A few weeks ago my high-school best friend called me from her home in Alberta, Canada. We chatted for some time when the conversation turned to books. She asked for some authors and books I really like. I go blank when people ask me point blank for anything and I did then as well. So I told her I'd email her a list, which I did and let me tell you it was not all that short! She may regret asking me, but in return I asked for a list of her favorite authors and books. I don't regret asking.
One author she recommended was Dick Francis. I remember reading two or three of his books 20 or 30 years ago and liking them but I lost track of him. I did a little internet research and discovered that 4 of his books feature an ex-jockey turned private detective, Sid Halley. So I mooched those and started the first, Odds Against.
Sid Halley, an injured jockey, becomes a private eye and carries out some work for his father-in-law, who believes a man is trying to financially ruin Seabury racecourse, so that it can be sold to property developers. Sid and his father-in-law have a laughable relationship, though at the same time it is warm and endearing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the characters and the mystery. I'm anxiously looking forward to reading the next book featuring Halley, Whip Hand. And then I'll be reading some of the stand-alones. A big thanks to Diane for this recommendation.
I found this interesting write-up about Dick Francis on alibris.
Dick Francis was one of the most successful post-war National Hunt jockeys. The winner of over 350 races, he was champion jockey in 1953/1954 and rode for HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, most famously on Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National. On his retirement from the saddle, he published his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, before going on to write forty-three bestselling novels, a volume of short stories (Field of 13), and the biography of Lester Piggott.
During his lifetime Dick Francis received many awards, amongst them the prestigious Crime Writers' Association's Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to the genre, and three 'best-novel' Edgar Allen Poe awards from The Mystery Writers of America. In 1996 he was named by them as Grand Master for a lifetime's achievement. In 1998, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List of 2000. Dick Francis died in February, 2010, at the age of 89, but he remains one of the greatest thriller writers of all time.