveled.

Women are highly intelligent and strong in Don Hutcheson’s novel …

Women are highly intelligent and strong in Don Hutcheson’s novel and there are many such women in Will’s life: Lara Blessing, his former client; Susan Hammond, account director at the agency; Deborah Bernstein his art director partner; Maggie, his sister; Gertrude, his grandmother, and finally his mother, Bettye Stallworth, who has had to carry the weight of this family through storms and anguish.

The other women in the story represent the downside of the world of work in 1984: Jacqueline Smithdeal, Will’s girlfriend is ravishing, ambitious and emotionally shallow; Ellen Sakamoto, the copywriter brought in when Will’s bosses lose faith in him, Women are highly intelligent and strong in Don Hutcheson’s novel and there are many such women in Will’s life represents the new breed of women who have learned that to survive they must grow armor as thick as men’s.

Will could be an adult Holden Caulfield, one of my favorite modern literary characters.

My impression is that this story may be definitely liked by a male audience. I‘m not sure about female readers.  I personally did like it. Me, a Jane Austen and Mrs. Gaskell fan. What I mostly appreciate in it is the effective style; the way the story is told. Furthermore, I  like to discover “connections” while reading and, in this case, I  got the impression Will could be an adult Holden Caulfield, one of my favorite modern literary characters. His special relationship with his sister reminded me of Holden and Phoebe’s; his troubles related to a “wrong” father figure reminded me of Holden’s dashing but absent father; Will’s adoration of his older dead brother is another analogy.

young-couple-kissing-closeupThe point of view  the story is told from is Will’s and things are seen from a man’s point of view, especially sex. It can sound shallow at times or careless. (Yes, I mentioned sex because there are a couple of very steamy scenes  in this novel  and wanted to warn those who might be disturbed by them. However it is definitely not an erotic novel, just highly sensual.)

Will is going to undergo many more changes,  it seems.  His journey in target=”_blank”>Out of Fear is only the starting point. Don Hutcheson is working on the other three books of a quartette  with Will  as the protagonist in each.  The second novel, Will Wakes Up, is due out in late summer and follows a 46-year-old Will Stallworth into marriage, a first child and more business and personal.

Atticus Finch inspired writer Don Hutcheson in his novel, Out of Fear

Atticus Finch shaped the character of Randall in Don Hutcheson’s, Out of Fear. Randall takes his own life in the tale of a Southern dysfunctional family in Hutcheson’s novel.

“Atticus Finch” grabbed me by the throat”
Nancy Twist   Chattanooga, TN  (April 25, 2012)

“When I think of my brother, Randall, I imagine Atticus Finch at around seventeen—a young man who carries himself like a benevolent prince—clear eyed, stands tall and proud, no outsized ego.”   In 33 words, author Don Hutcheson has painted a compelling picture of one of the main characters of this story by

Will (a writer) is the epitome of “outsized ego”—he acts aloof, curses like a sailor, is hardhearted toward associates, staff, and members of his own family. He is noticeably preoccupied with sex.

comparing him to one of the most well-liked characters in the history of American literature. I had to know more about this guy Randall and his world and why he is like he is. I was not disappointed.

We quickly discover that Randall’s younger brother, Will Stallworth, the protagonist of the novel, has definitely not followed in his older brother’s “benevolent” footsteps.  Far from it! While he is highly creative like Randall (an artist), Will (a writer) is the epitome of “outsized ego”—he acts aloof, curses like a sailor, is hardhearted toward associates, staff, and members of his own family. He is noticeably preoccupied with sex.

The year is 1984. Will has been recruited by McDonald & Campbell, the top ad agency in Atlanta, to take over their creative department from soon-to-be retiring co-founder, Gregory Campbell. Will is also chosen to lead the pitch for a $100 million account that would rescue the agency from its first financial crisis in its 25-year history. This is a herculean task because McDonald & Campbell is a prohibitive underdog.

Will is no newcomer to pressure.  Working at the prestigious Hal Riney agency in San Francisco, he quickly rose to the top echelon of advertising superstars in a few short years.  Recognition, money and beautiful women followed. However, returning to his hometown, Atlanta, after an eight-year hiatus brings new challenges. He must contend with an aging, domineering father, with nightmares of his long-dead beloved brother, with panic attacks that spring up from nowhere and erode his confidence, and with a conniving coworker who sets out to sabotage his career.

Hutcheson weaves half a dozen subplots and a dozen disparate characters into a story that moves quickly and rivets your attention.  It’s interesting to watch how individual characters shed light on the theme of the novel: Only you yourself can shape your destiny. Family, friends, schools, organizations—none of these can tell you who to be or how to live your life. If you fail to honor your own deep intention and purpose, you are likely to take your place at the back of a line of countless lemmings leading lives of mindless conformity and waiting to leap over the cliff to doom. Or, to be bored senseless and lead your own version of “a life of quiet desperation.”

Hutcheson weaves half a dozen subplots and a dozen disparate characters into a story that moves quickly and rivets your attention.

If the first half of the novel is about showing the reader Will’s “survival” side, replete with vivid nightmares, steamy sex and bitter altercations with family and staff members, the second half takes us on a journey deep into Will’s awakening.  A series of events, including his estranged father’s death, force Will to stop and pay attention to the forces that—unbeknownst to him—have  been running his life since the moment he was born. For the first time in 30 years he begins to listen to his sister, Maggie, and her insights about the forces, good and bad, that have shaped each of them.

A visit to his grandparents’ farm provides the missing link in Will’s understanding of why he and the rest of the Stallworth men seem to be constantly in conflict with themselves, their families and their environments.  Thanks to his father’s mother, Gertrude, Will is able to piece together the facts and myths of his and his siblings’ lives. Armed with new insight and fueled by newfound courage, Will Stallworth finally breaks free of “the sins of the fathers.” At the 11th hour he steps into his own life on his own terms—steps finally and forever out of fear.

Catcher in the Rye compared to Out of Fear, by Don Hutcheson

J.D. Salinger’s hero, Holden Caulfield, is a younger version of Don Hutcheson’s Out Of Fear central character, Will Stallworth.

A Million Little Pieces

Will Stallworth, the main character in Out of Fear, in many ways resembles the leading man in James Frey’s brilliant fictionalized memoir — A Million Little Pieces.


There are  many things to FEAR in life”
Gigi Hyde   Charlotte, NC   (March 7, 2012)

The secret is how we respond to those things. Will Stallworth has everything going for him—he’s considered one of the hottest young stars in the advertising world of 1984; his charisma attracts beautiful women; he’s rich. But his return to his hometown, Atlanta, opens deep, unhealed family wounds. Huge cracks begin to appear in Will’s heretofore impeccably manicured façade.

His fall from the pinnacle of his profession is brutal and swift. Certain that he is losing his grip on reality, he comes close to throwing in the towel. A series of circumstances, some would call them coincidences, but I am not one of them—anyway, a series of events  allows Will a life-transforming journey to his family roots.  Here he begins to understand the sources of fear that have dominated and controlled the lives of every man in his family for three generations.

This story moved fast and kept me close to the heartbeat of the main character every minute.

Bolstered by this knowledge, Will finds the courage to look his demons in the eye and see them for what they are: illusions that can be confronted and overcome.  This story moved fast and kept me close to the heartbeat of the main character every minute. Rarely does that happen for me.  I hope there will be other books about the life of Will Stallworth.

“Hopelessly drawn to the world of “advertising”
Mindee Nodvin  Washington, DC   (November 2, 2011)

A perfect story for those of us foolish enough to get into — and then stay in — “the biz.” Will Stallworth is a character who speaks profoundly to the part of us that is hopelessly drawn to the world of “advertising” and morally repulsed by it at the same time. A fun read!

“Courageous advertising guy battles his way out of fear”
Dr. Heshmat Cook  May 9, 2012

Will Stallworth, the main character of this novel, is a fascinating creation–complex and intricate like most human beings. But unlike most of the human beings we run across in our lives, we are allowed a deep dive inside the heart, mind and soul of this young man (he’s 30 years old). The author takes us on a roller-coaster journey of a few harrowing, hectic and heroic weeks in Will’s life as an advertising superstar in the mid-1980’s who is faced with unspeakable challenges and obstacles personally and professionally. (I have only seen one episode of Mad Men, but it seems like Out of Fear has many of the dramatic elements my friends, who are Mad Men fans, tell me about)

Will has just returned to his hometown, Atlanta, to take over the creative department of one of the region’s hottest advertising agencies. Will is no creative slouch himself–he was recently voted Ad Age’s top creative talent on the West Coast. The bad news is that his return home plants him squarely at the center of the family crucible that drove him away 8 years earlier when he left home “for good” to go to college out West.

Deep inside Will smolder demons and fears that begin slowly and powerfully to emerge in various ways…

Will must now grapple and contend with a number of arresting challenges. At work: he heads up the pursuit of a hotly contested national advertising account for which his new agency is a prohibitive underdog; internal politics at his new agency make the working environment dicey at best. At home: his father remains the narrow-minded, warped influence he always was for Will; his mother continues to survive in a negative environment with a good spirit, but Will knows his father’s negativity is killing her; his sister Maggie and he are forever scarred and estranged by the loss of their older brother, Randall, many years earlier–a direct result, Will thinks anyway, of his father’s relentless brutality.

Deep inside Will smolder demons and fears that begin slowly and powerfully to emerge in various ways: He experiences panic attacks that threaten his performance; nightmares of his beloved brother torture his dreams; he gets physically sick from the unrelenting stress of it all. And the best part of it is that I FELT LIKE I was THERE. Right THERE with Will in the moments he is going through all this! I could feel his heart pounding like it was my own; feel the sweat gathering on my brow as it did on his; feel his hands trembling as he was ambushed once again by ghosts from his past. 

…it is exhilarating and quite inspiring to see how he manages to battle his way out of the many log jams of his life…

The writer’s style is so different from other writers I’ve read. There are many good writers out there, of course, but the way Hutcheson deploys the first-person perspective on the character of Will Stallworth is original and incredibly arresting. Yes, the prose is raw and even erotic in some scenes, but this style fits comfortably into the frame that the author has built for us–to better understand, be challenged by, be troubled by and finally be uplifted by this courageous young man and his journey.

I won’t go into the rest of the story except to say that as hopeless as Will’s life seems during the first half of the book, it is exhilarating and quite inspiring to see how he manages to battle his way out of the many log jams of his life as the story progresses. To courageously battle his way out of fear.

“A Personal Trip through Hell”
Tracy Riva  Fletcher, NC  (May 9, 2011)

Out of Fear” by Don Hutcheson is the tale of Will Stallworth, an advertising executive returning to his home state of Georgia to take the job of his dreams, but just when things should be the brightest they’ve ever been for Will his life begins to slowly unravel.

Will is haunted by nightmares of his brother’s suicide years before.  His relationship with his parents is stressed. His mother is a paragon in his eyes, a perfectly aged Southern grand dame of a mother who represents the finest qualities of Southern women everywhere: grace, poise and irrefutable dignity presented in a solidly middle class life touched by loss and sorrow.

His father, well that’s another story entirely. Whereas Will’s mother is kind, graceful and accommodating, Will’s father is harsh, cold and distant as the lunar landscape. But mortality calls to everyone and it’s time for Will’s father to pass beyond this life into whatever is on the other side. Instead of drawing this family closer together Will’s father Donald’s impending death puts even more pressure on Will and draws the simmering cauldron of Will’s repressed rage toward his father closer to surface. Instead of reconciliation this deathbed scene will be filled with recriminations and words harsh enough to scar a man’s soul.

… one deal can make or break an entire career.

Hutcheson’s main character Will Stallworth is complex and interesting. At times Hutcheson gets too caught up in narration, but the story is still a rich one taking you behind the scenes of the advertising world and the pressure it puts on people. How one deal can make or break an entire career. How one misstep in the very public limelight of the advertising world can spell ruin and how sometimes a man’s worst enemy can be the very person who was once his friend and confidant.

Out of Fear is Will’s story, with everyone else acting as secondary players on the canvas of Will’s life and impending breakdown. He has few people he would consider allies, even fewer he would consider friends. He faces the worst of things on his own, beginning to come around only when he is finally able to see he can help someone else who he does considers a friend. It is this friendship, as well as Stallworth’s own redeveloping sense of self-worth that gives Will the courage he needs to begin rebuilding his shattered life.

Told from the male perspective, the sex in Out of Fear is raw. There is no painting it pretty, dressing it up and calling it love. It is quite simply robust sex between two consenting adults who have no need to play adolescent games of love. It is self-serving, seeking its own pleasure and it is about as raw, vulgar and truthful as it gets. 

…the sex in Out of Fear is raw.

Hutcheson called it erotic but in an email conversation with him I pointed out this definitely didn’t leave me turned on, in fact it had the opposite effect as it was so geared toward the male perspective of sex and there was no representation of the female point of view in the act, other than as a partner for the male. As Will points out, sex between consenting adults is fun, but a slightly more rounded perspective could have added volumes to the book in this aspect.

…if you are interested in psychological thrillers then go ahead and give Out 

of Fear a try.


I have mixed reactions to Out of Fear by Don Hutcheson.It wasn’t my personal cup of tea, but I can acknowledge that another reader might really enjoy it. It is well-crafted, my only complaints being too much time spent in the narrative style and too many stereotypical characters, but, this is Will’s story and because of that I’m not certain how well-developed certain other characters needed to be. In the end, Hutcheson tells an interesting tale despite the few flaws I found with it so I would say that if you are interested in psychological thrillers then go ahead and give Out of Fear a try.

All told Out of Fear is a reasonably good read. As previously noted, some of the characters are flat and predictable. The mother is a paragon of virtue, the father a walking, talking creep and the dead brother is keeping a secret that haunts Will throughout the story. Will and his sister are thick as thieves; they had to be to survive life in their house after their brother killed himself. His co-workers are either driven or tormented with nary a single sane soul among them. But by the final pages Will just might find something he didn’t even realize he was looking for, justification, release and redemption. Maybe he’ll find all three; we’ll have to wait for future books by Hutcheson to find out.

“I put this book down a half dozen times”
Lydia Wells  Atlanta, GA   April 27, 2011

The immediate, first-person style intrigued me from the first page but I didn’t think I was going to be able to get past Will Stallworth’s crude language. Nor did Wills proclivity to inject sex into every possible situation, in the first half of the book anyway, give me good feelings as I started reading. I put the book down a half dozen times, not knowing whether I would pick it up again. But something told me to stay, something said there was more here that I would be rewarded for hanging in.

There was indeed more and I was rewarded. Richly. The author shows deep insight into the human condition, and his characters are intricate and engaging. In the end, I enjoyed following Will Stallworth’s journey from lost to almost found. A good read.

“Advertising man Don Hutcheson has woven a compelling narrative”
Alfred W. Brown  Atlanta, GA  (November 26, 2011)

In the novel Out of Fear, author, ad guru and entrepreneur Don Hutcheson has woven a compelling narrative that will appeal to every person who has possessed something they prized, lost it, and as a result of a transformational personal experience won it – and more – back. Hutcheson’s taut prose is as driven as his hero, young Will Stallworth. a complicated creative, advertising genius whose confident exterior is eroded bit by bit by a combination of his sensitive nature and the cold-blooded competitive environment in which he works. Anyone drawn to the mystique of the advertising business or is a fan of Mad Men will be fascinated by this insider’s view of the way the business works – and doesn’t work. Ad agency pros – male and female – will identify with Will and a sexy, look-out-for-number-one cast of characters.

“Because fear is the centerpiece of all our lives”
Azura Lauren   Seattle, WA  (May 2012)

The protagonist of this novel, Will Stallworth, lives his life in fear: fear of his inadequacies, fear of intimacy, fear of his past and even greater fear about what is coming up in his future. Because fear is the centerpiece of all our lives, to a greater or lesser extent, it was easy for me to relate to this character and to other characters in this elegantly crafted novel. Because the author writes in first-person, I was pulled into the story from the first paragraph, and identified with Will and his life challenges. Out of Fear is a novel of hope and redemption, a timeless story that inspires me to go deeper into my own darkness and keeps me searching for the courage to be true to myself, to live my life without fear. I look forward to author Don Hutcheson’s second novel.

“Out of Fear taps into the dark chapters of my personal journey in the ad world”
Dennis Greenia  San Antonio, Texas  (January, 2012)

Out of Fear nails it! Having lived the life of a “win at any cost” advertising exec, in Atlanta, in the early 80’s as an ad executive with J. Walter Thompson… I feel like Don has tapped into the dark chapters of my personal journal. Spooky!

“Sexy, chilling, gripping, and smart!”
Cheryl T.   Washington, DC  (August 12, 2012)

I bought this book last Saturday morning for my new Kindle (which I just love by the way!). Anyway, I sat down in my favorite chair and started reading. Except for the couple of times I left the chair to get something to drink etc., I read the entire book straight through. Don’t do that very often!

I like many things about Out of Fear:  The author takes you inside the mind and heart of the main character, Will Stallworth, via a first-person point of view. I don’t remember being this close with a character in a novel. The character of Will Stallworth is complex and fascinating.  He curses like a sailor, lives by a take-no-prisoners ethos, and is over-sexed, but he has a tender hearted side that we see in his relationships with his mother, sister, mentor Gregory Campbell, and his cat, Isabelle, whom he dotes on.

Family history and dynamics play a big role in the main plot of the story. Will is suffering mightily from forces that he is completely unaware of and therefore powerless to change. Until that is, he does become aware of what those forces are and decides to move aggressively to turn his meandering life around.

Will has nightmares and panic attacks and those scenes were chilling. Especially the one . . . well, you’ll read it yourself!

On balance, I loved this book. I was moved on many levels and kept on the edge of my seat from the get-go.

The cast of characters that comprise the many subplots are intricate, too. I especially liked Deborah Bernstein, Will’s art director partner. She is honest and loyal to her team and does not tolerate fools. Will’s nemesis, Emory Barnes, director of marketing, is priggish, conniving and harbors a family history as bruised and wounded as Will’s.

I now have a decent grasp of the advertising industry thanks to this book. Author Hutcheson ran a successful ad agency in Atlanta for many years and is knowledgeable and savvy about the business – the good and bad parts. The pressure those people are under!

Finally, I loved that this story is set in Atlanta. I went to school at Emory (as did the author by the way) and have many fond memories of the city as well as continuing relationships with some good friends.

On balance, I loved this book. I was moved on many levels and kept on the edge of my seat from the get-go. Finally, the book offers a message of hope for each of us. We are not doomed to repeat the missteps and mistakes of our forbearers, if we have the courage that it takes to face our dark side, discover our own truth, and live our lives free from the clutches of fear. I read that the author is writing four novels about Will Stallworth, his life and times. The second one, Will Wakes Up, will be out this Fall and I will be waiting.

“Tragedy stalks a star in the sensuous world of ‘80s  advertising”
Maureen Allen  Marietta, GA    August 2, 2012

Set in a major regional ad agency, Out of Fear chronicles the plunge of a hot creative talent onto the jagged edge of madness. It’s like the proverbial train wreck: you just cannot look away.