[written in 2010]
I’ve been rereading all the Dick Francis on the shelf in the Homer Public Library. This one is still my favorite, painter Alexander Kinloch, nephew of a Scottish earl, is summoned from his aerie in Scotland by his mother to tend to his step-father, whose prosperous brewery has been ripped off to insolvency by its disappeared comptroller. Wonderful characters, contained but loving mother Vivienne, dithery but honorable step-father Ivan, proud, stubborn, hilarious uncle Himself (the earl), viperous but charming step-sister Patsy and her execrable husband Surtees, and one of the more capable and most amusing sidekicks I’ve ever read, the private investigative team of Young and Utley. Francis’ villains are never that obscure, by their behavior shall ye know them, but the creation of the portrait of Zoe Lang is wonderfully imaginative, descriptive and mesmerizing.
Reflex, Straight, Banker, Proof, Decider also wonderful. Yeah, he was a jockey and there is always a horse around somewhere, but the books are often only peripherally about racing. Part of the greatness of his novels lies in the different worlds he explores in each of them, painting in To The Hilt, photography in Reflex, gemstones in Straight, venture capitalism in Banker, wine in Proof, architecture in Decider. He writes pretty much the same character every time, first person male, young, stubborn, honest, honorable, never a whiner, always calm and cool and on occasion astonishingly forgiving. Maybe it’s always the same narrator, but it’s someone you want to know, and the writing is excellent. Read Proof for the telephone conversation between English Tony and French Henri, worth the price of the book alone.