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For the science fiction illustrator, see Dick Francis (illustrator).
Dick Francis
Born 31 October 1920(1920-10-31)
Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Died 14 February 2010 (aged 89)
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Caribbean
Occupation Novelist, retired jockey
Language English
Nationality British
Ethnicity White British
Citizenship United Kingdom
Period 1957–2010
Genres Crime fiction
Spouse(s) Mary Margaret (nee Brenchley; m. 1947-2000)
Children Merrick, Felix Official website

Richard Stanley "Dick" Francis CBE (31 October 1920 – 14 February 2010) was a Welsh[1] horse racing crime writer and retired jockey.[2][3][4]


Personal life

Francis was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Some sources report his birthplace as the inland town of Lawrenny, but at least two of his obituaries stated his birthplace as the costal town of Tenby.[5][6] He was the son of a jockey and stable manager[7] and he grew up in Berkshire, England.[8] He left school at 15 without any qualifications,[9] with the intention of becoming a jockey and became a trainer in 1938.[10] During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force, piloting fighter and bomber aircraft, including the Spitfire and Hurricane.[9] In October 1945, he met Mary Margaret Brenchley (17 June 1924 - 30 September 2000),[9] whom he married in June 1947 in London; they had two sons, Merrick and Felix[9] (born 1953).[11] In the 1980s, Francis and his wife moved to Florida; in 1992, they moved to the Cayman Islands, where Mary died of a heart attack. In 2006, Francis had a heart bypass operation; in 2007 his right leg was amputated.[12] He died of natural causes according to a spokesperson[13] on 14 February 2010 at his Caribbean home in Grand Cayman; he was survived by both sons.[14]

Horse racing career

After leaving the RAF in 1946, Francis became a celebrity in the world of British National Hunt racing.[7] He won over 350 races, becoming champion jockey in the 1953–54 season.[7]

From 1953 to 1957 he was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.[15] In 1957 he was forced to retire from racing as the result of a serious fall. His most famous moment as a jockey came while riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, in the 1956 Grand National when the horse inexplicably fell when close to winning the race.[16][17]

Writing career

Francis wrote more than 40 international bestsellers. His first book was his autobiography The Sport of Queens (1957) which led to him becoming the racing correspondent for London's Sunday Express newspaper, remaining in the job for 16 years. In 1962 he published his first thriller Dead Cert, set in the world of racing. Subsequently he regularly produced a novel a year for the next 38 years, missing only 1998 (during which he published a short-story collection). Although all his books were set against a background of horse racing, his heroes held a variety of jobs from artist (In the Frame and To the Hilt) to private investigator (Odds Against).

Francis is the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Novel, winning for Forfeit in 1970, Whip Hand in 1981, and Come To Grief in 1996. Britain's Crime Writers Association awarded him its Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award in 1989. In 1996 he was given the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award, the highest honour bestowed by the MWA. He was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 2000.[18] In 2003 he was honoured by being awarded the Gumshoe Awards' Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award.

Many of Francis' books are featured in volumes of Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

Francis' manager (and co-author of his later books) was his son Felix Francis, who left his post as teacher of A-Level Physics at Bloxham School in Oxfordshire in order to work for his father and who was the inspiration behind a leading character in the novel Twice Shy. His other son Merrick, formerly a racehorse trainer, later ran his own horse transport business, which inspired the novel Driving Force.


Title Year ISBN of first edition Main character Notes
The Sport of Queens 1957 autobiography
Dead Cert 1962 ISBN 0-330-24621-6 Alan York, amateur jockey Basis of the movie Dead Cert (1974)
Nerve 1964 Rob Finn, jockey
For Kicks 1965 Daniel Roke, horse breeder turned investigator
Odds Against 1965 ISBN 0-330-10597-3 Sid Halley, investigator Edgar Award nominee
Flying Finish 1966 Henry Grey, groom/heir to earldom Edgar Award nominee
Blood Sport 1967 Gene Hawkins, security agent Edgar Award nominee
Forfeit 1968 ISBN 0-425-20191-0 James Tyrone, reporter Edgar Award winner
Enquiry 1969 Kelly Hughes, jockey
Rat Race 1970 Matt Shore, pilot
Bonecrack 1971 Neil Griffon, formerly antique dealer,then business consultant, acting as temporary trainer whilst his father is hospitalised
Smokescreen 1972 Edward Lincoln, movie actor who does his own stunts
Slayride 1973 ISBN 0-671-83271-9 David Cleveland, investigator
Knockdown 1974 Jonah Dereham, bloodstock agent
High Stakes 1975 Steven Scott, toy inventor
In the Frame 1976 Charles Todd, painter
Risk 1977 Roland Britten, accountant
Trial Run 1978 Randall Drew, jockey
Whip Hand 1979 ISBN 0-449-21274-2 Sid Halley, investigator Edgar Award winner, Gold Dagger winner
Reflex 1980 Philip Nore, jockey
Twice Shy 1981 Jonathan Derry, teacher, second part narrated by younger brother William Derry, jockey & later racing manager
Banker 1982 Tim Ekaterin, banker
The Danger 1983 Andrew Douglas, security consultant
Proof 1984 Tony Beach, wine merchant
Break In 1985 Kit Fielding, jockey
Bolt 1986 Kit Fielding, jockey
Hot Money 1987 Ian Pembroke, former asst trainer, amateur jockey
The Edge 1988 Tor Kelsey, investigator
Straight 1989 Derek Franklin, jockey
Longshot 1990 John Kendall, writer
Comeback 1991 Peter Darwin, diplomat
Driving Force 1992 Freddie Croft, trucking company owner
Decider 1993 Lee Morris, architect
Wild Horses 1994 Thomas Lyon, movie director
Come to Grief 1995 ISBN 0-330-34777-2 Sid Halley, investigator Edgar Award winner
To the Hilt 1996 Alexander Kinloch, painter
10 LB. Penalty 1997 ISBN 0-399-14302-5 Ben Juliard, jockey/politician's son
Field of Thirteen 1998 ISBN 0-515-12609-8 short stories:
  • 1. "Raid at Kingdom Hill" (first appeared in The Times of London, 1975)
  • 2. "Dead on Red"
  • 3. "Song for Mona"
  • 4. "Bright White Star" (first appeared in Cheshire Life, Christmas 1979)
  • 5. "Collision Course"
  • 6. "Nightmare" (first appeared in The Times of London, 13 April 1974)
  • 7. "Carrot for a Chestnut" (first appeared in Sports Illustrated, 1970)
  • 8. "The Gift" (first appeared as "A Day of Wine and Roses" in Sports Illustrated, 1973)
  • 9. "Spring Fever" (first appeared in Women's Own magazine, 1980)
  • 10. "Blind Chance" (first appeared as "Twenty-one Good Men and True" in Verdict of Thirteen: A Detection Club Anthology, 1979)
  • 11. "Corkscrew"
  • 12. "The Day of the Losers" (first appeared in Horse and Hound, February 1977)
  • 13. "Haig's Death"
Second Wind 1999 Perry Stuart, meteorologist
Shattered 2000 ISBN 0-399-14660-1 Gerard Logan, glass blower
Under Orders 2006 ISBN 978-0-330-44833-8 Sid Halley, investigator
Dead Heat 2007 ISBN 978-0-399-15476-8 Max Moreton, chef with Felix Francis
Silks 2008 ISBN 978-0-718-15457-8 Geoffrey Mason, barrister with Felix Francis
Even Money 2009 ISBN 978-0-399-15591-8 Ned Talbot, bookmaker with Felix Francis

See also


  1. ^ Our favourite thriller writer Dick Francis is back in the saddle,
  2. ^ Dick Francis obituary,
  3. ^ Author Dick Francis dies aged 89,
  4. ^ Marilyn Stasio (February 15, 2010). "Dick Francis, Jockey and Writer, Dies at 89". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Obituary London Independent, February 16, 2010.
  6. ^ Keith Thursby (February 15, 2010). "Dick Francis dies at 89; champion jockey became bestselling British mystery writer". Los Angeles Times.,0,6721531.story. 
  7. ^ a b c Francis, Dick (1999). The Sport of Queens. London: Joseph. ISBN 978-0330339025. OCLC 59457268. 
  8. ^ Dick Francis interview for Even Money,
  9. ^ a b c d "Obituary: Mary Francis". The Times. October 6, 2000. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  10. ^ Cook, Bruce (March 21, 1989). "Novelist Dick Francis Still Rides The Wave Of Success In The Edge'". The Spokesman-Review (Spokane Chronicle).,3915766&dq=dick+francis&hl=en. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  11. ^ Dick Francis and Felix Francis
  12. ^ Queen's grief as former jockey and best-selling author Dick Francis dies at 89
  13. ^ Dick Francis, thriller writer and ex-jockey, dies
  14. ^ "Author Dick Francis dies aged 89". BBC News. 14 February 2010. Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  15. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (1 September 2009). "Dick Francis interview". Telegraph. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  16. ^ Philip, Robert (5 April 2002). "Grand National: Devon Loch's place in history". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  17. ^ T. Rees Shapiro (February 16, 2010). "Dick Francis, British jockey turned popular mystery author, dies at 89". The Washington Post. 
  18. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 55879, p. 8, 19 June 2000. Retrieved on 14 February 2010.

External links

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