Keith Lee Morris is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Clemson University, South Carolina who certainly knows his darts and how to weave the world of local darts into a story of complex relationships, murder, drug-dealing and intrigue. Five fates are inextricably linked in this fine novel and the whole thing is played out in one night.
This format of darts/crime has been done before (Roy Lewis’s Seek for Justice (1981) and of course Martin Amis’s London Fields (1989) immediately spring to mind) but Morris takes an original perspective by placing his prose in small-town America.
Russell Harmon is the self-proclaimed ‘king’ of a local Idaho darts league. He has also a point to prove and the league title to win against ex-pro darter Brice Habersham. Harmon is also $2,000 in debt to drug-dealer Vince Thompson. Add to this his teammate Tristan Mackey being involved in the disappearance of a young female college student plus a love triangle with a former classmate and you have the basis of a good novel.
Whilst the story pivots around Harmon, one other character stood out above the rest. There is, for want of a better word, a darkness about drug-dealer Vince Thompson that for me makes him one of the most powerful characters in the book. Morris emphasises Vince’s mental condition by the employment of extremely long sentences full of anger (and foul language) that make you want to strike the character with a baseball bat to shut him up.
Personally, I never knew so much could happen on darts night.
The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris is published by Tin House Books, Portland, Oregon is priced at $14.95. It is available through Amazon.com or via the publisher at www.tinhouse.com