Thursday, 25 February 2010

Farewell Dick Francis

I suppose late is better than never, and I’d like to quickly acknowledge the passing of author Dick Francis, who passed away on February 14th, aged 89.

It wasn’t so many days earlier that I completed his latest book, Even Money as part of this here 100 books in a year challenge, and although I wasn’t particularly complimentary towards it, I wouldn’t want that to detract from how much I’ve enjoyed his work over the years.

Reading his obituaries, Francis sold 60 million books worldwide, his novels were published into 20 languages and he won numerous awards, including a Crime Writer's Association lifetime achievement award. Add in his CBE for services to literature in 2000, his former life as a champion jockey and a Second World War pilot, and you can’t really argue with his achievements over his lifetime.

Francis, of course, was the jockey on Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National when the Queen Mother’s horse suddenly fell near the finish line. But that mysterious incident hardly compares with the riddles his lead characters - always men - have solved in the horse racing world over the years.

Everyone will have their favourites. Mine are probably those featuring one-handed former-jockey-turned-private-investigator Sid Halley (Odd Against and Whip Hand more than Come to Grief, which was written some years later). I also remember enjoying Proof (the wine one), The Edge (the train murder mystery one) and Twice Shy (the computer one, although it seems very out of date now).

Apparently, another novel has been written, again with son Felix, and will be published in the autumn. Unlike other recent offerings, I hope it does him justice.

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