Debut novelist uses home roots
Meet Luke Rivers. Sandpoint product. Greyhound bettor. Family man. Fictional character.
Meet Keith Morris. Sandpoint product. Family man. Real-life Clemson University professor. Also, the brains behind the simple-talking-but-complex-thinking Luke Rivers.
In his first novel, The Greyhound God (314 pages, University of Nevada Press, September 2003), Morris takes Luke Rivers on a three-week, racetrack saga across the country. The story follows a simple plot exposing readers to an inside look at betting the dogs.
Morris graduated from Sandpoint High School in 1981. As a junior high school student, he wrote sports stories for the local paper. His parents, Fred and Marjorie Morris, coached and taught here for several years. Keith returned to Sandpoint in September to read and sign his book as part of a nationwide tour.
Morris writes a compelling story sprinkled with scenes from the Sandpoint area, including the Green Monarchs, Chuck Slough and Safeway. He challenges readers with thought-provoking observations about God, Jesus and the Greyhound god. Early reviews find the book reminiscent of J.D. Salingers Catcher in the Rye.
I wanted to take a character who had been raised a Christian, then strip his religion away from him so that his ideas about spirituality and individual meaning are turned back on himself, Morris said. He has to find his own reasons for the life he lives, not the reasons handed to him by someone else. I guess you call it a sort of existentialist approach to dog racing.
With his family living a nomadic existence from track to track, Morris main character wins big at Rapid City, S.D. Then his wife, Jenny, leaves with their son, Jake, to parts unknown. Thinking theyll surely call, Rivers remains a few days at their motel while continuing a phenomenal winning streak at the local track, thanks to his system. Readers quickly learn that he may have greyhounds figured out but not his life.
Following a first-person narrative, Morris tracks Rivers through much of the novel but also gives voice to Jenny, who provides an outside perspective of her scraggly-haired husband.
Morris career has included teaching positions at the University of Idaho, University of North Carolina, Wesleyan University and Clemson; his resume also includes acting and writing credits with the Spokane Civic Theater.
His writings have appeared in numerous literary publications, including the New England Review. In 2000, Morris fictional piece Objects Past the Shoreline earned him a $7,500 grant for South Carolinas most distinguished literary award. In fall 2004, University of Nevada Press will release his short story collection, Three or Four Hills and a Cloud.
The Greyhound God ($23) is available at local bookstores.