I’ve had a lifelong love affair with (1) horses, and (2) books. Combine the two, and you get Dick Francis (1920-2010). I remember going to the elegant old library in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was pretty young, maybe 12, and finding one of Francis’ early publications. I don’t remember which one it was, but his first book was Dead Cert, so that may have been the one. I read it, and I was caught hook, line, and sinker. I found this set (below) on Amazon (where else?) of several of his earliest publications. I remember watching “Whip Hand,” which was made into a BBC “Mystery” feature. It was great! To see all the books available on Amazon, see the Dick Francis Author Page… actually 12 pages.
I think I’ve read all his books except for a few nonfiction ones. For an idea of how prolific he was, take a look at the Order of Books list for him. During his more recent period, his books changed and became more scientific (translation: even more interesting), and the ones from 2007 on were written with his son, Felix Francis. Felix continues to write very similar (in content and quality) books, for those of us who want more (me!).
Francis’ books are mysteries, and his heroes are usually jockeys or former jockeys. Anyway, there are always horses, and that feeds the horse-crazy child in me (you may be sad to hear that as an adult I’ve developed an allergy to horses). Most of his books are available in print, and some are in Kindle form. At one time I had every fiction book he ever wrote…. and then I moved a bunch of times and now I don’t have them any more. The rest I checked out at my local library.
Francis was an interesting character. He was a British steeplechase, or jump, jockey. Unlike flat jockeys, jump jockeys can be taller, because jumpers carry more weight than flat racers. Most of his main characters are in that same profession. He was a very good rider, too. He rode for the Queen of England for some time. There’s a sensational film I saw on TV once where he was riding a horse for the Queen, and was in first place about to finish first. At that point, the horse went down right on its belly! The horse got up uninjured, but they never did figure out what caused it. The race was the most important one in England, the Grand National of 1956, and the horse was Devon Loch. The jockey formerly in second place was shocked that he won!
Francis retired the following year and started writing; his first book was published in 1962. It was a loss for racing, but great for mystery readers everywhere! The world lost a wonderful storyteller when he died, but his [much taller] son Felix has carried on.
What I love most about reading any Dick Francis book is how he hooks me from the beginning, how I can hardly put the book down, and how I feel satisfied and refreshed when I finish. Also, I liked being a Francis fan because he turned out a book just about every year, so I didn’t have to wait too long to read the next one. It’s sooo hard to wait, isn’t it?
R.I.P. Dick Francis