Any Dick Francis fans out there?

For those of you who don’t know, Dick Francis was a very successful jockey in English racing. After retiring in the early forties, he became a racing correspondent and then branched out into books. All his books have a racing background. His heroes are not just jockeys though. Reporters, chefs, drivers, pilots, small businessmen, builders, lawyers, writers, even adolescents have been heroes of his books. All of them will have a racing connection, of course. He wrote his first book in mid-sixties. After his wife passed away, he had temporarily stopped writing. Then he resumed writing, but his son is credited as a co-author. He is in his eighties now.

Invariably, his heroes will get badly beat up in at least one scene. Invariably, the beating won’t deter them. Usually, it will spur them on. All his heroes are made of the same mold. They are loyal, courageous, low-key, almost always introverted, very clear about their motivation and single minded in their quest. Personal misfortunes will never deter them. They may not relish their daily life, but they will be willing to pay the price for their commitments.

My favorite Dick Francis book is Forfeit.

Silks has a lawyer as a protoganist. Geoffrey Mason, a lawyer cum amateur jockey is coerced into representing the top jockey of the moment – who is accused of killing his competitor. He is pressurised to lose the case deliberately, and he fights back. In a Perry Masonesque courtroom drama, he uncovers the truth – which hinges on how the age of the horses is computed.

Something is lacking. Even the customary beating up scene lacks punch. You can see the Dick Francis formula, but it feels like somebody else is trying to write a story with that formula in mind. Given Dick Francis’ age, this is probably true. I think his son must have written this, with supervision from the father.

I wouldn’t recommend it as a Dick Francis thriller. But this is “time pass”, and you can easily kill a lazy afternoon with this book.

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