Yeah, he was a jockey and there is always a horse around somewhere…

[written in 2010]

To the Hilt

I’ve been rereading all the Dick Francis on the shelf in the Homer Public Library. This one is still my favorite, painter Alexander Kinloch, nephew of a Scottish earl, is summoned from his aerie in Scotland by his mother to tend to his step-father, whose prosperous brewery has been ripped off to insolvency by its disappeared comptroller. Wonderful characters, contained but loving mother Vivienne, dithery but honorable step-father Ivan, proud, stubborn, hilarious uncle Himself (the earl), viperous but charming step-sister Patsy and her execrable husband Surtees, and one of the more capable and most amusing sidekicks I’ve ever read, the private investigative team of Young and Utley. Francis’ villains are never that obscure, by their behavior shall ye know them, but the creation of the portrait of Zoe Lang is wonderfully imaginative, descriptive and mesmerizing.

Reflex, Straight, Banker, Proof, Decider also wonderful. Yeah, he was a jockey and there is always a horse around somewhere, but the books are often only peripherally about racing. Part of the greatness of his novels lies in the different worlds he explores in each of them, painting in To The Hilt, photography in Reflex, gemstones in Straight, venture capitalism in Banker, wine in Proof, architecture in Decider. He writes pretty much the same character every time, first person male, young, stubborn, honest, honorable, never a whiner, always calm and cool and on occasion astonishingly forgiving. Maybe it’s always the same narrator, but it’s someone you want to know, and the writing is excellent. Read Proof for the telephone conversation between English Tony and French Henri, worth the price of the book alone.

And coming January 9, 2020, the 22nd Kate Shugak novel.
Click through the image below to pre-order.
low rez No FIxed Line

Book Review Monday Chatter Uncategorized

Dana View All →

Author and founder of

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. good books. I have enjoyed them for a long time and enjoy rereading them. He co-wrote, I think, four books with his son in later years, who then started writing on his on. I have only read one of Felix Francis books so I’m not sure if I will enjoy his writing as much as his father’s.

  2. I have been re-reading Francis as the books show up on Bookbub or another of the ebook sale sites. I read almost all of them (certainly all I could find) in earlier years, many of them as they were published. Even though I dislike the violence that often shows up, and I generally find the endings too abrupt, they are comfort reading of the finest kind. I’m not convinced that son Felix has quite the same touch, but I read them from the library and they are nearly as good, rather like reading Anne Hillerman’s version’s of her father’s stories.

  3. I own at least one copy of all Dick Francis’ books…my favourite varies between Reflex, Danger, Proof and whatever one I am RE-reading…Dana Stabenow, one of the many things I love about your Shugak novels is the references to writers I also enjoy. Recently Travis McGee of John D, Macdonald creation has appeared a few times. Several concepts from that series have been formative in my life including Travis’ view on art, that a painting is good if you see something different each time you look at it, and Meyer’s solution to an ethical dilemma , that the action you find most difficult to contemplate is likely the most ethical.
    Thank you for your writing!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: