Marilyn Stasio has a particularly appealing column tomorrow. Her lead paragraph is especially interesting:
"There are no daredevil steeplechase races in DEAD HEAT (Putnam, $25.95), no close-ups of quivering horseflesh, no heroic jockey to vanquish those villains who would corrupt the sport of kings. Rather, this new novel by Dick Francis, written with his son Felix, focuses on the restaurant business, even to the point of tossing in some cooking tips."
Dick Francis? Restaurants?
Stasio likes the book and I suspect I will, too.
I've been reading Francis for more than thirty years and I can honestly say that few of his novels have disappointed me. True, I think the early-to-middle ones were the best but he's one of those storytellers who can work his way through a book the way a good professional fighter can work through a bout. It may not be his best night but ultimately he wins.
Or should I say "they" instead of "he?" Francis always admitted that his now-deceased wife worked with him on his novels. But as his career wore on there were rumors that it was the other way around, that it was he who "helped" his wife, who was, according to the rumor, the real writer in the family.
I suspect this piece of conjecture won't be solved until after Francis' passing.
In this age when one must transcend, Francis remains what he's always been, a sleek, witty, wily storyteller. My favorite of his books is In The Frame. I reread it once a year just to remind myself how to keep a story on track while creating an interesting milieu. The mystery elements are really mysterious, the people, if a bit booky, are compelling and, at least in his early years, the violence is spare but explosive. For all his British reserve, he reminds you every once in a while that murder is indeed a nasty business.
He/she/they are masters of the game.
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I still vividly remember pulling a copy of Odds Against off a spinner rack at a convenience store in 1967 or so and turning to the opening paragraph. After I read it, I couldn't wait to pay for the book and get back home to read it. I haven't missed one of Francis's books since.
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