Friday, February 19, 2010

A Tribute to Dick Francis

KAYE: The mystery world mourned when Dick Francis' wife died and it was announced he would no long be writing his wonderful novels. It turned out she was half the team, doing much of the research for his books. But we mourned more deeply this week when the man himself passed away. I've heard there will be a posthumous book, and I'm looking forward to it. KD, what do you think was his appeal?

KD: About the new book, you're right, Kaye. He began working with his son after his wife passed away, and there is another book, CROSSFIRE, coming out this year.

What appeals about the books? First, he is such a good writer. He moves the story along, while still providing visuals, sounds, background, information about horse racing, the jockey club etc. He puts together a great story, and though you know horses will be in it somewhere, you don't know where. Sometimes you are with a banker who finances horses, or a man who took a job transporting them. Every story is new and fresh.

KAYE: Yes, every story is different. And the same. The industries, or occupations, or fields in which the crime happens are different for each one. That's where his incredible research came in. His banking book, BANKER, taught me about the world of finance, his winemaking one, PROOF, all about that.

KD: The second reason I love his stories is I love his heros. They suffer, both physically and mentally, but they have a deep core of nobility. Nobility shown in action, not words. "Right Action" perhaps?

KAYE: Here is where his books are the same, for me. The hero has a different name in every book (except the Sid Halley series), but he's always the same guy. He's an orphan, or has virtually no family, alone in the world. Somewhere in his life there are horses (or soon will
be). He's not romantically attached, but woman are attracted to him. Me too! He's a different guy, but always the same guy. And I like that guy and want to read about him. He's a good guy.

KD: A few quotes from an early book, ENQUIRY. illustrates what I mean.

Hughes been thrown out of horseracing, accused of throwing a race. He must clear his name, but it's not going to be easy.

Hughes gets a letter from home. His father "had pressed so hard with his ballpoint that he had almost dug through the paper....'you're a damned disgrace'....." (Emotional pain, depicted masterfully) Later, Hughes car is hit by a train, and he is left with multiple injuries. (Physical pain). Still, Hughes has the inner and outer strength to confront the murderer: "I took myself, crutch by crutch, toward her." There's personal nobility there. I admire it, and because of the way Francis writes, I even believe in it!

And look at all those action verbs, too!

Kaye, you emailed me that you have all the books. Do you have a favorite?

KAYE: I realize that I'm missing the ones he's written with his son. For some reason I wasn't aware of them. That will soon be rectified! I think the last one I read is always my favorite. I can even reread them and still like them.

KD: You know, Kaye, I have little interest in horse racing, and I love his books.

KAYE: I like to read about racing, having a daughter who is very keen on horses, but I have to think I'd love his books even if I didn't. Is there anyone who doesn't like his books?

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