If I had it in my power, I would order the flags flown at half-staff. Dick Francis is dead.
In case any of my readers do not know who Francis was, he was a retired jockey in England who wrote mysteries set in the horse racing world. He was definitely one of my favorite writers. I find the racing scene a fascinating background, and his characters come to life. I get really involved in their perils and triumphs, as if I know them.
I particularly admire his handling of minor characters. No matter how small a role a character plays in the plot, Francis draws a vivid portrait, even if it sometimes seems to be a caricature. In that respect he reminds me a bit of Charles Dickens. Remember Mr. Micawber? Some of Francis’ minor characters are equally vital and amusing.
Perhaps my favorite among his novels is “Longshot.” The hero in this one is not a jockey or trainer, but a down-on-his-luck writer, who is hired by a wealthy trainer to write his biography. Of course, the biographical subject takes the hero into Francis’ familiar horse racing milieu. Other novels include “Come to Grief,” “Decider,” “Hot Money,” “Bolt,” “Twice Shy,” “In the Frame,” and a couple dozen others.
Fortunately there are enough of them I haven’t read to keep me occupied for a while. To say nothing of the fact that I can enjoy reading them again and again. I may be the only person on the planet who likes to re-read murder mysteries. Yes, I already know “whodunit,” but that is not the greatest charm for me. I like to come back to the characters, as I like visiting old friends.
Recently I came across a book on which Francis had collaborated with his son. Dare I hope the younger Francis has enough of his father’s talent to write some more books I’ll love reading?
C.S. Lewis once said he hoped when he got to heaven he would find that Spenser had been up there for the last 500 years writing more poetry for him to read. Lewis had a little higher-class literary taste than I do. Somehow I’m afraid there will not be much demand for murder mysteries in heaven. Nevertheless, I hope Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and Dick Francis are up there cranking them out.
Changing the subject, people who care about me, especially those who have been hauling me to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store for the past six or eight months, will be glad to know that I am getting my driver’s license back. One friend told me to let her know when I have it, so she can watch out for me. That might be another angle.
I want to express my appreciation for all the people who helped me through this by providing transportation and offering encouragement. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful friends and neighbors — one of the perks of small-town living.