Definitely a Halloween ‘Treat’
October 31, 2017
Witches, goblins and small children in costumes begging for candy. Ah, it must be Halloween. It’s a ‘hard-to-miss’ day and all of us, no doubt, know of its history.
So, instead of a rehash, today’s topic involves one of my favorite authors. Born October 31, 1920, he wrote more than 40 novels in his lifetime. He did not begin his novel writing career until he was 40 years old. All of his books centered around the world of horseracing. That author: Dick Francis.
From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“In 1962, he published his first thriller, Dead Cert, set in the world of racing. Subsequently he regularly produced a novel a year for the next 38 years, missing only 1998 (during which he published a short-story collection). Although all his books were set against a background of horse racing, his male heroes held a variety of jobs including artist (In the Frame and To the Hilt), investigator for the Jockey Club (The Edge), pilot (Rat Race and Flying Finish), wine merchant (Proof) and many others. All the novels are narrated by the hero, who in the course of the story discovers himself to be more resourceful, brave, tricky, than he had thought, and usually finds a certain salvation for himself as well as bestowing it on others. Details of other people’s occupations fascinated Francis, and the reader finds himself or herself immersed in the mechanics of such things as photography, accountancy, the gemstone trade, restaurant service on transcontinental trains—but always in the interests of the plot. Dysfunctional families were a subject which he exploited particularly well (Reflex, a baleful grandmother; Hot Money, a multi-millionaire father and serial ex-husband; Decider, the related co-owners of a racecourse).”
My favorite book of his is titled “Straight” and tells the story of a man who inherits his brother’s life when the latter dies in a freak accident. Francis was one of my mother’s favorite authors also. So beloved, in fact, that she collected all of his books which, perhaps, I will inherit one day.
In 1995 I learned that Dick Francis was doing a book signing at Tower Records and Books on Queen Anne hill. So I took my two year old daughter and drove to Seattle to purchase and get signed a copy of the book to give to my mother for Christmas. There was a line when we arrived. I learned a couple things about Dick Francis that day. First, that he didn’t much like chitchatting with his fans; and, second, that it required a glass of Merlot
to get through the event. The store manager brought him one glassful while I was there.
So my daughter and I
made it through the line and I handed him the book with the request that he sign it for my mother. He questioned as to why I wasn’t getting a second book for myself. Well! That would have required going and buying the second book then getting back in line once again while trying to keep a two year old entertained. I only bought the one book.
On the title page of Wild Horses he wrote “Hi Janet” and then signed his name. Here’s a photo of the page.
If you have not read any of his books they are, I think, a good example of how to mix narrative, dialogue and action. His research, the character development, and the details are always outstanding. So get one of Francis’ books the next time you want to curl up with a good one for the weekend! Well worth the time.
A couple of interesting links:
His son, Felix, who co-wrote with Dick for ten years, carries on with writing novels in the same style. I’ve read a couple of his solo novels and I think he’s a good writer too! http://www.felixfrancis.com/index.php
And a reward for all who have read to the bottom. The connection between Dick Francis and the Queen Mum is that he was the jockey who rode her horse Devon Loch in 1956.