Dick Francis had pursued a fulfilling career as a jockey, had written his autobiography, and had commenced a successful life as a racing correspondent for the London Sunday Express before he wrote his first novel. Since the publication of that novel, when he was forty-two years old, he has become one of the world’s most prolific and successful writers of mystery fiction and one of the small cadre of those practitioners who command the respect of literary critics.
Born Richard Stanley Francis, he was the son of George Vincent and Molly Thomas Francis. His father had returned from service in World War I to use his skill with horses first at Bishop’s hunting stables and then in the position he held for most of Dick Francis’s childhood, as manager of W. J. Smith’s Hunting Stables at Holyport. The future jockey was thus reared in an environment in which horses played a large role. He attended the Maidenhead County School, leaving in his mid-teens to work with horses. In 1940 he enlisted in the air force after having been denied entry into the cavalry. He became a pilot and served until 1946.
Returning to civilian life, he became an amateur steeplechase jockey, earning experience and achieving growing success. Francis became a professional jockey in 1948, a year after he married Mary Brenchley. He became one of England’s most celebrated riders, achieving the status of Champion Jockey in 1954 and having the privilege of riding the Queen Mother’s horses in National Hunt races. A celebrated fall when he was on the verge of winning the Grand National in 1956 led to his decision to write his autobiography, The Sport of Queens.
Francis began writing weekly articles on the British racing scene for the London Sunday Express in 1957. He continued to write for the Sunday Express for sixteen years, but in 1961 he was persuaded by his...
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