Remembering an Icon
The horse racing community has recently taken a little time out, to fondly remember one of their members who passed away on 14 February 2010. Not only was Dick Francis a celebrated crime writer, but before his career as an author began to take shape, Francis enjoyed a successful career as a jockey for nine years. Drawing from his experiences as a jockey, and by regularly attending live horse racing events after his retirement, he was able to keep his readers spellbound through his page turning plots and attention to detail.
Born in 1920, Dick Francis was exposed to the horse racing industry from a very young age, with his father being a jockey and later managing a stable yard. He dreamt of becoming a top jockey, leaving school at the age of 15, but becoming a trainer in 1938. His dedication to horse racing was briefly interrupted during World War II when he served the cause as a pilot. During his time as a jockey, Dick Francis won the Champion Jockey title twice, first in 1953 and again in 1954, and took home 350 victories. In 1956, he was chosen as the Queen Mother’s jockey, to partake in the prestigious Grand National. What happened that day was to change his life. After completing the challenging course at Aintree, a mysterious happening occurred. On the final stretch, his mount, Devon Loch, collapsed a few strides shy of the finish line. There was great concern for the horse, but he eventually stood up and walked away from the incident unharmed. And it was puzzling incidents such as these, which Dick Francis decided to bring to life in the pages of his books.
Dick Francis went on to write forty-two novels after retiring from the horse racing industry. Each book revealed a new twist and story line filled with corruption, intrigue and murder. But it is the way he was able to describe the sights and sounds of the racetrack for which he was praised for. His familiarity with the horse racing world allowed him to set a scene with such detail that readers could live in this fast paced industry. Francis left behind a colorful legacy, and many stories for all to enjoy, his most recent releases being Silks and Dead Heat.