My school library had a massive collection of Dick Francis novels.
This was mostly because the librarian (sadly retired now, but I revere the man now just as I did when he held the reins in a firm grip) was mad for the gee-gees, a keen flutterer and – obviously – rather a fan of Dick’s work.
I’ve yet to rise to the challenge of reading even one of Francis’ books. To my shame, Pan Macmillan sent me a copy of Silks last year (a book co-authored by Francis’ son Felix), and I’ve yet to get around to reading it.
But then again, horses just aren’t my thing. I fell off one once, and the memory still stings.
Francis was nothing if not prolific, with over forty novels to his credit. I’m reliably informed that Francis wrote lithe, acute and accomplished prose – and his death is the more to be regretted given the massive number of authors now writing crime thrillers who can barely scribble their own names without screwing up.
Francis was, whatever your views about his genre, an institution. It is, at times, hard to mourn the passing of writers: after all, they are still there, on your shelves. We can talk to them, and they talk to us at any time we want.
Francis has, to paraphrase Auden, become his admirers.
Vale, Dick. Thanks for the memories I’ll have when I do what I should have done long ago: read one of your books.