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The Dart League King: A Novel Paperback – October 1, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this absorbing and intelligent novel, Morris (The Greyhound God) follows five characters through a handful of hours culminating in a dart contest on a Thursday night in Garnet Lake, Idaho: Russell Harmon, who lives for the dart league and his cocaine habit; teammate Tristan Mackey, who is haunted by having not prevented the drowning of a classmate; Kelly Ashton, who wants desperately for someone to rescue her and her young daughter from this small town; Russell's darts rival Brice Habersham, a DEA agent posing as the owner of a gas station; and drug dealer Vince Thompson, who, tonight, is carrying a 9mm Beretta to his meeting with Russell. As each chapter shifts from one voice to the next, Morris cranks up the tension so that by the time the dart match arrives, the book is impossible to put down. Morris explores how even the most banal choices we make—to get in the car or not?—can have a life-altering impact. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* This sensitive, cleverly constructed novel of small-town life and big-league dreams follows a cast of five in the hours leading up to a Thursday night dart contest. Russell Harmon, painfully aware of his unsuitability for the logging work that is the economic mainstay of Garnet Lake, Idaho, is banking all his self-esteem on retaining his title of Dart League King, although he has a couple of obstacles in his way. He owes a lot of money to the local drug dealer, the incredibly bad tempered Vince Thompson, who could very well show up at the big contest with a 9mm Beretta. Russell is facing a formidable opponent in Brice Habersham, who recently bought the town’s gas station and was, at one time, a professional dart player. Even more distracting is the fact that intellectual college grad and fellow teammate Tristan Mackey has shown up with town hottie Kelly Ashton, Russell’s old love. Secrets and surprises are revealed as the narrative shifts among the five voices, injecting the culminating chapters with an almost unbearable tension. All the while, Morris continues to draw a subtle, near flawless portrait of the unique ways that small-town life can both nurture and suffocate its residents. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books; 1st U.S. Ed edition (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979419883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979419881
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,334,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Vaughn on December 11, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This really is a nice and fun read. I'm not sure that this is why Morris sets all his books in Idaho, but it could be because we don't know what the people who live there are like. Either way, I'm guessing he nails it as these characters are, with all their flaws, very believable.

Let me put it another way, I've read this book four times and I hate reading. Then I lent it to someone and they never gave back so I bought another copy for no other reason than to have a copy again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book five years ago and it is still rattling around in my brain. I often think of the characters and their struggles to understand themselves and their place in the world. This is a delicately crafted novel whose author cares deeply for his creations with a plot that moves swiftly through dark and tumultuous waters....
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Format: Paperback
Morris once again creates characters that are so true and real that it's scarey. From the first pages you become wrapped up in each of these very real characters' lives. The story takes place in one life altering night. All the characters fates are interwoven creating a suspense that builds steadily until the final chapters when you can't put it down. This novel would make an excellent suspense movie!
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Format: Paperback
I had zero expectations when I started reading "The Dart League King" by Keith Lee Morris. It was one of the books that I had bought at the Tin House booth at the LA Times Festival of Books. I love Tin House and totally bought it on a whim, without really reading the synopsis. It was fantastic.

I don't want to give away any details, but the book primarily takes place on the evening of the Dart Championship in a small town in Idaho. All of the characters lives intersect and some major secrets are revealed. The book has a very big twist ending that I did not anticipate. Morris had a beautiful way of tying up the story with epilogue. It's a really sad novel, with a lot of harsh realities and a few gruesome moments. I feel like it will stick with me, as I have been really thinking about it a lot in the past twenty-four hours.

One minor thing, the end of the book has the list of Dart League rules, as drafted by the main character. I wish this had been placed at the beginning of the book, as I did not clearly understand some of the rules. If I had realized that it was in the back and in no way compromised the integrity of the story, I would have used it for reference
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Format: Paperback
I have to admit I have read this book every two years for awhile now. I have eagerly recounted the plot to many friends and family members, describing the characters that everyone can relate to. Keith is a killer writer and drags you in, sometimes without your consent. Every time I begin to read it again I lose a whole day to the process.
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Format: Paperback
I probably wouldn't have picked this book up on my own. As it was, my dad (who is a big dart player) bought it because it had "darts" in the title. He read it, liked it, but also thought that I would like it because of the writing. So he lent it to me, and I sat on it for a couple weeks before I cracked it open.

Initially I wasn't too impressed. Sure, the guy knew darts, but I thought the whole coke thing was just an attempt to give his characters some false sense of depth. However, about fifty pages into the story, there's a drowning scene that just really hit me; really jarred me because the victim had annoyed me, but I was sympathetic. I mean, (and if you've not read the book I'm trying to be as vague as I possibly can so I don't give much away) the lady didn't annoy me so much as I understood the character from whose perspective Morris was writing from in the chapter... but when she drowns... "man," I thought, "how cold."

That point in the story had me re-evaluate my whole opinion of the characters in the book. All of the characters are believable, quirky, a bit gritty, but human. Exception: it took me a while to consider a twenty-three year old a realistic prospect for the head of a dart league; a post normally filled by middle-aged guys.

I'd check out another Keith Morris book in the future.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Keith Lee Morris is one of the best writers at work in the U.S. He's one my favorite writers and I find his writing almost addictive.
"The Dart League King" is a psychological novel revolving around a group of people in Lake Garnet, ID--mostly men who sell and ingest cocaine. They're small-town people who've known one another through generation to the next.
One of Morris' many fascinating and pleasurable achievements in this book is that despite the characters' serious limitations, they're immediately people you care about and enjoy. The dialogue is filled with common if vulgar terms that Morris uses almost rhythmically so that the emphatic words do in fact emphasize each character's speech. Further, the dialogue not only rings true and sounds natural but amazed me by being beautiful.
Among the group is one young single mother who has factored in the lives of, or merely attracted most of the men. Morris writes the novel in an intimate, interior third person and the one woman struck me as real and vivid as the men. (I notice when men write inside a woman's mind, and as a woman myself I judge what seems believable and what seems like a man's idea of how women are.)
Somewhere I saw "The Dart League King" described as a man's book: but this is one novel I would not limit like that.
Kelly is central to the plot and her fate is the one that's critical. She's not radically different from the male characters except that as a mother, many of her thoughts and actions involve caring for other people and putting them first. The men have no overriding need to care about anyone but themselves and by and large they don't.
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