In the original dustsheet. Brown cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.
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This is a brilliant collection of thirteen short stories, written by the Master of Crime. Although some of the stories have been published before, all but one of them have had a very limited circulation and the vast majority of Dick Francis fans will be reading them for the first time. Ranging from the National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham to Churchill Downs in America, each of the stories contains an array of five-star Dick Francis characters, a brilliant plot to marvel over and an ingenious sting in the tail to gasp over.
Review: This first collection of short stories by Dick Francis (author of 10 Lb. Penalty and more than 30 other horse racing mysteries) pulls together five new tales with eight that have appeared in various periodicals over the last three decades. One of the pleasures of his stories is witnessing the breadth and variety within Francis’s racetrack milieu. In “Dead on Red”, a jealous jockey named Davey Rockman hires Emil Jacques, a French assassin and gun collector, to kill the famed rider who stole his job; but Rockman is haunted by his deed, in much the same way as the protagonist in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”. “Raid at Kingdom Hill” tells of Tricksy Wilcox’s scheme for a not-so-bright bomb scare, a plan that still might yield the payoff of a lifetime. “Collision Course” is free of murder but frames a delightful conflict between an out-of-work newspaperman and a bounder whose faux manners threaten to bring him down at the peak of his racing syndicate career. The Kentucky Derby story, “The Gift”, follows Fred Collyer, a drunken writer who overhears plans for a major racing swindle and struggles against alcohol to publish the story by his deadline. And the collection ends with a what-if story called “Haig’s Death” that examines the consequences of the sudden passing of Christopher Haig, an animal feed consultant and race-meeting judge.
Poe, who most historians of literature credit as the creator of the short story, declared that a good short story should have nothing extraneous. Francis’s stories, for the most part, obey Poe’s dictum. Each character and description fits tightly into an unfolding plan so that the mystery or twist is revealed with a satisfying economy of words. While Field of 13 will appeal to Francis loyalists, newcomers, too, will find much to relish in the short fiction of this mystery grandmaster. –Patrick O’Kelley
Richard Stanley Francis CBE FRSL (31 October 1920 – 14 February 2010) was a British steeplechase jockey and crime writer whose novels centre on horse racing in England.
After wartime service in the RAF, Francis became a full-time jump-jockey, winning over 350 races and becoming champion jockey of the British National Hunt. He came to further prominence in 1956 as jockey to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, riding her horse Devon Loch which fell when close to winning the Grand National. Francis retired from the turf and became a journalist and novelist.
Many of his novels deal with crime in the horse-racing world, with some of the criminals being outwardly respectable figures. The stories are narrated by the main character, often a jockey, but sometimes a trainer, an owner, a bookie, or someone in a different profession, peripherally linked to racing. This person always faces great obstacles, often including physical injury. More than forty of these novels became international best-sellers.
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