|Born||31 October 1920|
Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire, Wales
|Died||14 February 2010 89) (aged|
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Caribbean
|Notable awards||Edgar Award 1967, 1969|
|Spouse||Mary Margaret (née Brenchley; m. 1947–2000); her death|
Richard Stanley Francis CBE FRSL (31 October 1920 – 14 February 2010) was a Britishcrime writer, and former steeplechase jockey, whose novels centre on horse racing in England.
After wartime service in the RAF, Francis became a full-time jump-jockey, winning over 350 races and becoming champion jockey of the British National Hunt. He came to further prominence in 1956 as jockey to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, riding her horse Devon Loch which fell when close to winning the Grand National. Francis retired from the turf and became a journalist and novelist.
All his novels deal with crime in the horse-racing world, with some of the criminals being outwardly respectable figures. The stories are narrated by one of the main characters, often a jockey, but sometimes a trainer, an owner, a bookie, or someone in a different profession, peripherally linked to racing. This person is always facing great obstacles, often including physical injury, from which he must fight back with determination. More than forty of these novels became international best-sellers.
Francis was born in Coedcanlas, Pembrokeshire, Wales.Some sources report his birthplace as the inland town of Lawrenny, but at least two of his obituaries stated his birthplace as the coastal town of Tenby. His autobiography says that he was born at his maternal grandparents' farm at Coedcanlas on the estuary of the River Cleddau, roughly a mile north-west of Lawrenny. His mother had likely returned to her parents' home to give birth, as was a custom. He was the son of a jockey and stable manager and his wife. Francis grew up in Berkshire, England. He left school at 15 without any qualifications, intending to become a jockey; by the time he was 18, in 1938, he also was training horses.
In October 1945, he met Mary Margaret Brenchley (17 June 1924 – 30 September 2000)at a cousin's wedding. In most interviews, they commented that it was love at first sight. (Francis has some of his characters fall similarly in love within moments of meeting, as in the novels Flying Finish, Knockdown, and The Edge.) Their families were not entirely happy with their engagement, but Dick and Mary were married in June 1947 in London. She had earned a degree in English and French from London University at the age of 19, was an assistant stage manager, and later worked as a publisher's reader. She also became a pilot, and her experience of flying contributed to many novels, including Flying Finish, Rat Race, and Second Wind. She contracted polio while pregnant with their first child. (Francis drew from this in his novel Forfeit, which he has said was one of his favorites). They had two sons, Merrick and Felix (born 1953).
In the 1980s, Francis and his wife moved to Florida in the United States. In 1992, they moved to the Cayman Islands, where Mary died of a heart attack in 2000. In 2006, Francis had a heart bypass operation; in 2007 his right leg was amputated.He died of natural causes on 14 February 2010 at his Caribbean home in Grand Cayman, survived by both sons.
During the Second World War, Francis volunteered, hoping to join the cavalry. Instead, he served in the Royal Air Force, working as ground crew and later piloting fighter and bomber aircraft, including the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters,and the Wellington and Lancaster bombers. Much of his six-year service career was spent in Africa.
After leaving the RAF in 1946, Francis became a highly successful jockey, reaching celebrity status in the world of British National Hunt racing.He won over 350 races, becoming champion jockey in the 1953–54 season.
Shortly after becoming a professional, he was offered the prestige job of first jockey to Vivian Smith, Lord Bicester.
From 1953 to 1957 Francis was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.His best remembered moment as a jockey came while riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, in the 1956 Grand National, when the horse inexplicably fell when close to winning the race. Decades later, Francis considered losing that race his greatest regret and called it "a disaster of massive proportions".
Francis suffered a number of racing injuries. He was first hospitalized from riding at the age of 12 when a pony fell on him and broke his jaw and nose.He drew from this career resulting in broken bones and damaged organs for his novels, in which many narrators suffer a variety of damaged bodies. In 1957, after Francis suffered another serious fall, the Queen Mother's adviser, Lord Abergavenny, advised him that she wanted him to retire from racing for her.
In 1983, the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse in England "stood at the brink of extinction," according to The Philadelphia Inquirer . News reporter Don Clippinger wrote,
"Britain's Jockey Club negotiated a $14 million deal to buy the land and save the race forever. The only problem was that the Jockey Club did not have $14 million, so two prominent racing personalities—Lord Derby and novelist Dick Francis—were selected to raise the money in a worldwide campaign".Other philanthropists, including Charles C. Fenwick Jr., who rode Ben Nevis to victory in the 1980 Grand National, and Paul Mellon, an American breeder and racing enthusiast, also contributed to save the race.
Francis wrote more than 40 international best-sellers. His first book was his autobiography The Sport of Queens (1957), for which he was offered the aid of a ghostwriter, which he spurned.The book's success led to his becoming the racing correspondent for London's Sunday Express newspaper, and he continued in that job for 16 years.
He set his first thriller, Dead Cert , published in 1962, in the world of horse racing, establishing a specialized niche for his work. Subsequently he regularly produced a novel a year for the next 38 years, missing only 1998 (during which he published a short-story collection). Although all his books were set against a similar background, his male protagonists held a variety of jobs, including artist ( In the Frame and To the Hilt ), investigator for the Jockey Club (Slay-Ride and The Edge), pilot (Rat Race and Flying Finish), and wine merchant (Proof). All the novels are narrated by the hero, who in the course of the story learns that he is more resourceful, brave, tricky, than he had thought, and usually finds a certain salvation for himself as well as bestowing it on others. Details of other people's occupations fascinated Francis, and he explores the workings of such fields as photography, accountancy, the gemstone trade, and restaurant service on transcontinental trains—but always in the interests of the plot. Dysfunctional families were a subject which he also exploited (Reflex, a baleful grandmother; Hot Money, a multi-millionaire father and serial ex-husband; Decider , the related co-owners of a racecourse).
Francis rarely re-used his lead characters. Only two heroes were used more than once; injured ex-jockey turned one-armed private investigator Sid Halley (Odds Against, Whip Hand , Come to Grief, Under Orders , also in Refusal by Felix Francis after his father's death) and Kit Fielding (Break In and Bolt).
According to a columnist for the Houston Chronicle , Francis "writes believable fairy tales for adults—ones in which the actors are better than we are but are believable enough to make us wonder if indeed we could not one day manage to emulate them."
Francis described a typical year of research and writing to an interviewer in 1989:
In January, he sits down to write, staring down the barrel of a deadline. "My publisher comes over in mid-May to collect the manuscript," he says, "and it's got to be done."
The book's publication takes place in England in September. American publication in past years has been in February, although his next book, Straight, is set to be published in November. Once the manuscript is out of his hands, he takes the summer off, while percolating the plot of his next book. Research on the next book begins in late summer and continues through the autumn, while he's gearing up for his promotional tour for the just-published book. Come January, he sits down to write again.
He doesn't like book tours. He is not one for revelations, major life changes, and intimacies with strange interviewers, and he says he gets tired of answering the same questions again and again.
He shuns the lecture circuit. He'd prefer to let his novels and his sales volume speak for themselves... And though he doesn't love the act of writing a 2287038nd [sic] [and] could easily retire, he finds himself planning his new book as each summer ends.
He says, "Each one, you think to yourself, 'This is the last one,' but then, by September, you're starting again. If you've got money, and you're just having fun, people think you're a useless character."
Or, as independently wealthy Tor Kelsey says in The Edge, explaining why he works for a minuscule salary: "I work... because I like it, I'm not all that bad at what I do, really, and it's useful, and I'm not terribly good at twiddling my thumbs."
Francis collaborated extensively in his fiction with his wife, Mary, until her death. Learning this was a surprise to some readers and reviewers.He credited her with being a great researcher for the novels. In 1981, Don Clippinger interviewed the Francises for The Philadelphia Inquirer and wrote,
"When Dick Francis sits down each January to begin writing another of his popular mystery-adventure novels, it is almost a certain bet that his wife, Mary, has developed a new avocation... For instance, in Rat Race, [the protagonist] operated an air-taxi service that specialized in carrying jockeys, trainers and owners to distant race courses. Before that book came out in 1970, Mrs. Francis obtained a pilot's license and was operating an air-taxi service of her own. Francis' newest novel, Reflex, is built around photography, and sure enough, Mary Francis has become accomplished behind the camera and in the darkroom... And, in their condominium, they have set up the subject of his 20th novel [Twice Shy] – a computer. While he is touring the country, she is working on new computer programs."
According to journalist Mary Amoroso, "Mary does much of the research: She went so far as to learn to fly a plane for Flying Finish. She also edits his manuscripts, and serves as sounding board for plot line and character development. Says Francis, 'At least the research keeps her from going out shopping.'"Francis told interviewers Jean Swanson and Dean James,
Mary and I worked as a team. ... I have often said that I would have been happy to have both our names on the cover. Mary's family always called me Richard due to having another Dick in the family. I am Richard, Mary was Mary, and Dick Francis was the two of us together.
Francis's manager (and co-author of his later books) was his son Felix, who left his post as teacher of A-Level Physics at Bloxham School in Oxfordshire in order to work for his father. Felix was the inspiration behind a leading character, a marksman and physics teacher, in the novel Twice Shy. The older son, Merrick, was a racehorse trainer and later ran his own horse transport business, which inspired the novel Driving Force.
Father and son collaborated on four novels. After his father's death, Felix carried on to publish novels with his father's name in the title (Dick Francis's Gamble (2011), Dick Francis's Bloodline (2012), Dick Francis's Refusal (2013), Dick Francis's Damage (2014), Front Runner: A Dick Francis Novel (2015)), including a return for Sid Halley.
Francis is the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Novel, winning for Forfeit in 1970, Whip Hand in 1981, and Come To Grief in 1996. Britain's Crime Writers Association awarded him its Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. He was granted another Lifetime Achievement Award. Tufts University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1991.
In 1996 he was given the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, the highest honour bestowed by the MWA. In 2000, he was granted the Malice Domestic Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1983 and promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000.
Amoroso wrote in 1989, "And yet he has a keen sense of the evanescence of literary endeavors. 'Whole months of work can be gone in four hours,' he says ruefully. 'People say they can't put my books down, and so they read them in one sitting of four hours.' Francis has been long accustomed to celebrity as a British sports star, but today he is a worldwide phenomenon, having been published in 22 languages. In Australia, he is recognized in restaurants, from his book-jacket picture. He and Mary will see people reading the novels on planes and trains."
Francis was elected in 1999 a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
His first novel, Dead Cert, was adapted as a film under the same title in 1974. Directed by Tony Richardson, it starred Scott Antony, Judi Dench and Michael Williams.It was adapted again as Favorit (a Soviet made-for-television movie) in 1976.
Francis's protagonist Sid Halley was featured in six TV movies made for the program The Dick Francis Thriller: The Racing Game (1979–1980), starring Mike Gwilym as Halley and Mick Ford as his partner, Chico Barnes. The first of the episodes, Odds Against, used a Francis title; the others were created for the program.
Three TV films of 1989 were adaptations of Bloodsport, In the Frame, and Twice Shy, all starring Ian McShane as protagonist David Cleveland, a character used only once by Francis, in the novel Slay-Ride.
High Stakes was adapted into a text adventure game by Mindscape for MS-DOS and Apple II.
|Title||Year||ISBN of first edition||Narrator/Main character||Notes|
|The Sport of Queens||1957||autobiography|
|Dead Cert||1962||Alan York, amateur jockey||Basis of the movie Dead Cert (1974)|
|Nerve||1964||Rob Finn, jockey||Basis of the audio drama Breaking Point, starring Michael Kitchen|
|For Kicks||1965||Daniel Roke, Australian horse breeder temporarily turned UK investigator|
|Odds Against||1965||ISBN 0-330-10597-3||Sid Halley, private investigator|| Edgar Award nominee |
First Sid Halley novel
|Flying Finish||1966||Henry Grey, groom/heir to earldom, pilot||Edgar Award nominee|
|Blood Sport||1967||Gene Hawkins, government security agent||Edgar Award nominee|
|Forfeit||1968||ISBN 0-425-20191-0||James Tyrone, reporter||Edgar Award winner|
|Enquiry||1969||Kelly Hughes, jockey|
|Rat Race||1970||Matt Shore, former airline pilot now flying charter|
|Bonecrack||1971||ISBN 0-718-10898-1||Neil Griffon, formerly antique dealer, then business consultant, acting as temporary trainer whilst his father is hospitalised|
|Smokescreen||1972||ISBN 0-718-1103-90||Edward Lincoln, movie actor who does his own stunts|
|Slay Ride||1973||ISBN 0-718-11150-8||David Cleveland, Jockey Club chief investigator|
|Knockdown||1974||ISBN 0-718-11297-0||Jonah Dereham, bloodstock agent|
|High Stakes||1975||ISBN 0-718-11393-4||Steven Scott, toy inventor|
|In the Frame||1976||ISBN 0-718-11527-9||Charles Todd, painter|
|Risk||1977||ISBN 0-718-11636-4||Roland Britten, accountant|
|Trial Run||1978||Randall Drew, gentleman and ex-jockey|
|Whip Hand||1979||ISBN 0-718-11845-6||Sid Halley, private investigator||Edgar Award winner, Gold Dagger winner|
|Reflex||1980||ISBN 978-0-7181-1950-8||Philip Nore, jockey and photographer|
|Twice Shy||1981||ISBN 0-718-12056-6||Jonathan Derry, teacher, second part narrated by younger brother William Derry, jockey & later racing manager||Adapted into a ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC computer game, published by Mosaic Publishing|
|Banker||1982||ISBN 0-718-12173-2||Tim Ekaterin, merchant banker|
|The Danger||1983||Andrew Douglas, anti-kidnapping consultant|
|Proof||1984||ISBN 0-718-12481-2||Tony Beach, wine merchant||Japan Adventure Fiction Association Prize winner|
|Break In||1985||ISBN 0-718-12597-5||Kit Fielding, jockey|
|Bolt||1986||ISBN 0-718-12756-0||Kit Fielding, jockey|
|A Jockey's Life||1986||ISBN 0-399-13179-5 / 978-0-399-13179-0 (USA edition)||Biography of Lester Piggott, later reissued as Lester|
|Hot Money||1987||ISBN 0-718-12851-6||Ian Pembroke, former asst trainer, amateur jockey|
|The Edge||1988||ISBN 0-718-13179-7||Tor Kelsey, investigator for the Jockey Club|
|Straight||1989||ISBN 0-718-13180-0||Derek Franklin, jockey & later jewelry firm owner|
|Longshot||1990||ISBN 0-718-13447-8||John Kendall, writer and survival skills expert|
|Comeback||1991||Peter Darwin, diplomat|
|Driving Force||1992||ISBN 0-718-13482-6||Freddie Croft, horse transport company owner|
|Decider||1993||ISBN 0-718-13602-0||Lee Morris, architect|
|Wild Horses||1994||ISBN 0-718-13603-9||Thomas Lyon, film director|
|Come to Grief||1995||ISBN 0-7181-3753-1||Sid Halley, private investigator||Edgar Award winner, Japan Adventure Fiction Association Prize winner|
|To the Hilt||1996||ISBN 0-718-142136||Alexander Kinloch, painter|
|10 LB. Penalty||1997||ISBN 0-718-14245-4||Ben Juliard, jockey/politician's son|
|Field of 13||1998||ISBN 0-718-14351-5||short stories: |
|Second Wind||1999||ISBN 0-718-14408-2||Perry Stuart, meteorologist|
|Shattered||2000||ISBN 0-718-14453-8||Gerard Logan, glass blower|
|Under Orders||2006||ISBN 978-0-330-44833-8||Sid Halley, private investigator||Japan Adventure Fiction Association Prize winner|
|Dead Heat||2007||ISBN 978-0-399-15476-8||Max Moreton, chef||with Felix Francis|
|Silks||2008||ISBN 978-0-7181-5457-8||Geoffrey Mason, barrister||with Felix Francis|
|Even Money||2009||ISBN 978-0-399-15591-8||Ned Talbot, bookmaker||with Felix Francis|
|Crossfire||2010||US ISBN 978-0-399-15681-6 |
UK ISBN 978-0-7181-5663-3
|Captain Tom Forsyth, military officer||with Felix Francis|
|Dick Francis's Gamble||2011||ISBN 978-1-4104-3870-6||Nicholas "Foxy" Foxton, financial adviser||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis|
|Dick Francis's Bloodline||2012||ISBN 978-1-4104-5223-8||Mark Shillington, racing commentator||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis|
|Dick Francis's Refusal||2013||ISBN 978-0-3991-6081-3||Sid Halley, former private investigator||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis|
|Dick Francis's Damage||2014||ISBN 978-0-3991-6822-2||Jeff Hinkley, BHA investigator||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis|
|Front Runner: A Dick Francis Novel||2015||ISBN 978-1-4059-1522-9||Jeff Hinkley, BHA investigator||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis|
|Triple Crown: A Dick Francis Novel||2016||ISBN 978-0-3995-7470-2||Jeff Hinkley, BHA investigator||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis|
|Pulse: A Dick Francis Novel||2017||ISBN 978-0-3995-7474-0||Chris Rankin, Doctor||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis; Dr Rankin is the first female protagonist/narrator in any of the books|
|Crisis: A Dick Francis Novel||2018||ISBN 978-0-5255-3676-5||Harrison Foster, Crisis Manager||written after Dick Francis's death by Felix Francis|
Horse racing is the second largest spectator sport in Great Britain, and one of the longest established, with a history dating back many centuries. It generates over £3.7 billion for the British economy, and the major horse racing events such as Royal Ascot and Cheltenham Festival are important dates in the British and international sporting and society calendar.
Kieren Francis Fallon is a retired Irish professional flat racing jockey and was British Champion Jockey six times.
Lambourn is a large village and civil parish in West Berkshire. It lies just north of the M4 Motorway between Swindon and Newbury, and borders Wiltshire to the west and Oxfordshire to the north. After Newmarket it is the largest centre of racehorse training in England, and is home to a rehabilitation centre for injured jockeys, an equine hospital, and several leading jockeys and trainers. To the north of the village are the prehistoric Seven Barrows and the nearby Long Barrow, and in 2004 the Crow Down Hoard was found close to the village.
Clare Victoria Balding is a broadcaster, journalist and author. She currently presents for BBC Sport, Channel 4, BT Sport and formerly presented the religious programme Good Morning Sunday on BBC Radio 2.
Devon Loch was a racehorse, which fell on the final straight while leading the 1956 Grand National.
Lee Goldberg is an American author, screenwriter, publisher and producer known for his work on several different TV crime series, including Diagnosis: Murder, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Hunter, Spenser: For Hire, Martial Law, She-Wolf of London, SeaQuest, 1-800-Missing, The Glades and Monk.
Sid Halley is a fictional character in four Dick Francis novels, Odds Against, Whip Hand, Come to Grief, Under Orders and one follow-up book by Felix Francis, Refusal. He is a former British jump racing Champion Jockey and private detective. He is the only central character to appear in more than two Francis novels, and one of only two to appear more than once.
The Aintree Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race in Great Britain which is open to horses aged four years or older. It is run at Aintree over a distance of about 2 miles and 4 furlongs, and during its running there are eleven hurdles to be jumped. The race is scheduled to take place each year in early April.
Dead Cert is Dick Francis' first novel, published in 1962. Featured in the 2007 book 100 Must-Read Crime Novels. It was filmed by Tony Richardson in 1974.
Whip Hand is a crime novel by Dick Francis, the second novel in the Sid Halley series. The novel received the Gold Dagger Award for Best Novel of 1979, as well as the Edgar Award for Best Novel of 1980. Whip Hand is one of only two novels to have received both awards.
Felix Francis is a British crime writer. He is Dick Francis’ younger son.
The Calendar is a black and white 1948 British drama film directed by Arthur Crabtree and starring Greta Gynt, John McCallum, Raymond Lovell and Leslie Dwyer. It is based on the 1929 play The Calendar and subsequent novel by Edgar Wallace that had previously been adapted in 1931.
Frankel is a retired champion British Thoroughbred racehorse. Frankel was unbeaten in his fourteen-race career and was the highest-rated racehorse in the world from May 2011. In 2010 he defeated a field including subsequent Group 1 winners Nathaniel and Colour Vision on his debut before winning the Royal Lodge Stakes by ten lengths and the Dewhurst Stakes in which he defeated the Middle Park Stakes winner Dream Ahead. As a three-year-old, he won the Classic 2000 Guineas by six lengths, the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, defeated the outstanding older miler Canford Cliffs in the much-anticipated Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Frankel extended his unbeaten record in 2012 by winning the Lockinge Stakes, the Queen Anne Stakes and then the Sussex Stakes for a second time. In August he was moved up to a mile and a quarter for the first time and won the International Stakes at York. In October he won the Champion Stakes at Ascot, again over a mile and a quarter, following which his retirement from racing was announced.
Roger Erskine Longrigg was a prolific British novelist. As well as publishing some books under his own name, he principally wrote popular novels in a wide range of different styles, using different pseudonyms for each. He wrote the lightly erotic school story, The Passion Flower Hotel, as Rosalind Erskine; Scottish historical novels as Laura Black; spy thrillers as Ivor Drummond; mystery thrillers as Frank Parrish; and black comedies about dysfunctional families as Domini Taylor. His other pseudonyms included Megan Barker and Grania Beckford. He had 55 books published in total.
The 1956 Grand National was the 110th renewal of the world-famous Grand National horse race that took place at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England, on 24 March 1956.
Arctic Prince (1948–1969) was an Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse and sire who was trained in England during a brief racing career which lasted from 1950 to 1951 and consisted of only five races. Arctic Prince won two races including the 1951 Epsom Derby and was retired after breaking down at Ascot in July of the same year.
Paul Hanagan is a leading British flat horse racing jockey. Hanagan has twice been crowned champion jockey on the flat in Britain, riding 165 winners in 2011 to defend his title, having won his first title with 191 winners in 2010.
Hethersett (1959–1966) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and sire best known for falling when favourite for The Derby and then winning the classic St Leger Stakes in 1962. After showing promise as a two-year-old he was the highest-rated British three-year-old of 1962 when he also won the Brighton Derby Trial and the Great Voltigeur Stakes. After his success in the Leger, when he gave his trainer Dick Hern his first classic win, Hethersett never won again and was retired in 1963. He had a brief but successful stud career before his death at the age of seven.
A Taste for Honey is a 1941 mystery novel by H. F. Heard.
Mary Margaret Francis was a British small-business entrepreneur who operated a dress shop and an air taxi service. She has been credited with an extensive role helping her husband, crime writer Dick Francis, write his novels.
We loved the farm. It was our mother's home, and I was born there.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Dick Francis|