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Old Stoneface: the autobiography of John Lowe

Release date: 28th October, 2005
Publisher: John Blake Publishing

List Price: £17.99
Our Price: £12.59
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John Lowe: The Autobiography
By John Lowe with Patrick Chaplin
John Blake Publishing price: £12.59 (saving £5.40 on recommended price)

The subtitle to John Lowe's long awaited autobiography may sound a tad arrogant:, 'Old Stoneface: the autobiography of Britain's greatest darts player' it reads, yet although Lowe admits to regular displays of, " determination, stubbornness and resolve", this is an honest, warts-and-all examination of his life inside and outside of the professional darts circuit. What Phil 'The Power' Taylor and Eric Bristow would make of Lowe's claim is not recorded, but the author is gracious enough to heap oodles of praise upon both players who may feel they could challenge him for that 'greatest' tag.

John Lowe's big break came early. A carpenter by trade, he happened upon the game of darts by mistake; having discovered his true calling, he has since claimed more than 1,000 titles across the globe in a career spanning forty years.

Occasionally, some of us will have found ourselves in the pub when we're suddenly called upon to stand in during a game of darts. In John Lowe's case, this is precisely what happened at the Butcher's Arms in a small village called Brimington in 1966. Within months, he was playing seven nights a week, winning a series of local amateur titles.

Nevertheless, it was another decade before he was able to make an impression in the one darts tournament that mattered at the time: the News of the World Championship. Lowe reached the semi-finals in 1976/77 and again in 1979/80, but his breakthrough came in 1981 when he finally won the title. By then, he had already taken the British Open and World Masters title, but it was the NoW which really launched his career.

In the early 80s, Lowe was the epitome of the successful sports star: he had money in the bank, had successfully moved up the property ladder and was in demand to play in lucrative exhibitions and tournaments across the globe, but on the domestic front, matters were less rosy. According to Lowe, his marriage eventually become a 'sham', something which clearly caused him great unhappiness.

Yet rather than linger in self-pity, Lowe pressed on and in 1984, he recorded the first-ever televised nine dart, 501 finish, a feat ("two minutes of arrow-throwing") for which he collected a staggering £102,000. He is justifiably proud of this achievement and berates Sky TV for suggesting that darts' 'holy grail' of a televised nine-darter was first completed by Phil Taylor some eighteen years later.

The eighties were a golden period for Lowe, but change was imminent, both on a personal and professional level. At the banquet following his third Embassy world title in 1993, he announced to the BDO that a rival body comprising professional players would be forming the WDC. Anyone wanting to grasp the intensity of bad feeling between these two organisations in the ensuing years should prepare themselves for the chapter entitled 'The Five Year's War'.

On a personal level, 1992 represented Lowe's first foray into the world of pub ownership, a seemingly logical business progression, given where most darts matches are played, but the venture ultimately went horribly wrong.

Lowe's startlingly honest foreword alerts the reader to the prospect of many changes of direction and this enjoyable read ends with the author advocating a series of changes to the game in order that it may retain its freshness. Why change if it's not broken? Lowe's answer is to say that when an athlete clears the high-jump bar, it goes higher. It's a statement with which it is difficult to argue.

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