SHARED READ: Saddle up for Dick Francis' horsy adventures! Book Two

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SHARED READ: Saddle up for Dick Francis' horsy adventures! Book Two

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Editado: Nov 6, 2019, 1:41pm

Welcome to our shared read of the mystery novels written by Dick Francis! We plan to read a new novel every other month, and meet here to chew it all over. This is an open invitation to one and all: If you're at all interested in reading Dick Francis, or if you've read him in the past and would like to talk about them here, I hope you'll join us for any or all of the discussions.

Because this is not a series, I've chosen a somewhat random order, concentrating on the books that I think will make for the liveliest discussions (i.e., my favorites). They are more or less in chronological order but not strictly. Our final two books for 2019 do feature the same cast of characters, and in that case we will read them in the order they were published.

I'll provide an introductory non-spoilery post for each book to jump-start the discussion, but the rest is up to you. Chime in with any comments, questions, or quotes that come to mind as you read. Please use spoiler tags for anything that might be a spoiler — you create those by typing <spoiler>secrets go here</spoiler>. And it will look like this!

Here's our tentative schedule for 2019:

January-February — Nerve (introductory post)
March-April — Forfeit (introductory post)
May-June — Reflex (introductory post)
July-August — Rat Race (introductory post)

(the last two books we'll read in 2019 constitute one of Francis' mini-series, featuring amateur jockey Christmas "Kit" Fielding)

September-October — Break In (introductory post)
November-December — Bolt (introductory post)

As we get to each entry, I'll link the intro post here to make it easy to navigate through the thread as it grows.

For an introduction to Dick Francis, check out the previous thread.

Editado: Mar 1, 2019, 8:58pm

March-April Read: Forfeit

Forfeit won the 1970 Edgar Allan Poe award (informally known as the Edgar) for best mystery novel, presented by the Mystery Writers of America. The win was the fourth consecutive year that a Dick Francis novel had made the Edgar shortlist, an indication that his second career as a writer was rounding into form. The previous runners-up were Odds Against in 1967, Flying Finish in 1968, Blood Sport in 1969, for those of you determined to go beyond this year's assigned readings. :-)

Forfeit focuses on James Tyrone, a racing reporter for a London tabloid. He knows that his fellow writer Bert Chekov is a drunk, but he has no reason to believe Bert is anything but an honest reporter. But when Bert suddenly dies in an "accidental" fall from a window, Tyrone suspects the clues to his death might be found in some suspicious columns he'd written touting can't-lose horses — who mysteriously failed to show up on a race day. But does a racing correspondent have what it takes to unmask a murderer?

I've always liked this one in part because my first career was as a sportswriter (though not a racing correspondent!). But the real heart of the book lies in the relationship between Ty and his wife. I won't say more than that because I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll be interested to see if any of you agree. And of course — whether you like the "twist" or the rest of the book or not, your comments are always welcome here!

Mar 1, 2019, 8:50pm

Thanks for the synopsis, Julia. I’m intrigued and looking forward to it! I just started two books so I’m guessing I’ll be ready in about a week.

Mar 2, 2019, 9:36am

Thanks from me, too, Julia.

I will probably read it starting late March early April. I'm hot and heavy into the Frieda Klein series by Nicci French and don't want to interrupt the flow, but will be back!

Mar 2, 2019, 9:48am

Me, three, with the thankfulness, Julia. I have the book all ready to go, I just need to finish up a few of the other books I have going.

Mar 2, 2019, 10:54am

You are all very welcome, Joanne, Karen, and Mamie! I need to dig my paperback out to do a re-read but like all of you I am in the midst of other books right now. But the thread is here waiting for us when we're ready. :-)

Mar 4, 2019, 3:02am

Heh. I'll start Forfeit (I got it off the shelf and onto my desk) shortly after I actually (re)read Nerve! I still haven't gotten to it. Soon, I hope.

Mar 4, 2019, 8:00am

I'm about halfway through Forfeit. I don't like the hero in this one as much as I liked the hero in Nerve. The plot is just as good, though.

Mar 5, 2019, 12:33pm

I have read only two Dick Francis books in my lifetime and the most "recent" one was 20 years ago but I picked up a copy of this one and will join you.

Mar 5, 2019, 3:14pm

I've put Forfeit in the stack I hope to read this month.

Editado: Mar 5, 2019, 3:51pm

I just re-read a side dish of Decider, a good one featuring architect/builder Lee Morris and a rambunctious gaggle of race track inheritors.

Mar 5, 2019, 10:40pm

Reminding myself to see if the library has Forfeit available.

Mar 23, 2019, 2:41am

Looking to April to read Forfeit....

Mar 27, 2019, 1:58pm

I just started Forfeit last night. I found the first few pages confusing, like I’d been dropped into the middle of a story, but it was late and I read more this morning and I’m following along just fine now!

Mar 28, 2019, 2:02pm

I'm looking forward to Forfeit in April, too. I read another Francis side dish - Trial Run, which was good, but far from one of his best. Lots of shenanigans in Moscow, with too many other characters commenting on how clever our hero was. My thoughtful wife found it and two others of his in a nearby Little Free Library.

Abr 8, 2019, 10:48pm

I finished Forfeit and loved it. I thought Ty was a great protagonist and sorry that this is his one and only outing. Along with the main thriller storyline there was also a tender love story.

I know a lot about horses, less about racing, and only have the occasional track attendee’s knowledge of U.S. betting and so I found the beginning a little frustrating as I wasn’t quite sure what antepost betting was. All was explained within context but I wound up googling “ante post betting” anyway. So, from Wikipedia, for anyone else who may need it:

“In horse racing and greyhound racing, an ante-post bet is a bet placed before the horse/greyhound racing course's betting market has opened, and is made on the expectation that the price of the horse/greyhound is presently more favorable than it will be when the course's market opens. Generally, this includes any bet placed before the day of the race. Ante-post betting, unlike starting price betting, carries the additional risk that the original bet will be forfeited, rather than returned, if the wagered horse fails to run.”

Thanks Julia, that was a lot of fun!

Abr 8, 2019, 11:58pm

>16 Copperskye: I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Joanne! Like you, I was confused when I first read this one, not understanding the intricate details of the betting system. I suspect it was made more confusing for us, as the book points out, because ante post betting simply doesn't exist in the U.S. After reading this one, I can understand why — seems like a system ripe for abuse and corruption! Although I shouldn't judge, since I don't know that there have been any huge real-life scandals of the sort Francis writes about here.

Abr 10, 2019, 6:53am

I did read Forfeit last month, but forgot this thread...
I enjoyed the story. I know a little more about racing and betting, in my teens I helped regular at the stables of Duindigt (a Dutch racetrack near The Hague). Horse racing (with the jockey on the horse) is not so popular here, most racetracks are only for trotting (with the jockey on a cart behind the horse).

I went on reading an other Dick Francis book Decider, not listed for reading this year.
Thanks for starting the shared reads, as I would not have discovered Dick Francis on my own.

Abr 10, 2019, 7:33am

>18 FAMeulstee: I'm glad you enjoyed Forfeit, Anita. The only racetrack where I grew up in Illinois was what you call trotting (it's called harness racing here). I don't have your experience working at the track, though. I was one of those horse-mad girls, so I would have loved that!

Decider is a good one! I'm glad our project introduced you to Dick Francis, and that you're enjoying discovering his work.

Abr 18, 2019, 2:00pm

I'm about halfway through Forfeit and enjoying it. This is a reread for me but I confess I didn't remember much of the plot.

I love this bit on p19: "They're not exactly alcoholic," said Gail. "They just go eagerly from drink to drink.".

Abr 18, 2019, 2:44pm

I'm sure Joanne (copperskye) won't mind my reprising a conversation we had about Forfeit over on her thread. She said she found Ty, the protagonist of Forfeit, a very engaging character, and she's disappointed we won't meet him again in a future book. I think that's an excellent jumping-off point for a couple of discussion questions:

1. Is Ty a character you'd have liked to read about in another Dick Francis book?

2. Do you prefer series with recurring main characters, or stand-alone mysteries with new characters every book?

I liked Ty enormously and I am also disappointed that we never meet him again. As I mentioned to Joanne, his career as a racing journalist would seem to be the perfect setup for all kinds of plots. On the other hand, one of the things I love about the Francis books is the in-depth look we get at all sorts of professions that are directly or indirectly related to horse racing. I've learned so much about the business of wine (Proof) and gemstone (Straight) merchants, glassblowing (Shattered), fine-art painting (In the Frame, To the Hilt), flying taxis (Rat Race), photography (Reflex) transporting horses by air (Flying Finish) and road (Driving Force), meteorology (Second Wind), home construction (Decider), large-animal veterinary medicine (Comeback among others), working on cross-country passenger trains (The Edge) and so many more. The research that Francis (wife Mary, apparently) did for each book was meticulous. I don't know that I'd want to give that up for the comfort of having the same protagonist all the time.

But what do you all think?

Abr 18, 2019, 4:16pm

>21 rosalita: I'm also a big fan of the view into the different professions and really treasure the portrayal of people who work for a living and get satisfaction doing so. So many novels take place without the protagonists having to earn a living or being destroyed by earning a living or just in general denial of the realities of earning a living.

Abr 18, 2019, 5:00pm

>22 quondame: That is an excellent point, Susan! I hadn't thought about it in exactly that way, but it's so true. It's very appealing to read about humble people who enjoy their work, are good at it, and don't have burning ambitions to be the best in the world no matter who they have to step on to get there. That's what all of Francis' heroes have in common, isn't it? Well, that and an abnormally large tolerance for physical pain!

Thank you so much for pointing that out.

Abr 18, 2019, 5:42pm

>23 rosalita: Well, not all that much humbleness since many of them are in pursuit of excellence, but not much arrogance either. Yes, they do get at least temporally damaged as a rule.

Abr 18, 2019, 10:07pm

>21 rosalita: And I guess the flip side of that, Julia, are authors who stick to a single main protagonist. Louise Penny comes to mind, and although her oeuvre isn’t very large, I sometimes wish she’d branch out and show us what else she’s got besides Gamache and Three Pines.

The constant for Francis was the horse racing backdrop and I suppose he and his wife enjoyed the variety each new character gave to the racing game. I’d love more stories about Ty and his newspaper chums, but I’ll probably say the same when I read the next book. Always leave them wanting more!

>22 quondame: Yes, that’s very true. And especially here, when Gail was easily led to believe that Ty’s wife had money and would drop him like a rock when told of the affair. Of course we know that wasn’t true and Ty was instead almost always concerned about money. That made him an especially empathetic character.

Editado: Abr 20, 2019, 10:56am

I finished Forfeit this morning and liked it a lot. I looked back at when it was published (1969), and found the plot has held up well for over fifty years! I do agree that the relationship with his wife enhanced the story. I wonder if it had been a series how that relationship would have worked out. As I've thought about it I think it might work but only if she was part of the sleuthing team, she could use the telephone and was intelligent and might be good at keeping him on track, etc. Just something to think about. Even though today's readers would accept Gale much better than they would have 50 years ago, or at least I think that's true, I don't think that relationship could continue through a series. That might be the holdup to a series with Ty, his life outside of his marriage.

Abr 20, 2019, 12:08pm

It's interesting that both Rob in Nerve and Ty in Forfeit have unconventional personal relationships. I find infidelity more difficult to condone than the first cousin marriage, although I did sympathize with Ty and admired his courage in choosing to share the truth with his wife rather than letting himself be blackmailed to keep the truth from her.

Abr 21, 2019, 8:54am

>26 clue: I like your idea of making Ty's wife, Elizabeth, part of his sleuthing team! That would be a lot of fun to read. And I agree that the relationship with Gail doesn't seem sustainable. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think the stability of Ty's marriage would require that his "mistress" be a casual encounter (as he described his earlier dalliances) rather than a love match as seemed to be developing with Gail. Could he fall in love with Gail and still retain his deep feelings for his wife? I guess it happens, but it seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

>27 cbl_tn: That is an interesting parallel, Carrie. I also admired Ty's honesty in telling his wife about his affair, but it was so painful to read her reactions to it! The only saving grace was that we can see into Ty's mind to know that what she fears is not at all how he really feels.

Abr 26, 2019, 6:05pm

I just finished Forfeit and although I read it a long time ago, I didn't remember any of it at all. It holds up well, in my opinion, and I do appreciate the love story between Ty and Elizabeth and the conflict and guilt he felt in his infidelity. I also appreciate his pursuit of the truth regardless of personal danger and his caving in when it involved Elizabeth.

I can't imagine a series with him and his wife at all, sorry. I like that most of Dick Francis's books are standalone.

I'm enjoying this shared read, Julia - not too demanding, just enough to whet my appetite for the next one.

Abr 26, 2019, 6:17pm

>29 karenmarie: The only protagonist I really wanted more of was Daniel Roke from For Kicks. I felt he could sustain a 2-3 book character arc.

Editado: Mayo 1, 2019, 9:19pm

>29 karenmarie: Hi, Karen! OK, so no Ty series for you — got it. :-) There is a lot of appeal in the standalones, I agree, simply in terms of the variety that you get. It seems to be a real rarity these days among writers of mysteries, don't you think? Everyone seems to be chasing the reliable readership of a series, even when the characters/setup can't really sustain it.

>30 quondame: Oh, I'd forgotten about that one, Susan. You might be right; certainly his job would have offered a variety of challenges to explore. A limited arc like you suggest could have worked.

Editado: Mayo 14, 2019, 9:38am

Another thumbs-up for Forfeit, Julia. I forgot that I had mistakenly jumped the gun in reading it. I liked the complexity of the Ty, Gail and Elizabeth triangle, too.

Mayo 6, 2019, 1:02pm

Speaking of Forfeit, I noticed a little piece in today’s Denver Post headlined, “Derby bettors to receive refunds.”. Apparently, Churchill Downs’ online wagering service, will give back up to $10 to anyone who bet on Maximum Security to win the Kentucky Derby. (Over $6M was bet.) For anyone not following, Maximum Security, the favorite who crossed the finish line first, was disqualified for interfering with two other horses in what could have been and was very nearly a horrific crash.

I couldn’t help when I read that to think of the forfeiting in Forfeit!

Editado: Mayo 6, 2019, 2:05pm

I'm amazed that they are offering any refunds at all, Joanne! I actually watched the Derby this year, which I usually don't, and I place the "blame" entirely on this year-long shared read that has rekindled my interesting in everything equine. :-)

And that brings us to ...

Editado: Mayo 7, 2019, 5:01pm

May-June Read: Reflex

Reflex was published in 1981, the 19th entry in Francis' bibliography. By now Francis' formula, such as it was, had taken shape. Intelligent, stoic main characters, a mysterious event involving horse racing, the doling out of copious amounts of physical pain, both on and off the racecourse, and in-depth explorations of various professions. In this one, photography takes its turn in the spotlight to excellent effect.

The intelligent but stoic hero here is Philip Nore, a jockey in the twilight of a successful steeplechase career who is casting about for a career Plan B, for the not-too-distant day when the falls and weight-cutting get to be too much. He considers photography just a hobby, but the positive response from people who've seen his work has him thinking about making it the next phase of his career. A career perhaps like that of veteran racing photographer George Millace, whose skill Nore admires even as he deplores the older man's mean-spirited habit of catching jockeys at the most embarrasing moments. When Millace dies unexpectedly, Nore finds himself in possession of some of his photographic "failures". If he doesn't solve the puzzles contained in them, he may never get the chance at life after racing.

It's important to remember that 1981 publication date, long before digital photography was a pixel in Steve Jobs' eye. In my first job at a small daily newspaper (right around the time period of this book, in fact), I learned lots of aspects involved in print journalism besides writing, including shooting all sorts of sports (no horseracing, though!), and developing and printing my own photos. That familiarity with the basics of the process undoubtedly contributes to my fond feelings about this book, as I love the various photographic puzzles that Philip Nore has to solve in order to solve the mystery. But I don't think you need that background information to enjoy this one, so dig in! And don't forget to come back here and let us know what you think, or ask questions along the way.

Mayo 7, 2019, 1:19pm

>35 rosalita: I'll be heading to the library later today to see if that one is available.

Mayo 7, 2019, 2:49pm

Good luck, Linda! I hope you're able to find it.

Mayo 8, 2019, 5:48pm

>32 jnwelch: Joe, I just realized I completely skipped replying to you! Bad thread host ... I'm glad you liked the love triangle aspect, as that was definitely one of the highlights for me. Also the details surrounding Elizabeth's polio; I was born in 1964 and don't remember ever knowing anyone who had polio so it was a shock to me to realize that people were still contracting it as late as the 1960s/70s. Somehow in my mind it was a disease of the Depression Era. Although, now that I think of it, we definitely had those March of Dimes campaigns in school -- do you remember those? Where you collected dimes on a cardboard card and then sent them in? I guess I just thought of MoD as being for disabled kids in general, which it is now.

Mayo 9, 2019, 10:00pm

I’ve got my copy of Reflex checked out from the library and hope to start in the next week or so. Thanks for the intro, Julia!

Mayo 10, 2019, 6:13am

My OverDrive hold became available earlier than I expected so it was my first read for the month. Another good selection! I liked that Philip had two puzzles to figure out.

Mayo 11, 2019, 9:51am

Way to go, Joanne!

And wow, Carrie, you've already finished it! I need to dig my copy out and get started on my re-read so I can keep up with you. :-)

Mayo 11, 2019, 11:36am

Hi Julia! I've also finished it, and I think it's my favourite of the three we've read so far. I loved the way he had to solve the puzzles, and there didn't seem to be *quite* as much getting beaten up as the other main characters have had to suffer.

Mayo 11, 2019, 3:45pm

The puzzles are lots of fun, aren't they? Glad you liked it!

Mayo 14, 2019, 9:41am

I remember Reflex being one of my favorites of his the first time around, Julia. How great that you bring your additional background to it. I look forward to reading as soon as I'm done with my current book.

Mayo 14, 2019, 12:11pm

Darn it, my library can't seem to locate the copy their website says is in their stacks.

Mayo 15, 2019, 11:42am

>44 jnwelch: I'll look forward to what you think on the re-read, Joe!

>45 laytonwoman3rd: Oh no! Can I send you my old paperback copy? PM me your address and I'll zip it your way.

Mayo 15, 2019, 11:58am

>46 rosalita: Oh, thank you, Julia!

Editado: Mayo 15, 2019, 1:12pm

You are more than welcome, Linda!

Mayo 15, 2019, 5:35pm

Sadly I have to skip the read this month. I thought my library had a copy of the Dutch translation, but the book was in English :'(

Mayo 20, 2019, 8:29am

Hi Julia!

I've cleared the decks on the fiction front and have my 'First Ballantine Books Edition: April 1982' mass market paperback of Reflex in hand.

Mayo 21, 2019, 7:28pm

I just stared Reflex, and it’s as good as I remembered. What a pleasure to be reading Dick Francis again.

Mayo 25, 2019, 10:40am

I can't decide what I like most about this project: Introducing people who've never read Dick Francis to his wonderful books, or helping people rediscover how much they enjoyed reading him before.

I'm definitely in that latter category, as I went years and years without re-reading any Dick Francis and then since last year have been semi-obsessed with revisiting all my favorites. But it's so much more fun to do it with a group!

Editado: Mayo 26, 2019, 11:28pm

I need something light and comforting, so I'm jumping in with Reflex too. I have to say that Rat Race is my very favorite. I've reread it so often that I can almost quote it.
Hmmm. I love my very early covers for the first 15 in mass pb.

Mayo 28, 2019, 2:20pm

I have some old paperbacks I'm keeping solely for the covers. I love them.

Mayo 28, 2019, 11:24pm

Hi, Linda! Agreed! I guess my all-time favorite cover is the Moby-Dick pen and ink drawing. The book itself is falling apart. I can still read these old Francises though.
Meanwhile, I've almost finished Reflex, and it was just what I needed. Funny to me how reading about obsolete technology is less than riveting. I read it when it first came out and was enthralled with all the photography/developing passages. Now I'm only vaguely interested. It seems less than realistic to me that den Relgan would have left Philip alive even with the gas trap set. I'm glad that he did!. Anyway, I'll finish it tonight.
>38 rosalita: One of my best friends still suffers some disabilities from a light case of polio in 1949 or '50. I had a cousin with an even lighter case a few years later. As I remember, we didn't get the vaccine until 1963 or so. I distinctly remember the sugar cube after I started college. (I guess I could google it!)
I've thoroughly enjoyed this one, Julia, and am happy to have stumbled on this group read!

Mayo 29, 2019, 1:45pm

>53 LizzieD: >54 laytonwoman3rd: I feel about old book covers in the age of e-readers the way I felt about LPs when CDs first became popular. I think a lot of creativity gets lost when artwork gets shrunk down or converted to digital color or black-and-white formats. By the way, Peggy, my copy of Bonecrack has a cover from the same artist that created your Reflex cover:

>55 LizzieD: I'm so glad you're here, Peggy, and that you are enjoying the group read. Thanks for the info about polio. Now that you mention the sugar cube, I vaguely maybe remember something like that from my childhood (I was born in 1964) though I'm sure I didn't make the connection that it was a polio vaccination. The only vaccination that made an impression (pun intended) was smallpox, for which I still bear the characteristic round scar on my upper left arm. And I still remember having to get the TB tine test every time I got a school physical!

Editado: Jun 4, 2019, 9:35pm

>53 LizzieD: >56 rosalita: Love the covers!

I started Reflex over the weekend. I’m about halfway through it and think it’s great! Once again, Francis has introduced a main character whom I immediately cared for and wanted to follow along with for 300 or so pages.

Jun 3, 2019, 9:39pm

Julia, I think I have 10 or 12 of those blocky covers. They were my intro. to DF, and I bought them all at once because they were discounted, and I thought I might like them. So right! The only other time that ever happened was with Dorothy Dunnett's +Crawford of Lymond+ series, and I had to scramble to find a couple of those.
Meanwhile, if I didn't say, I'm reading Under Orders, a late Sid Halley offering. It's OK, but I think the early, fresh ones are better.

Jun 3, 2019, 9:49pm

>58 LizzieD: I've had a few other 'must have whole series' episodes, but DD is really up there. I think Dorothy Sayers was the first, and Megan Whelan Turner is still online.

Jun 10, 2019, 9:10pm

I've finished Reflex and I must say it isn't one of my favorites. I got bored with the photography for one thing. I did like the characters though and he did wrap it up nicely.

Rat Race is waiting on the shelf. I've had it a long time and have probably read it in the past but my LT library only shows that I have it. One way or the other, I look forward to it.

Editado: Jun 15, 2019, 3:54pm

>60 clue: I'm sorry it wasn't a home run for you, Luanne, but they can't all be home runs for everyone, I guess. :-)

I liked the ending, too. I felt satisfied with where it seemed the characters were heading, in a way that didn't make me want to read any sort of sequel. More like, "OK, that's them sorted, then. Next!"

I have not read Rat Race for ages, either. We will re-discover it together!

Jun 25, 2019, 9:50am

Just a quick note to let folks know that both Kindle and Kobo have a number of Dick Francis ebooks on sale right now, including both our current read, Reflex, and our next read, Rat Race, for less than $3. This is in the US storefronts; I'm not sure about international availability of these prices, but might be worth a look.

Jun 25, 2019, 6:20pm

>62 rosalita: I bought Rat Race a few days ago using digital credits for choosing no rush shipping on some recent Amazon orders. Net cost $0!

Jun 25, 2019, 7:31pm

Well done, Carrie! I love a good deal!

Editado: Jul 12, 2019, 10:19am

July-August Read: Rat Race

Rat Race was published in 1970, and it shows in the cultural descriptions, in particular a hippie character named Chanter, who sprinkles around a generous helping of "man"s and disdain for authority as he's casually groping the female love interest and railing against the establishment. Thankfully, he's limited to two brief appearances, so don't let him turn you off from this groovy story, man.

Matt Shore is a pilot. Once among the best in his profession, flying for B.O.A.C., one of the forerunners of the current British Airways, Shore's career has been on a bit of a downward spiral and he's now been reduced to working for a ramshackle flying taxi service that is barely keeping its wings above water. He's depressed and keeps himself shut off from the world, until he is blasted — literally — out of his apathy when a bomb explodes on the plane he had been piloting just minutes earlier. It is seemingly only through the merest chance that Matt and his passengers — the top steeplechase jockey in Britain, a respected former Army Major, and an iron-glove woman trainer — escape serious injury. But accidents keep happening, and Matt realizes he needs to figure out where the danger is coming from before his career and his life both go up in smoke.

I remember when I first read this one ages ago, I was fascinated by the glimpse into the world of private aircraft. In both of my editions (and hopefully all) there is an introduction from Francis explaining how the story came to be. Once again, wife Mary figures prominently, as she apparently got so absorbed in researching the details of flying taxis that she took flying lessons and became a pilot herself. The Francises even had their own flying taxi service for a while before they sold out to a competitor. I think all of that experience lends a nice air of authenticity to the details of Matt's job, though of course the technology of flying airplanes has changed a great deal in the past 30-odd years.

I hope you all enjoy this one!

Jul 10, 2019, 1:00am

>65 rosalita: Wow, she really got into her research! Thanks for the synopsis, Julia. I look forward to starting this in the next couple of weeks!

Jul 10, 2019, 5:38am

>66 Copperskye: Yes, Mary Francis was nothing if not a thorough researcher. And regardless of who actually wrote the books, I appreciate that Dick was consistently generous in giving her credit for her help.

I hope you enjoy it, Joanne!

Jul 10, 2019, 5:42am

>65 rosalita: Thanks Julia! This one was available in my elibrary so I downloaded it this morning and I'll make a start over the weekend.

Jul 10, 2019, 6:34am

Happy reading, Susan!

Jul 12, 2019, 9:05am

>65 rosalita: Good review, Julia. I finished Rat Race and agree with all you say. It was startling to come across anachronistic Chanter - I must've taken him much more in stride when I read it all those years ago for the first time. Like you, I enjoyed the learning about the private aircraft industry, and the ring of truth about what happens in the book.

Jul 12, 2019, 10:20am

>70 jnwelch: Yes, I was rather taken aback by Chanter and he definitely "landed" much more heavily on me this time around. Thanks for re-visiting this one with me, Joe!

Jul 12, 2019, 10:49am

Ooooo! I'm happy that the time has finally come for *RR*. I'll likely read it Sunday afternoon (unless my Ruth Galloway has gotten so compelling by then that I have to finish it!). (Funny! I had completely forgotten Chanter, but now I've got him.)

Jul 12, 2019, 10:54am

Forewarned is forearmed when it comes to Chanter, Peggy! Come back and let us know how your re-read goes. (Is that the latest Ruth Galloway you're currently reading? I liked it a lot.)

Jul 14, 2019, 11:39pm

I had left *RR* unread long enough to thoroughly enjoy it again today. I love Matt, who is less perfect and laconic than some of DF's later heroes, and Nancy and Colin and Midge and especially young Matthew and the Duke. This made my day!
I am happily about to start the third Ruth Galloway, Julia. It's great to find a new series that is this pleasing and to know that I have plenty to look forward to. I just hope that I can slow down and eventually read other things along with the current RG.

Jul 15, 2019, 7:11am

>74 LizzieD: Peggy, I totally agree about the characters in this one being uniformly great. I can't decide whether I'd rather spend an evening playing trains with Matthew and the Duke, or hanging out with the Ross family. They both sound like a lot of fun!

Oh, you are so lucky to have a long list of Ruth Galloway books to discover! It is one of my favorite series, so I'm always tickled when someone else likes them, too.

Ago 18, 2019, 10:39pm

I’m just at the halfway point in Rat Race - the last chapter I read was quite a page-turner! There’s certainly less horses and racing in this one but as always, the characters are engaging and I’m having fun trying to figure out the who and the why.

>60 clue: >71 rosalita: I could do with a lot less of him!

Ago 19, 2019, 6:23am

Glad you're enjoying so far, Joanne! Chanter is a real treat, isn't he? Ugh.

Ago 22, 2019, 1:14pm

I finished Rat Race a couple days ago. My thoughts copied from my thread -Matt Shore is a pilot and more peripherally involved in horse racing than most of Francis’s protagonists. But someone is trying to kill one of his passengers and when loved ones are endangered, Matt, in typical Dick Francis style, works to solve the mystery. I thought the beginning was a little slow but it picked up, as expected!

Because it was less focused on horses, I struggled a bit at the beginning. I’m not sure Matt was as fleshed out as some other main characters in Francis’s books but he sure grew on me!

Thanks again, Julia, for the gentle push to enjoy these books and picking such good ones!

Ago 23, 2019, 7:13am

I just finished Rat Race last night. I didn't remember a single thing about it, which made it all the more interesting. I, too, thought the characters wonderfully developed, especially the Duke and young Matthew.

Thanks, again, Julia, for another winner!

Ago 23, 2019, 1:43pm

Anyone else picturing Matt, Colin, Nancy, and Midge joining Matthew and the Duke for the Christmas holidays - eating well, laughing, and enjoying the trains? :)

Editado: Ago 24, 2019, 8:54am

>78 Copperskye: I think Rat Race is one of the earliest books in which Francis started to look outside horse racing for inspiration. I don't know what his motivations for doing so were, but it was a brilliant stroke, as it keeps the books feeling fresh and not too similar. And it also serves as a wonderful reminder of how what seem to be niche professions actually have wide-ranging impacts on society as a whole. Who would ever have thought of tying horse racing in with charter airlines, as he does here, or horse racing with glass blowers, as he does in Shattered (another one of my absolute faves)? And of course Mary Francis' exquisitely detailed research allows Francis to write as authoritatively on those other professions as he does on the one he actually had.

>79 karenmarie: So pleased you liked it on re-read, Karen!

>80 Copperskye: That would be a Christmas party I might actually enjoy!

Ago 24, 2019, 9:27am

My first Dick Francis was Banker, another one with non-racing protagonist.

Sigh. I just had to go look at the Dick Francis books I have and see that there are 5 I don't have...

Ago 24, 2019, 9:38am

>82 karenmarie: I almost mentioned Banker, Karen! It's one of my favorites (I feel like I say that about almost all of them, but this one really is). That's another book where I came away with a better understanding of an industry (merchant/commercial banking) that I knew almost nothing about.

How wonderful that you have the enjoyment of searching for five more Dick Francis books ahead of you! (See how I tried to spin that positively? Ha!)

Ago 24, 2019, 9:43am

Excellent spin, Julia, and I'm already trying to finagle their acquisition. I'll probably take the $$ from my new slush fund. I'm working part time to help a friend out through the end of October - office work - and although I was going to do it anyway, Bill said that all that lovely money is mine to do with as I wish. Books! Good quality sun glasses! Airfare!

Ago 24, 2019, 9:45am

Oooh, there's nothing like "found" money! Enjoy your spree. :-)

Ago 24, 2019, 10:40am

I finished Rat Race last night. I thought I had read it before but I didn't remember it after I started reading so I probably hadn't. I liked Matt as a character and thought the aviation angle was a really good one.

Editado: Ago 24, 2019, 12:28pm

>86 clue: I'm glad you enjoyed it! I wonder if perhaps you had earlier read Flying Finish, another of Dick Francis' mysteries that features air transport at its center? The main character in that one is also a pilot but for a company that ferries horses around the world.

Ago 24, 2019, 1:36pm

I enjoyed the characters in Rat Race more than in any of the others we've read so far. (And there have been some great characters so far!) I didn't think the plot was as strong as in the other books. Matt's thought process about the criminal activity wasn't always disclosed to readers and that always bugs me in a crime novel. But I loved spending time with these characters, especially young Matthew.

Ago 25, 2019, 8:49am

>88 cbl_tn: Hi Carrie! Sometimes I forget that the Francis books are supposed to be mysteries, because I get so caught up in the characters and the details that we learn about their lives. I'm just along for the ride (horse pun!) wherever it takes me. :)

Ago 26, 2019, 8:23am

I confess I am into Dick Francis for racing and the horses :-)
So Rat Race was not my favourite, a decent read that kept me reading for a few hours at the start of this month.

The next two planned books look better in that part, reading the description :-)

Ago 26, 2019, 9:20pm

>90 FAMeulstee: I'm sorry there wasn't much horse racing in Rat Race, Anita. I missed it, too! From what I remember, the next two do have much more racing, as the protagonist Kit Fielding is a steeplechase jockey. We'll try to close out the year on a high note!

Ago 29, 2019, 5:19pm

I couldn't resist, and started Break In for September. I'm already loving it. So good to be reunited with Kit Fielding!

Ago 29, 2019, 5:42pm

Honestly, Joe, you are such a rebel! But at least you're staying "on list" this time. :-D

Kit Fielding is one of my very favorite Francis creations. I think Break In was one of the first Francis books I found, so that probably accounts for part of it, but he's also a really appealing character. I'll be eager to see how other people feel.

Ago 29, 2019, 5:45pm

Sorry, Julia! :-)

They're way better on re-read than I expected. It's hard to keep my snoot out of them. I hope others enjoy Kit as much as you and I have.

Ago 29, 2019, 9:14pm

>94 jnwelch: Isn't that a great feeling — picking up a book to re-read expecting to mildly enjoy it and finding it's so much better than you remembered. That's the very best kind of re-read.

Ago 29, 2019, 9:50pm

I just went and pulled my hardback copy of Break In from my basement shelves. Copyright is 1986 and I know I read it as soon as I bought it ‘cause that’s what I did then. I’m so looking forward to the revisit since I remember nothing of it except that I loved Kit! I just started a Bosch book but it’s on deck.

Ago 31, 2019, 6:37pm

I just pulled my not-ratty-but-pages-yellowed mass market copy of Break In from my shelves and have started it. Having just finished a rather intense book The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, a Dick Francis hits the perfect note for me.

Editado: Sep 16, 2019, 1:15pm

September-October Read: Break In

Break In, published in 1985, was one of the first Dick Francis books I ever read, and it's still one of my favorites. It is one of the rare books that features a protagonist whom we will meet again, in our November-December read, Bolt. Christmas "Kit" Fielding is a steeplechase jockey. He is very close to his twin sister, Holly, even though she married into the Allardeck family, whose patriarch has carried on a feud with père Fielding for years. The ersatz Romeo and Juliet relationship did not bring the two families together, but now Holly's husband, racehorse trainer Bobby Allardeck, is in trouble and Kit may be the only one who can help him. Can Kit overcome his distaste for his sister's in-laws long enough to make the effort? And can Bobby swallow his instinctive hate for all things Fielding (besides Holly) long enough to let him try?

I loved Kit from the first time I met him way back in the 1980s (I have this one in hardback, so I must have bought it shortly after it was released), and the supporting characters are also fine, from Holly and her husband's hateful family to Kit's favorite racehorse owner, the Princess. And — heads up, Anita! — we return to some solid horserace action in this one, riding along with Kit in his jump races. I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I do.

Sep 2, 2019, 7:17am

I am looking forward to reading Break in :-)

Sep 2, 2019, 8:44am

I hope you find the horse action satisfactory, Anita. :)

Sep 6, 2019, 6:47pm

>98 rosalita: Thanks Julia! Break In is probably one of the first ones I read, too, way, way back in the late 80s. I just started it, and I’m only on page 40 or so, but there are some general things I remember as I read it. This was one of my favorites, too. Funny, I almost got rid of my few Francis hardbacks a year or so ago during a book purge. Sentimentality won out, though, and I’m glad. And, as it happens, at my library’s annual book sale today, I found a copy of Field Of Thirteen which is a short story collection. It’s also a hardback, which I usually don’t even look through at the sale, but there it was, right on top of a shelf. I couldn’t resist.

Sep 6, 2019, 8:42pm

>101 Copperskye: I have Field of Thirteen also, Joanne! I liked the little introductory notes Francis wrote for each of the stories. It's interested to see what varied publications he wrote for over the years.

Sep 16, 2019, 1:06pm

I finished Break In last week and liked it a lot and will be happy to visit again with Kit with the next selection! I hope The Princess shows up again and I suspect she will. Loved how she saved the day for Kit especially since women don’t usually get that role!

>98 rosalita: But were reading Bolt next, no? (Although I don’t own Bonecrack and so not sure that I’ve read that one...!)

Sep 16, 2019, 1:17pm

>103 Copperskye: Argh, yes we are reading Bolt next! I always get the names of those two mixed up. I'm glad you enjoyed spending time with Kit & Company!

Sep 16, 2019, 4:29pm

I am in the middle of Break In and I'm sure I'll finish it tonight. I'm wanting to pick it up and read every spare minute I can find! Always a good sign. :-)

Sep 16, 2019, 8:10pm

So I'm the reverse of the jump-ahead-ers...I just finished Nerve, finally. Cast your mind way back to the discussions thereof - my impression was that Joanna was using the cousinship as a shield, rather than having a fixed aversion to the idea. Why she needed a shield again Rob is another question....

I intend to read all of them. Eventually. That's re-read, actually - the only Dick Francis I think I haven't read is his autobiography. I've never found a copy. Someday.

Sep 16, 2019, 8:31pm

>105 cbl_tn: Those are the best books, Carrie: The ones you can't wait to pick up again!

>106 jjmcgaffey: It's never too late to chat about any of the books, Jennifer, so I'm glad you came back. I kind of agree with your spoiler, although we weren't given any specific info why that would be. But a truly deep aversion to the idea of cousins marrying wouldn't have been overcome so easily, I don't think.

Sep 17, 2019, 5:12am

I finished Break In last night, and I agree that Kit is a great character. I found this one a bit harder to follow, plot-wise, but that's probably my fault. I did like the horsey bits, and also the way that Kit was able to whizz around the countryside and through London so easily, never getting caught in traffic jams. That wouldn't be the case now!

Sep 17, 2019, 6:20am

>108 susanj67: Ha! Excellent point about the lack of traffic jams, Susan. On a related note, I remember when I first read this one back in the 1980s I assumed that they had Americanized the use of mph and distances on Kit's journeys. I can't remember when I finally learned that the UK has sort of half-assed its conversion to metrics, but it gave me hope that someday maybe the US could also half-ass its way to joining the rest of the world on the metric system. :-)

Nov 6, 2019, 1:36pm

I'm sorry our discussion of the Dick Francis books has petered out here at the end of the year. Just in case anyone is still here, I'll post the intro for our last book of the year shortly.

Nov 6, 2019, 1:40pm

November-December Read: Bolt

Bolt, the second in a pair of novels featuring steeplechase jockey Christmas "Kit" Fielding, was published in 1987, two years after Break In. Back with Kit are his twin sister, Holly, his favorite employer, Princess Casilia, and his family's arch-nemesis, Maynard Allardeck. As Bolt opens, we learn that Kit's budding romance with the Princess's niece, Danielle, has hit rocky shoals. Meanwhile, the Princess herself needs Kit's help extricating her elderly but honorable husband from a business deal gone bad, which leads him once again into the sort of physical danger most jockeys never face off the racecourse.

I enjoyed revisiting Kit & Co. again. He's such an appealing protagonist, one of Francis' best in my opinion. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

Nov 6, 2019, 2:13pm

I have read and enjoyed a number of Dick Francis books this year. Bolt was a good one to end on. Thanks for setting up this group read.

Nov 6, 2019, 2:39pm

Thanks for reading along! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Editado: Nov 6, 2019, 4:45pm

Bolt was a good one to end on, I agree. Go Kit! I could understand Danielle's concerns about getting hitched to a jockey; kinda like being the wife of a firefighter. You have to learn how to handle the worry. I'm glad that relationship came out the satisfying way. I wonder whether Dick Francis and his wife went through anything similar before getting married; he was a jockey for a good while, wasn't he?

P.S. Thanks for leading us on such an enjoyable ride (*groan*) this year, Julia!

Editado: Nov 6, 2019, 5:18pm

Thanks, Julia, I’m still here! Looking forward to getting to Bolt in a couple weeks.

Nov 6, 2019, 6:44pm

I haven't read the last one but I'm planning on reading both by the EOY.

Nov 6, 2019, 7:51pm

>114 jnwelch: Hi, Joe! I do think Francis used a lot of stuff from his own life in the books, so your spoiler speculation is quite possible. And I'm also glad the love story came to a good end. But then, what would you expect from someone who's read all those Georgette Heyers? :-D

>115 Copperskye: Howdy, Joanne. I'm glad you're still with us.

>116 clue: Good to hear! I'll be interested to hear what you think.

Nov 7, 2019, 5:41am

I am still here! I'm thinking about saving Bolt for my airplane book next month.

Nov 7, 2019, 7:24am

>118 cbl_tn: I think it will be a perfect airplane book, Carrie. Absorbing but not requiring huge amounts of concentration.

Nov 7, 2019, 8:23am

I've pulled my copy of Bolt and hope to start it this week. Julia, this year-long 6-book read has been perfect so far - not too demanding, but enough to showcase what a talented author Dick Francis was.

Nov 7, 2019, 9:52am

>117 rosalita: LOL! Ditto!

Nov 7, 2019, 10:15am

>120 karenmarie: Well, I hope we can end the experience on a positive note for you, Karen! Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Nov 7, 2019, 10:30am

I just finiished Rat Race in October. I enjoyed the airplane angle, but like Anita, I'm in it for the horses.

I'll start Break In very soon. I haven't read that one so it will be good to get off the TBR pile. I'll also get to Bolt before the end of the year.

Nov 7, 2019, 2:10pm

I hadn't read Dick Francis until this year, and he's now on my list of favorite authors. So, thanks for that, Julia!

Nov 7, 2019, 3:26pm

>123 streamsong: Happy reading! And come back and let us know what you think when you're done with Kit Fielding.

>124 cbl_tn: Now that just warms my heart, Carrie! I hope you'll keep reading him even though our shared read will be over. There are lots more for you to enjoy.

Nov 8, 2019, 3:42pm

>123 streamsong: To me there were enough horses in Break in, Janet!

I have Bolt ready to read this month, I liked Break in and look forward to more adventures with Kit Fielding :-)

Nov 8, 2019, 3:49pm

>126 FAMeulstee: I thought the horse content would be more to your liking in Break In, Anita! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And I'll look forward to your thoughts on Bolt when you get to it.

Editado: Nov 9, 2019, 7:10am

I hope this reading topic will continue in 2020... I'm a Dick Francis fan (I was at the Mystery Writers of America banquet when Dick Francis was given the 1996 Grandmaster award and made a lovely acceptance speech) and have many of his books on my shelf; alas, not the ones being read here in 2019. My favorites include: The Edge, Straight and Banker.

Here's an article about Felix Francis taking over the book writing this group may find interesting:

Nov 9, 2019, 8:51am

>128 rhinemaiden: Thanks for sharing the article, rhinemaiden. I don't usually follow series when they are continued by another author, but there couldn't be anyone more suited to it than Dick and Mary's son.

The three you mentioned are also some of my favorites, as it happens. Great minds think alike!

I would be happy to saddle up for another round of Dick Francis reads in 2020, but I'm not sure if there's enough interest. Perhaps we could take a show of hands:

Votar: I'm interested in another Dick Francis shared read in 2020?

Recuento actual: 13, No 1

Nov 12, 2019, 6:41am

Julia, I'm looking forward to Bolt, which available right now from the elibrary. I'll get it as soon as my November ban on library books comes to an end. I've voted Yes for 2020 :-)

Nov 12, 2019, 7:11am

>127 rosalita: Bolt was an enjoyable read. Although I did miss Kit's sister in this story.

Nov 12, 2019, 10:10am

>130 susanj67: When I agreed that No!vember was a good idea, Susan, I did not intend for it to interfere with my Dick Francis group. Tsk tsk.

>131 FAMeulstee: I haven't yet re-read Bolt, and I had forgotten that she doesn't play much of a part in this one. (Time to pull that off the shelf!) I really enjoyed the interaction between Kit and Holly in Break In.

Nov 12, 2019, 10:25am

I'm so pleased to see the strong response to continuing our horsy adventures in 2020! With so many books to choose from, I've been doing some thinking about possible themes to center our choices around. I'll be back later with some options for us to consider, but if you have ideas let me know.

Nov 12, 2019, 11:23am

>132 rosalita: Julia, well, OK for next year I will extend the exemption from library-borrowing bans to Dick Francis. That means the complete list is:

Jack Reacher
Gabriel Allon
Joe Pickett
Dick Francis

True, three of these are fictional characters and Dick Francis is not, but I think the list still works.

Nov 12, 2019, 11:45am

library-borrowing bans?

Nov 12, 2019, 12:25pm

>135 rhinemaiden: I have banned myself from borrowing any library books during November so that I can read some of my own books. But three of my favourite characters are exempt (I have just picked up the new Jack Reacher novel), and from 2020 any book by Dick Francis :-)

Nov 12, 2019, 1:23pm

>134 susanj67: That's more like it, young lady!

Nov 12, 2019, 2:43pm

ahh-h-h-h... got it! How are you liking the new Jack Reacher?

Nov 12, 2019, 5:05pm

I just finished Bolt. I had a few quibbles with it, but it's a Dick Francis, for crying out loud, and therefore a very enjoyable read. I did not understand why Danielle all of a sudden got cold feet. It was a bit irritating but did give Litsi a larger role than he might have otherwise had. I didn't really buy Henri Nanterre's attempts to bulldoze The Princess and her husband - surely they would have had other people besides Kit to stymie him legally without his being able to tear up an on-the-fly-but-legal document. But the "Take off your coats" scene was brilliant and all's well that ends well. Incredibly I have had it on my shelves since 2009, thought that I had read it, but hadn't, so well done Julia.

I voted yes for another Dick Francis read. 6 books is good - keeps us going but isn't onerous. Can I put in a vote for Banker, a sentimental favorite since it's my first Dick Francis?

Nov 12, 2019, 5:45pm

>139 karenmarie: Howdy, Karen! I agree with some of your spoiler, though I think Danielle's cold feet were foreshadowed a bit in Break In, when he had that bad fall during a race that she was attending. But the idea that the Princess and her hubby would not have had anyone else capable of helping except Kit is a bit far-fetched, for sure.

I'm glad you're on board for a second year! Banker is one of my very favorites, too, even though it's so darn sad when Ginny dies. I really liked that character in her limited appearances. But the whole stud farm aspect was utterly fascinating.

Nov 12, 2019, 5:58pm

Yay! I’m glad you’re on board for another year, Julia!!

Nov 12, 2019, 8:24pm

>141 Copperskye: I'm glad you are, too, Joanne!

Nov 13, 2019, 9:53am

>138 rhinemaiden: I'm saving it for the weekend :-)

Ene 10, 2020, 1:47am

Well, better late than never, I started and finished Bolt. Was there a 10 day grace period on this group read? 🙂

It was an enjoyable read but wow, all those horses murdered! And the police don’t care and people think it’s just a prank by some kids?? That was all hard to stomach, frankly. Also agree with the comments above about only Kit being the one to save the company. Wouldn’t they have had a corporate legal team? But that wouldn’t make for a very fun book, I guess. I really enjoyed all the characters, though, and most of the action, and also it was very horsey, so that was good, too! Thanks Julia!!

This was a reread for me and as I was reading, I came across my receipt tucked in the book. I purchased it at a B. Dalton (RIP) on 7/14/90 for $2.98 in the remainder bin.

Ene 10, 2020, 5:20am

>144 Copperskye: Yes, the dead horses were rather grim, weren't they? Having been with Kit as he rode them in races made me feel their loss more keenly, because it felt like we knew them as much as the people. I like the way Francis portrays horses as having distinct personalities just like people. I haven't spent enough quality time among horses to know how true to life that is, but it feels right. :-)

Ene 10, 2020, 8:23am

Rosalita, I'm ready for a 2020 Dick Francis horsey adventure whenever you're ready!

Ene 10, 2020, 8:34am

Ene 10, 2020, 10:01am

>145 rosalita: They absolutely have distinct personalities, Julia, as much as a dog or a cat. If they lived in the house with us, or we lived in the barn with them, it’d be much more noticeable!

Ene 10, 2020, 5:42pm

>148 Copperskye: Ah, I'm glad to know that, Joanne! I've always loved horses, even though I never got to be around them much. Such lovely creatures.

>146 rhinemaiden: >147 Dejah_Thoris: Ah, I was thinking there wasn't much interest after the discussion here fell off toward the end of the year, but Karen has also been encouraging me. So I'll see what I can put together this weekend. I do have some ideas for a "theme" for the year's reading ...

Ene 10, 2020, 6:21pm

>149 rosalita: 🥳 Yay!

Ene 10, 2020, 7:22pm

>149 rosalita:

Glad to hear it.

Ene 11, 2020, 2:21am

>149 rosalita: Looking forward to your ideas.

Ene 11, 2020, 5:13pm

I'm ready for our new year's Dick Francis shared read, too!

Ene 12, 2020, 9:48am

Good book

Ene 12, 2020, 11:19am