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Just Me

Goodbye, sir, and I thank you for countless hours of pleasure

Posted on 2010.02.14 at 20:47
Dick Francis, British Master of Horse-racing Thrillers, Dead at 89


It's hard to explain the pleasures I received from hour after hour of reading Dick Francis' wonderful novels, all set in the world of British horse-racing, all also dealing in detail with some other profession, from merchant banking to portrait painting to wine selling. Oh, Francis wrote about actual cops and private eyes, both experienced and novice, and he wrote about expert survivalists and kidnapping negotiators... But he was probably at his strongest when he wrote of ordinary men, connected primarily by their great decency, who found themselves through inadvertence embroiled in murder and crime, and who fought more with brains than brawn to save their own lives, and those of loved ones.

There was a sort of mannered, gentle quality to Dick Francis' writing, soothing while still compelling, introducing us to gently yet fiercely decent men who will risk terrible consequences to do what's right, and will charm and move the reader in the process.

The best I can do to describe Francis' stories is that they read the way Hugh Grant acts, powerfully, charmingly, and with a certain diffidence.

If you've not read his works, you've missed a lot of wonderful hours...

But it's not too late. His books are on all the shelves.

Read them, and join me in offering him thanks, where-ever he now rides.


tariana at 2010-02-15 02:24 (UTC) (Link)
I've never read any of his books -- any particular one I should start with? I've got some credits on Paperbackswap so I can ask for a couple of his, but I wondered which you liked the best?
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2010-02-15 08:49 (UTC) (Link)
My two introductions to Dick Francis, both read aloud in daily half-hour chunks on the BBC World Service in the 1980s, when I was living in Germany, were "Whip Hand" and "Banker."

"Whip Hand" features Francis' most popular hero, Sid Halley. LIke Francis, Halley is a former champion steeplechase jockey -- they call it "hunts" jockey in British racing -- sidelined by injury. In his first appearance, "Odds Against," he's started working as a private detective, but primarily wallowing in self-pity over having his right hand crushed into uselessness by a horse. By the end of that novel, he's lost his crippled hand but gained strength of purpose, and in "Whip Hand," armed with a myoelectric prosthetic hand, and with the help of a likable partner named Chico Barnes, he faces off against a truly vicious villain.

"Banker" features Tim Ekaterin, a junior banker at a Merchant Bank -- we'd call it an "investment bank" -- who has been promoted to some senior responsibilities before he feels ready, and makes an investment in the form of a huge loan to a racing breeder, to buy a famous champion stallion for stud. When foals sired by Sandcastle are born defective, Tim has to investigate: Has his first major decision as a banker been a catastrophic loss due to a sad mischance of nature? Or is a darker force at work, and, if so, can Tim save his very likable client -- and his own career?

Those should get you started,I think.

Edited at 2010-02-15 08:50 am (UTC)
tariana at 2010-02-15 22:41 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks -- those two sound great!
Jonathan Andrew Sheen
leviathan0999 at 2010-02-15 23:08 (UTC) (Link)
Let me know how you like them!

Oh, and if you like "Whip Hand," you might want to seek out the British TV series, "The Racing Game," featuring Sid Halley and Chico Barnes, that inspired Francis to write "Whip Hand!"

The Racing Game at Amazon.com
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