Mystery Novelist Dick Francis

British mystery novelist Dick Francis produced a steady stream of very good and well-received books over the years, and we will miss him. The BBC obituary summarizes his life here.

Francis, a former steeplechase jockey, based his mysteries in and around the horse-racing world, but one needn’t have any interest in horse racing to enjoy his novels. In fact, they make the subject interesting in themselves.

Francis was good at creating fairly absorbing puzzles and suspenseful plots. He was a remarkably consistent writer, winning Edgar Awards in three different decades. His protagonists tended to be diligent, honest, and decent.

The most enjoyable mysteries tend to have some sort of interesting background to them, often delving deeply into a particular environment, occupation, or geographic location. Francis’s books certainly did that. His story lines were basically formulaic, but Francis was a born storyteller, and he consistently incorporated interesting settings, occupations, and characters into his books. The values his stories conveyed were decent and laudable.

I recommend Reflex (1980), which includes a good deal of interesting background about photography. Also recommended are his Edgar Award winners: Odds Against (1965), Forfeit (1968), Whip Hand (1979), and Come to Grief (1995).