Saturday, July 9, 2016

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis (Part 1/3): Straight

Another one of my favorite authors on three of a kind - Dick Francis. I came to know him via the Reader's Digest Condensed books. As you may have seen on in my previous posts, this is how I met most of my favorite authors. 

Let's meet Dick Francis...

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis
Francis is a former British professional horse jockey. He is not just any jockey, he is Britain's champion steeplechase jockey. A steeplechase is a race for thoroughbred horses over fences. And true to his old profession, his novels are about or involve horse racing, horses and jockeys. Since 1957, Francis started writing and he has over 40 published crime novels. He collaborated with his son Felix on four of his novels. Even after his death in 2010, Felix still published the books with his father's name on them. Francis novels used different male heroes in his stories though he had two protagonists that appeared more than once in few of his novels - Sid Halley, an injured ex-jockey and the other is Kit Fielding.  Though his novels are centered on the subject of horses, they also opened doors to other fascinating professions such as a chef, private investigator, painter or artist, wine merchant, pilot and many others. People seem to enjoy his books because they learn about a trade they know little or nothing about. 

Most of the research for his novels are a family affair. His wife, Mary, is the main researcher and their children help too. Their eldest son, Merrick, is a horse trainer in Lambourn, England and their younger son, Felix, is the head of the Physics Department in an English school and is also a  skilled marksman. His research for his works takes him to places around the globe. Most of his novels are featured on Reader's Digest Condensed Editions.

Francis is the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Novel for Forfeit in 1970, Whip hand in 1981 and Come to Grief in 1996. He also received various awards from various British writers association. 

Three of A Kind - Dick Francis (Part 1/3): Straight
The first Dick Francis book feature is Straight. This novel is about gemstones and precious stones trading. The hero is Derek Saxony Franklin, a steeplechase jockey who got injured in one of his races. Derek was shuffling on a broken ankle when he received a call that his older brother Greville died. Greville was not married and Derek was listed as his next of kin. Derek has to take over Greville's affairs and that includes handling his precious stones trading business until Greville's estate is put to order. What would an injured jockey know about precious stones? Derek is as sharp and as smart as his dead brother. But will he be able to keep Saxony Franklin afloat or lead it to bankruptcy? Not to mention, someone is trying to kill him for reasons still unknown to Derek.

Straight is the first Dick Francis novel that I read and I was hooked. It was through this that I learned that Cubic Zirconia could pass as Diamonds for those untrained eyes. A tip for all the ladies, a karat of diamond equals  1.7k of CZ. I think this should come handy if you are looking to buy diamonds so don't be fooled. This book also introduced me to horse racing. All its hazards and malice, the money and the greed.

Well, this won't be a crime novel without vicious attempts on the life of our hero. Aside from that, there are other sinister things on the work also. This is a truly wonderful journey. I have become a believer of Francis right after reading this novel. This is an amazing exercise of the senses and you will definitely enjoy it. You will keep wanting for more, as I do.

Truly, Dick Francis is a master storyteller and I am glad I knew him through his very entertaining works. Every time I go to a bookstore, it never fails, Dick Francis' works are one of the first things I look for.

If you want to know what Straight means in this novel, better read it. I don't want to spoil it for you. It would be a very interesting ride. Believe me. I have been there twice over.

If you love horses, you will definitely love Dick Francis' novels. And even if you don't, you will still want to read more. His works are addictive. Consider yourself warned!

2/3 To the Hilt
3/3 Hot Money

Information sources: Wikipedia and the About the Author page at the end of the story.