Dick Francis dead at 89

Oh, boo. According to the Washington Post, Dick Francis died today: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/14/AR2010021401467.html?hpid=artslot He wrote 42 books, and I’m sure I’ve read at least half of them.

The poor guy had suffered ill health for awhile. He lost a leg to diabetes a couple years ago. Plus he had open heart surgery. In spite of all that, he’s be coauthor with his son on three or four books in the past 7 years. The book that came out last year was really good. It reminded me of some of his better work from the 1980’s.

Fingers crossed that his son can continue. That was their plan. He’s trained under a master writer.

Well, crap. I loved his books lots–think the first one I read was “Break In” and was hooked from there. I hope his son can carry on the tradition.

A link to news article.

This man certainly had a adventurous life.

I love this quote about him.


But who was the master writer? It’s been suggested that his wife really wrote the books. I don’t know what to believe (other than I really enjoyed his/her/their books) but I don’t think there is any question she did much of the research and editing that went into each novel.

The rumors about his wife writing the books were proven wrong after Francis came out of retirement. He wrote 4 more since her death. The new books have the same voice as his older stuff. Apparently, he did rely on her (and his son) for research and proof reading.

I don’t know if this proves much of anything. I don’t think there’s any dispute that Dick Francis and his wife had a very close working relationship no matter who wrote the mysteries. He would know her voice very well. IMHO, his last few books were not as good though this is often the case with mystery writers and of course, his son might not have been as good an editor as his wife.

I read a couple of his books ages ago, and remember liking them despite not being a big fan of horses or racing. That I remember his name as the author says something, as I am normally really bad at remembering who wrote what.

I’ve been a fan ever since I saw one of his books dramatized on Mystery! A few weeks later I went to a charity rummage sale just as they were closing, and they had marked all books to ten cents. I came across a whole shelf of Dick Francis books and bought them all and spent a few happy weeks reading.

I do think the quality of a couple books published after his wife’s death had slipped, but this latest one with his son was back to the level of suspense I’ve come to enjoy. So sad to hear of his passing.

I agree, the last Dick Francis book published (Even Money) was really good. It had been a long time since he’s hit those notes. Some of Francis’ best work centered around the father/son relationship.

I have a box of Dick Francis books. I pull them out and reread them every couple years. There’s only a few that I don’t reread.

Francis and his son have one more completed book that comes out the end of this year. Then the franchise will be in his son’s hands.

I’ve read all of them. My sister sent me a couple for Christmas one year and told me that I was not allowed to buy any, so that she would have Christmas presents for me for years to come. I disappointed her by immediately staging a raid on Half-Price Books and stocking up on every Francis title I could find.

Farewell, Dick. You crossed the line leading the pack, and you didn’t win on the nod.

If you’ve got a Dick Francis book handy, open it and read the first line.

The first lines of his novels were really well done. Like he spent a lot of time of them

If there is a god, any god, he or she or it will prevent Felix Francis from carrying on the franchise. Even Money was the sloppiest Dick Francis I’ve ever read, with the worst hanging ends ending I’ve ever read of his. When I threw it in the return slot at the library, I thought, “That’s the last Dick Francis I’ll ever read.”

That said, at his best, or his wife’s best, or whatever, they were very interesting and enjoyable mysteries. I’ve read every one of them, and up until recently, almost every one of them was fun to read. He’s an author that I’ve been happy to throw money at.

I loved his books, gobbled them up, but I noticed in the one that came out shortly after his wife died, the story went along at about the usual creative level, then in the last chapter, the tone changed, and suddenly all the threads were being abruptly tied up in a flat, clumsy manner. The ending seemed thrown together by someone just desperate to get it over with. Perhaps that point in that book was when his wife died, or could no longer work on it with him.

Yes, indeed.

The vast majority of British horse racing aficionados will have a problem recalling any of Dick’s big race winners. All they remember is this (video, 32 secs). Every owner, trainer, and jockey wants to win the Grand National so much it practically hurts. Given that Devon Loch was owned by the Queen Mother (RIP), a victory in this race would have been one of the most popular of all time.

The horse is clear on the run-in but 25 yards from the post it seems to try and jump an obstacle that isn’t there. Francis opines that Devon Loch attempted to jump a shadow, but who knows.

If ever a jockey was best known for a curious failure rather than his many successes, it is Dick Francis.

Umm! Confusing…

If you want more opinions, I didn’t like Even Money. In fact, the only post-Mary Francis novel I liked was Dead Heat which was twice as long as it should have been. Enjoyable book, but very long.

Thanks for this. I bought it Monday after work and are prepairing to read it at lunch this week.

One of the comments on that video posits that the horse clipped a front hoof with an overlong stride. Watching it in slow motion, I think that’s quite possibly what happened. Looks like it’s the left hind that does it. What do you think, CG?

The three most common theories concerning the incident are (1) the horse was spooked by the wall of noise coming from the crowd (2) cramp and (3) the animal attempted to jump a shadow cast by the water jump. I can’t see any shadow from the water jump (it’s on the other side of the running rail) but Devon Loch seems to try and take off when almost parallel to it.** To me, it’s the most likely reason of the three because I’ve seen it happen since, albeit on TV. That was in 1990 when we sent Dayjur to the 1990 Breeders Cup for the Sprint. The horse mastered Safely Kept about half a furlong out but almost certainly tried to jump a definite shadow close home. Dayjur stayed on his feet but lost some momentum and conceded defeat by a neck.

Dick Francis himself, and race readers of the time, failed to mention the possibility of a clipped hoof and I’m wondering if the perspective offered by the video gives a false impression. This is not to say you are incorrect but it’s clear that your view, and that given in the comment, is not generally supported.

**In the Grand National, the field only jumps the water on the first circuit. At the end of the second circuit the riders navigate to the right of it and gallop up the home stretch to the winning post.