(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dead Cert, Francis’s first published novel and his first attempt at fiction, is written in the first person from the point of view of a jockey turned amateur detective because wicked individuals intrude into his life and threaten to kill him. The novel is full of action and episodes in which the hero is subjected to incredible torture, from which he seems to recover with superhuman ease. Having established this prototype, Francis has hardly deviated from it in the novels he has published since. He has stated: “I write in the first person because that’s how I like to describe things. . . . As they’re written in the first person, a lot of each book describes what’s in the hero’s mind. It would be difficult to portray on screen.”

In Dead Cert, the hero is a young amateur jockey named Alan York, whose father is a South African multimillionaire. The book opens in the middle of a steeplechase at Maidenhead. York is trailing Admiral, ridden by his best friend Bill Davidson, when he sees the unbeatable horse, the dead certainty of the title, trip and his friend take a fatal fall. York is the only person who has seen a wire deliberately stretched across the top of a hurdle, clearly to prevent the favorite from winning.

The fact that York, in second place, becomes the winner attracts attention from the police, who also suspect that he is having an affair with Davidson’s wife. Francis provides a strong “push-pull”...

(The entire section is 450 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Davis, J. Madison. Dick Francis. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

Forbes, Steve. “Saddling up Another Equine Mystery.” Forbes 156, no. 11 (November 6, 1995): 24.

Fuller, Bryony. Dick Francis: Steeplechase Jockey. London: Joseph, 1994.

Guttman, Robert J. “Dick Francis.” Europe 361 (November, 1996): 18-21.

Honan, Corinna. “Dick’s Greatest Whodunit.” Daily Mail, September 1, 2007, p. 1.

Lord, Graham. Dick Francis: A Racing Life. London: Little Brown, 1999.

Reed, J. D. Review of Come to Grief, by Dick Francis. People Weekly 44, no. 18 (October 30, 1995): 34.

“Who Done It?” People Weekly 52 (November 22, 1999): 202.