Monday, February 15, 2010

Dick Francis

Dick Francis died yesterday.The Champion steeplechase jockey turned best selling author lived a life full of riding and writing. He rode in over two thousand races and wrote forty two novels. Most of his books were set in the world of British racing, but even those that weren't always had some sort of horsey connection.

I read my first Dick Francis book in 1983. I was fourteen and that book, Banker, changed my life.A horse crazy, book loving kid like me was bound to discover Dick Francis sooner or later, but what made Banker such a revelation was where I found it. It didn't come from the library like most of my books. Instead, I first spotted in among a pile of my father's books.

Prior to that time, it would not have ocurred to me to share books with my dad. I mostly read young adult horse novels and he read... Well, honestly at fourteen I had no idea what kind of books my dad read. I just sort of assumed his books would hold no interest for me.

Dick Francis changed all that. I immediately started raiding his bookshelf on a regular basis. I began with his other Dick Francis books (don't you love the groovy 1970's covers on this pair?) but eventually branched out to other authors as well. I was amazed to learn that my father and I shared very similar tastes when it came to books.
Still, Dick Francis remained a shared favorite. Year after year he provided us with new books to pass back and forth and discuss.
We still do that, although there isn't much actual book exchange these days. Instead we recommend authors to one another over the phone. Nearly thirty years post Banker, our tastes remain similar. I know that if Dad likes an author, I will too and vice versa.
It doesn't matter how many times reviewers compare various up and coming authors to Dick Francis...
He will always be number one in my book!

Thank you, Dick Francis, for the words and the memories. My dad and I will miss you.


  1. I first read a Francis novel when I was 13 I believe and the father of the kids I babysat suggested it (he knew I liked horses). Ever since, he has been one of my favorites. His books flow so smoothly, I would finish them in a couple days simply because I couldn't put them down. Now I need to pull out my "stash" and read in honor of his amazing life.

  2. It was Mom and I Jennifer. I have a few floating around the house still. If I need an "old favorite", I reach for him!

  3. I was very sad to read about Francis's death, as well. Like you, I discovered his books on my parents' shelves, and wonder of wonders, they weren't among the "forbidden" books. I re-read a bunch of his last winter and was thrilled to find I enjoyed them just as much as ever. Seems like we're losing a lot of "greats" these days. :(

  4. Nice write up Jen. It was Mr. BEan who suggested him to Dad.

  5. I have a nice collection of Francis books, too and they are just as good the second time around. I adore them. Sid Halley is my favorite protagonist, along with the guy who fixed up old barns as homes. I was so sad when DF died. However, we're lucky: his son has carried on and the couple that I've read have been really good!

    Have you seen the video of the Grand National where Dick was riding the leading horse (Devon Loch, who belonged to the Queen Mother), they were 30 yards from the finish line, and it suddenly stumbled/did the splits? He never got over that loss and in fact, many people never got over blaming him for it. I think he said that incident is the reason he quit
    jockeying and became a writer. Let me see if I can find the video: