Dick Francis should be getting a retainer for publicity on behalf of the horse racing industry: His suspenseful, detail-filled plots set in and around the track -- and informed by his own experience as a professional jockey -- have given the sport more intrigue and cachet than any single race or jockey could.
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Also Known As:
Sir Richard Stanley Francis (full name)
Cayman Islands, British West Indies
Date of Birth:
October 31, 1920
Place of Birth:
Tenby, Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales
Dropped out of Maidenhead County School at age 15.
Dagger Award for Whip Hand, 1979; Edgar Awards for Forfeit, 1970; Whip Hand, 1981; and Come to Grief, 1996
|Is Dick Francis really the author of the novels that bear his name, or were they written by his late wife, Mary? Consider: He dropped out of school at age 15, whereas she had university degrees in French and English and once worked for a publisher. Prior to Mary’s death in 2000 (she died in his arms of a heart attack at age 76), Dick Francis produced a new novel every year. But after Mary died, he said that he doubted he would ever write anything longer than personal letters ever again. “So much of my work was her.” |
Indeed, for years Dick Francis credited Mary with an extensive role in the creation his novels, and he repeatedly urged her to accept credit as a co-author. She refused, arguing that “Dick Francis” was the brand name readers responded to. In the end, it hardly matters. But unless you have worked as a husband-and-wife writing team, you can’t really appreciate the melding of a genuine collaboration. And if you’re over 80 and have written a novel a year for more than the past 30 years, who can blame you for hanging up the racing silks?
|An Edgar Trifecta||Sprints from Francis|
Francis has been honored three times by the Mystery Writers of America with the Edgar Allan Poe award, and Whip Hand (which also won a Golden Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association) brings back jockey-turned-detective Sid Halley to prevent foul play at the track. Third Halley novel Come to Grief and early title Forfeit are also honorees.
|Field of Thirteen|
For a shorter dose of Francis's fascinating racetrack milieus, pick up this recent collection. The author gallops easily and surely over various racing settings in these 13 tightly crafted tales.
|Photo by Adrian Houston/Idos||