RIP Dick Francis Sunday, Feb 28 2010 

For those of you who enjoy a good mystery, sometimes set in exotic locales such as South Africa, Russia or Norway, and all connected somehow to the world of jockeys and horse, I have sad news for you. The leader of this genre, author Dick Francis, died a few days ago at age 89, after entertaining his way through more than 40 novels.

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Raised in southwest Wales, Francis learned to ride when he was 5 and won his first race at 8. He dropped out of school and began racing for a living at age 15. After a stint in the Royal Air Force, he married his beloved Mary, a university-educated literate schoolmistress, arriving at their wedding with his arm in a sling after a fall from a horse. Little did he know then that everything that happened to him would be fertile ground for his novels in the future.

After turning pro,  Francis was Queen Elizabeth’s number 1 jockey for four seasons in the 1950’s, until he broke so many bones he was advised to give up racing. Out of work, he wrote his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, and for the next 16 years made his living as Britain’s Sunday Express racing correspondent. It was Mary who encouraged him to try his hand at a novel. He drew on his jockey experience and wrote Dead Cert.

https://i2.wp.com/img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n11/n57417.jpgIt was so well received, he wrote a book a year after that.  Horses feature in all of the novels, as well as injured jockeys, lonely or divorced men whose valiant efforts to pursue villains, especially those involved with the racing world, kept the books fast-paced. When they not set at one of the UK’s champion racetracks, Francis takes his protagonist to one of those exotic locales.

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I came to Dick Francis novels later in my reading life, thinking a mystery about jockeys would not interest me. I was so wrong. Once I’d discovered him, I read all of Francis’ back list and then each new one as it was published. Wife Mary became her husband’s research person, often learning the specialized fields that overlapped the ‘horse’ story. She learned to paint for In the Frame and about wines for Proof. For the novel Flying Finish she learned to fly and loved it so much she kept up her pilot’s license. After Mary’s death in 2000, their son Felix helped his father produce the novels.

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If you’re looking for a new old writer to explore, with enough books to keep you busy, try one from a master:

DICK FRANCIS.

Back in Blog Land Sunday, Feb 28 2010 

Hello to all of you out there who decided Auntie M had fallen off the face of the earth.

You may remember the Incident of the Dog, wherein a huge chocolate lab destroyed Doc’s knee.  Three surgeries, 14 months of Physical Therapy, and one artificial knee, and Doc is back limping around without benefit of canes or walkers.

My role as Nancy Nurse is pretty much over; the cap goes back up on the shelf, and the hospital bed may leave our bedroom shortly, although the over-bed trapeze gets to stay for the rest of the year.

I would like to say that it was just taking care of Doc that explains away my months of absentia, but I have to cough up the truth: I’ve been working with an incredible book designer, doing rewrites on my novel, choosing and refining a cover, reading and editing and re-reading for typo’s, all so that the files can be sent to the printer THIS COMING WEEK.

I am assured that before the end of the month, I’ll be able to hold my novel in my hot little hand.

THE BLUE VIRGIN will be published through Bridle Path Press by April 1st.  It’s the first of a series I’m writing with protagonist Nora Tierney, an American writer who lives in Oxford and is getting ready to move to the Lake District to live with her children’s book illustrator and his sister until her unplanned baby is born.  Because the baby’s father was dead before Nora knew she was pregnant, she is grateful for the support. Before she can move out, though, her best friend Val Rogan calls for Nora’s urgent help.  Val’s partner, Bryn Wallace, has been found murdered, and Val is the prime suspect.  Nora will swing into action, determined to clear her friend, while illustrator Simon Ramsey tries to keep her safe.

Auntie M is psyched, to say the least, to finally have a book-length project in print.  I’ll keep you posted as time goes by on how the process is going. I’ve learned a ton about publishing, working with a copyeditor, what a cyanotype is and why spine width is essential to get correct, getting an ISBN number and a ton of other things that are new to me.

So hang in there and take this ride with me!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

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K.R. Morrison, Author

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Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

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Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

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John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

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BOOK SHELF

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