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Dick Francis

Dick Francis (Richard Stanley Francis, 1920-2010) was the first of the jockeys-turned-author. He was born in Pembrokeshire, and the family moved to Berkshire, where Dick’s father became a horse dealer. Dick’s schooling happened when he wasn’t riding, which his father considered more important in the general scheme of things. During the Second World War, Dick served in the RAF, and met his wife Mary. After the war, Dick became a trainer’s assistant and steeplechase jockey. He was Champion Jockey during 1953-1954, and memorably rode the Queen Mother’s Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National. Out in front on the home straight, it seemed Devon Loch would win, but he put in a strange four legged jump, sprawled, and that was that. Dick retired as a jockey in 1957 after a particularly bad fall, and finished his half-written autobiography, The Sport of Queens. Mary suggested he write a novel, and in 1960, he published Dead Cert. His obituarist in the Daily Telegraph said:


“Where other thriller writers probed the darker crannies of the soul, Francis reaffirmed the values of human decency and the struggle between the man of good against the forces of lust for power, dishonesty and greed. Heroes can expect to be chained, beaten, burned or flayed two or three times per book – but good always triumphs in the end.”


Dick Francis is my ultimate comfort read: I like his strong, fairly silent, heroes, capably going about putting the racing world to rights. I love the plots; I love all those little details you learn about the latest job his heroes do, whether it’s merchant banking or survival. Dick Francis has been accused of having unoriginal plots, of having one basic hero model who changes his name from book to book, of his wife Mary writing his books, but he was phenomenally successful at what he did or they did, and his fans, of whom I am one, read the books anyway. There is something about a Dick Francis story that lets you suspend all disbelief and keep turning the pages.


 It remains to be seen if his son, Felix, who wrote the last few books with his father, carries on writing. I have mixed feelings about the Dick/Felix oeuvre: Dead Heat was the first of the duo’s books I read. There is a huge difference in style when Dick Francis is collaborating with his son: you lose that direct, punchiness and get wordy awkwardness instead. And the sex..... Dick is matter of fact, Dick and Felix are cringe-making. Silks I took up with a some misgiving, having read Dead Heat, but it's much better. It’s certainly not Dick Francis at his best, but it is a reasonably good read. Refusal, however, lost me entirely.


Finding the books: if you want to build up a collection of first editions with dustjackets, be prepared to dig deep when it comes to the earliest books. The later books were printed in their thousands, and are generally reasonably easy to find. The various paperback editions are cheap and easy to find, and the majority (if not all) of the titles are in print.


Sources and links

Dick Francis’ website

Dick Francis reading group

Dick Francis links

Obituary - The Guardian, 14th February, 2010

Obituary - The Times, 15th February, 2010

Obituary - The Daily Telegraph, 14th February, 2010



Sid Halley

Odds Against

Whip Hand

Come to Grief

Under Orders

Refusal


Kit Fielding
Break In
Bolt


Bibliography

Dead Cert

Michael Joseph, London, 1962, 205 pp.

Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1962, 220 pp.

Numerous paperback reprints(early Penguin,1980s left,
cover Colin Thomas.

1970s right, Penguin film edition, later Pan)



Alan York, amateur jockey, is racing behind
his great friend Bill and his horse Admiral
when the horse falls. Alan finds out the fall
was not an accident.

Nerve

Michael Joseph, London, 1964, 237 pp,
cover Barrie Thorpe 10th imp left

Harper & Row, New York, 1964, 273 pp,

Numerous paperback reprints


Rob Finn is a jockey in a family of musicians.

For Kicks

Michael Joseph, London, 1965, 255 pp.

Harper & Row, New York, 1965, 244 pp.

Numerous paperback reprints


Daniel Roke leaves his Australian stud farm and his family to investigate
shenanigans in the English racing industry.

Odds Against

Michael Joseph, London, 1965, 255 pp.

Harper & Row , New York, 1965, cover art Frederick E. Banbery

(centre), 280 pp.

Numerous paperback reprints


Sid Halley has been left with a crippled hand after a racing
accident, and a fog of depression.

Flying Finish

Michael Joseph, London, 1966, 218 pp.

Companion Book Club, 1966, Roger Payne

Harper & Row, New York, 1966, 249 pp.
Cover Merle Peek (centre)

Readers Book Club Australia, Vern Hayles
bottom left)

Numerous paperback reprints (right)


Henry Grey starts work in the horse
transport business. .

Blood Sport

Michael Joseph, London,1967, 230pp.

Harper & Row , New York, 1967, cover art F E Banbery
Companion Book Club, 1967, Mike Charlton

Numerous reprints.



Gene Hawkins, security agent, searches for a
missing stallion.

Forfeit

Michael Joseph, London,1968

Harper & Row , New York, 1969, 247 pp. Cover John Condon
(left)

Numerous reprints. (1980s left, cover Colin Thomas. Pan
1970s right)


James Tyrone battles to keep his polio stricken wife alive as
he investigates racing scandals.

Enquiry

Michael Joseph, London, 1969, 224 pp.

Harper & Row, New York, 1969, cover Paul Spina (left), 219 pp.

Numerous reprints. (1980s left, cover Colin Thomas. 1970s right)

 

Kelly Hughes has been warned off.  He didn’t do it.

Rat Race

Michael Joseph, London,1970, 206 pp. (left 4th imp 1972,
Beverly Le Barrow)

Harper & Row, New York, 1971, 214 pp. Cover Jay J Smith.
(centre).

Chivers Press, large print, 1993, bottom

Numerous reprints. (Pan reprint right)



Matt Shore, pilot, finds someone is sabotaging aircraft.

Bonecrack

Michael Joseph, London, 1971, 214pp. Cover Beverly Le Barrow

Harper & Row, New York, 1971, 210 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Neil Griffon steps into his trainer father’s shoes while he’s in hospital, only to
find he’s being forced to employ an 18 year old jockey, with instructions for him
to ride in the Derby.

Straight

Michael Joseph, London, 1989, 279 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1989, 323 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Derek Franklin, jockey, steps into his elder brother’s gemstone

Importing business after his death.

Longshot

Michael Joseph, London, 1990, 288 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1990, 320 pp.

Numerous reprints.


John Kendall, writer, finds his survival knowledge tested to the full.


Comeback

Michael Joseph, London, 1991, 276 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1991, 320 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Peter Darwin, diplomat, is caught in a mugging.

Driving Force

Michael Joseph, London, 1992, 276 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1992, 318 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Freddie Croft, who owns a business transporting racehorses,
finds he is transporting more than he bargained for.

Decider

Michael Joseph, London, 1993, 277 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1993, 318 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Lee Morris, architect, is dragged against his will into family shenanigans.

Wild Horses

Michael Joseph, London, 1994, 281 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1994, 319 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Thomas Lyon, film director, makes a film and disentangles a mystery.

Come to Grief

Michael Joseph, London, 1995, 278 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1995, 308 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Sid Halley has discovered a great friend has committed an act of sickening
cruelty.


To the Hilt

Michael Joseph, London,1996, 281 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1987, 318 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Alexander Kinloch, painter apparently has something a lot of other people want.

10 LB. Penalty

Michael Joseph, London,1997, 272 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1996, 322 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Ben Juliard, son of an aspiring politician, tries to protect him.

Field of Thirteen

Michael Joseph, London, 1998, 273 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1998, 287 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Short stories

Second Wind

Michael Joseph, London,1999, 280 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1999, 293 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Perry Stuart is a meteorologist with a friend whose greatest desire is to fly in the eye of a hurricane.


Shattered

Michael Joseph, London, 2000, 271 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2000, 289 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Gerard Logan, glass blower, faces threats to his life after he has to search
for a stolen videotape.

Under Orders

Michael Joseph, London, 2006, 2006, 347 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2006, 308 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Sid Halley investigates: three people have died in one day at Cheltenham.

Dead Heat (with Felix Francis)

Michael Joseph, London, 2007, 408 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2007, 342 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Has Max Moreton, a chef, really caused food poisoning?

Silks (with Felix Francis)

Michael Joseph, London, 2008, 367 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2008, 342 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Geoffrey Mason is a barrister and amateur jockey, drawn into investigation
when a fellow jockey is murdered.

Even Money (with Felix Francis)

Michael Joseph, London, 2009, 381 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1987, 338 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Ned Talbot, book maker, finds his father, only for him to be stabbed to death a few hours later.

Crossfire (with Felix Francis)

Michael Joseph, London, 2010, 2010, 336 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2010

Numerous reprints.


Captain Tom Forsyth is wounded in Afghanistan, and returns to his childhood
home, Lambourn, where his mother is a racing trainer.

Short stories

A Carrot for a Chestnut (copyright 1970) appeared in:


Horse Tales

Edited: Suzanne Wilding

St. Martin's Press 1976

illustrated by Sam Savitt


And also


The Sport of Queens

This edition Penzier Books, 1986


Lester - The Official Biography

Charnwood, Leicester, 1986


Compilation:

Avenel, 1984

Contains: Odds Against, Blood Sport, Flying Finish and Rat Race


Gamble (with Felix Francis)

Michael Joseph, London, 2011, 418 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2011

Thorndike, Bath, 2012 (Large print)


Nick Foxton once won the Grand National, but a terrible accident cut his
racing career short. Years later, he is returning to Aintree - as a spectator -
when he once more finds himself the centre of attention.

Bloodline (by Felix Francis)

Michael Joseph, London, 2012, 398 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2012


Mark Shillingford, race commentator is devastated when his twin sister Clare, to all intents and
purposes a successful jockey, kills herself.


Refusal (by Felix Francis)

Michael Joseph, London, 2013, 398 pp.

Putnam, New York, 2013


Sir Richard Stewart, chairman of the horse racing authority, wants Sid Halley to look into some
suspicious race results, but Sid gave up the investigating business six years ago and he thought
nothing could make him go back.



Felix Francis

Smokescreen

Michael Joseph, London, 1972, 220 pp. Cover Beverly Le Barrow

Harper & Row, New York, 1972, 213 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Edward Lincoln, is a film actor doing a movie in South Africa
who stumbles across a racing fraud.

Slayride

Michael Joseph, London, 1973, 224 pp. (left)

Harper & Row, New York, 1973, cover Irving Freeman

Numerous reprints.



David Cleveland has been sent to investigate a theft and
the disappearance of a jockey in Norway.

Knockdown

Michael Joseph, London, 1974, cover Chris Yates

Harper & Row, New York, 1974, cover Roy Kuhlman

Numerous reprints.


Jonah Dereham becomes a bloodstock agent.

High Stakes

Michael Joseph, London, 1975, 238 pp.
Cover Chris Yates

Harper & Row, New York, 1975, cover David
Rose

Numerous reprints.


Steven Scott is a toy inventor who has taken up
racing as a hobby.

In the Frame

Michael Joseph, London, 1976, 252 pp.

BCA, 1977, cover Chris Yates

Harper & Row, New York, 1976, cover Dan Sneberger (centre)

Numerous reprints.


Charles Todd, a painter, discovers a fraud involving forged
paintings.



Risk

Michael Joseph, London, 1977, 251 pp.

BCA, 1978, Chris Yates (left)

Harper & Row, New York, 1977, cover Alan Falk

Numerous reprints.


Roland Britten, an accountant and jockey,
is kidnapped.

Trial Run

Michael Joseph, London, 1978, 239 pp. (left)

Harper & Row, New York, 1978, cover Roy LeGrome (centre)

Numerous reprints.


Randall Drew, jockey, is sent to investigate possible
skullduggery in Moscow.

Whip Hand

Michael Joseph, London, 1979, 252 pp. (left)

Harper & Row, New York, 1979, 293 pp. (centre)

Numerous reprints.


Sid Halley and Chico investigate a racing fraud.

Reflex

Michael Joseph, London,1980, 247 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1981, 295 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Philip Nore, jockey, investigates the death of a spiky and unpopular press
photographer.


Twice Shy

Michael Joseph, London,1981, 248 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1982, 307 pp, jacket Richards, Sullivan,
Brock & Assoc.

Numerous reprints.


Jonathan Derry, teacher, discovers a failsafe computer program
to manage betting; younger brother William Derry deals with the
fall out.

Banker

Michael Joseph, London, 1982, 277 pp. Cover Chris Yates.

Putnam, New York, 1983, 306 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Tim Ekaterin, banker, puts the bank’s money into a stallion.

The Danger

Michael Joseph, London, 1983, 271 pp. Cover Chris Yates.

Putnam, New York, 1984, 320 pp.

Numerous reprints.



Andrew Douglas, security consultant and advisor on kidnapping, is brought
in to advise on the kidnapping of a jockey.

Proof

Michael Joseph, London, 1984, 268 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1985, 334 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Tony Beach, wine merchant, uncovers a fraud in the wine business.

Break In

Michael Joseph, London,1985, 288 pp.

BCA, 1985,Chris Yates

Putnam, New York, 2006, 317 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Kit Fielding, jockey, tries to save his sister and her trainer husband from disaster.

Bolt

Michael Joseph, London, 1986 288 pp, cover Colin Yates

Putnam, New York, 1987, 318 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Kit Fielding rides again.

Hot Money

Michael Joseph, London, 1987, 256 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1988, 324 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Ian Pembroke tries to find out which of his large collection of half brothers
and sisters wants their father dead.

The Edge

Michael Joseph, London, 1988, 288 pp.

Putnam, New York, 1989, 324 pp.

Numerous reprints.


Tor Kelsey, investigator, is given a job on a race train.