Banker (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
In twenty-two mystery novels since he made his debut in 1962 with Dead Cert, Dick Francis has informed whodunit buffs about the intricacies, lore, and seamy underside of horse racing; as a former steeplechase jockey in England, he knows whereof he writes. Despite the predictability of his settings, Francis avoids sameness from one book to the next; he almost always has a different hero-detective (only Sid Halley has appeared in more than one book: Odds Against, 1965; and Whip Hand, 1979), an uncharacteristic practice for mystery writers. Further, the equestrian erudition is organically part of the plots, so the reader inevitably becomes involved in the world of jockeys, trainers, gamblers, and stud fees. To those who are indifferent to the turf world, John Leonard (in The New York Times review of Francis’ Reflex, 1981) has said: “Not to read Dick Francis because you don’t like horses is like not reading Dostoyevsky because you don’t like God.”
The practice of developing a whodunit around specialized subject matter—from gemology to philately—goes back to Arthur Conan Doyle and S. S. Van Dine, and as a boy Francis read Edgar Wallace’s detective fiction, which features racing. In recent novels, Francis has joined other well-researched subjects to his usual backdrop, such as photography in Reflex and aeronautics in Flying Finish (1966). In Banker, there is a multiple...
(The entire section is 2300 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
The Atlantic. CCLI, May, 1983, p. 105.
Christian Science Monitor. April 20, 1983, p. 9.
Library Journal. CVIII, February 1, 1983, p. 223.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, March 27, 1983, p. 15.
The New Yorker. LIX, April 11, 1983, p. 138.
Newsweek. CII, July 11, 1983, p. 70.
Publishers Weekly. XXXIII, January 28, 1983, p. 74.
The Times Literary Supplement. December 10, 1982, p. 1378.
West Coast Review of Books. IX, May, 1983, p. 34.
(The entire section is 53 words.)