Early on in the course of each novel, the protagonist discovers some glaring injustice and determines to investigate. As the book opens, York is riding in a race alongside his best friend, Bill Davidson, who is riding a horse called Admiral. After the race, York goes back to the jump where Davidson fell and discovers that someone had stretched a wire across the top of the jump, causing the horse to fall and Davidson to be fatally injured. By the time York can get someone in authority to examine the scene, the wire has been removed and there is no evidence that the horse was deliberately tripped.
His romances are very old-fashioned at times, but they are sweet, and with none of the extensive sex scenes that most books these days insist on having. I expect there were not many men like Dick Francis around, either here or in England. But the basic plot was great and I quite enjoyed this book as well as the others I've read.
I read and enjoyed Forfeit last month and having picked up a few of his books recently decided to try his first published novel from 1962 next. Alan is trailing his best friend Bill Davidson during a steeplechase race, when disaster strikes the leading horse and jockey. After the inquest where Yorks insistence of foul-play is dismissed and an accidental verdict returned, Alan decides to investigate who is responsible for his friends death. As the plot quickly unfolds, Alan is threatened and warned off by the gang responsible for the race-fixing, which is in addition to a protection racket they have been operating in Brighton.
Dick Francis may not be trying to earn literary awards, or communicate any life-changing truths with his writing, but he does know how to tell a great mystery story. One thing that Francis got better at over time was romance -- this one was really cheesy.
This book was a turning point in my life, although I didn't know it at the time. The following weeks just seemed to slip out of my life as I spent them reading all the Dick Francis I could get hold of. The fascination even led me to haunt the doors of my local betting shop, still five years short of legal age. There is so much to tell of what Dead Cert led me to, and it's probably best laid out by pasting here a blog article I wrote a couple of years ago. Aintree MD Charles Barnett, perfect diction unruffled as ever said, Joe, Red Rum died this morning. I didnt stop to reflect on my life or the part Red Rum had played in it, or the path that had led me from a pit village in Lanarkshire to the best racecourse in the world. I rejoiced and headed out into the world without a qualification to my name but armed with a twenty-two carat romantic view of life gained from all the books Id read, huddled in the corner of warm libraries when I should have been at school. Still, third-rate thoroughbreds were racehorses, creatures of unlimited potential and Id be there in many frozen dawns to groom and muck out and sometimes ride and watch the stable jockey, three years my senior and better known in the village as the son of the owner of the fish and chip shop. The Guvnor (oh, how I loved calling him that) used to weigh me once a week and Id starve in the previous twenty four hours hoping that next day hed tell me Id make it as a jockey. By the time of Red Rums first National I was nineteen and managing a busy betting shop in Hamilton and cursing Red Rum not just for catching the magnificent Crisp in the dying strides of that wonderful race, but for being the best bet for many at 9/1 joint-fav with the runner-up. Twenty two years later, breakfast abandoned, I sat in Winterborne Cottage drafting the press release to fax to my great friend Nigel Payne who had recruited me to SiS and had been instrumental in me getting the job at Aintree. Walking toward the winning post on that fine dry morning, I passed the place where Id stood with Red Rum on the day of his 30th birthday, five months before. Anyway, preparing for that May meeting, I noticed in Red Rums Timeform essay that hed been born on May 3rd 1965. I suggested to Charles Barnett that we call our meeting Red Rums 30th Birthday Meeting. I rang Ginger to see if the horse would be well enough to attend and, cheery and helpful as ever, he said. We were getting calls from the international media and I got kind of carried away and told Charles I was going to create a special racecard and order 10,000 of them. But just as we came around the end of the Queen Mother stand, about thirty yards beyond the winning post, Rummy raised his head quickly and pricked his ears. Charles raised a thumb to the JCB driver and the shovel was lowered to slip slowly below the spine of the finest Grand National horse that had ever galloped those acres since the first National in 1839. A couple of weeks ago, on a beautiful morning, another player in that 1973 National sat with me on Fred Winters memorial bench outside his old yard Uplands, the place Id dreamed of as a teenager. Richard Pitman and I published our first novel 20 years after Rummys first win and Richards heart-rending defeat on Crisp. I have not sat on a racehorse these past 40 years but it has turned out a great ride through life for me - no skill required from the pilot, carried safely round the course by Lady Luck.
As I think about all of his books (yes, this review covers all of his books, and yes I've read them all) I think about a moral ethical hero, steeped in intelligence and goodness embroiled in evil machinations within British horse racing society - either directly or indirectly. Some of it staggering and often delivered by what we would think of normal persons living in British society. You will read the books, devouring one after the other and trust me Dick Francis has a lot of novels (over 40 by my last count).
Dick Francis worked on his books with his wife, Mary, before her death.