This was originally posted to my livejournal account shortly after I learned of Dick Francis's passing.
It seems like every time I turn on the radio or boot up my computer I am hearing about someone's death, but today is the first time that I have read about the death of someone who strongly influenced my life, someone whom I one day hoped to have the opportunity to meet. Someone whom I would have loved to have sipped tea with while we discussed books and horses.
If I were to list the authors who have had the greatest influence on my life, one of the first names I'd provide is Dick Francis. I first discovered Francis' books about twenty years ago when I started raiding my mom's bookcase. When I read my first Francis novel I was right in the middle of my “when I grow up I'm going to be a jockey” phase. I don't know what fascinated me more, the fact that the setting for Francis' novels was the world of steeplechasing or the fact that Mr. Francis had once been a steeplechase jockey. And he wasn't just some jockey who rode a few races that no one ever heard of, during the height of his career, Dick Francis was the than Queen of England's favorite jockeys. He never won the Grand National, but he had a career that any racer would be proud of.
After he retired from racing, Francis wrote several mystery novels, some of which the BBC made into movies. My personal favorite characters were always Kit Fielding and Sid Halley, and my favorite Dick Francis novels are Whip Hand, Break In, Field of 13, and Bolt. If you've never read a Dick Francis novel you have no idea what you are missing.
The past couple Dick Francis novels have been co-authored with Felix Francis (Dick Francis's son) I've only read one, but enjoyed it enough that I sincerely hope Felix continues to write.
R.I.P. Mr. Francis,