Wednesday, August 08, 2018

14. Rat Race by Dick Francis

Back in my teens, Dick Francis was a staple.  We had tons of them lying around the house and they could be found in any hotel lobby or waiting room in the western world in those days.  There were several of the older paperback versions in the basement communal bookshelf of an apartment we were staying at and knowing I needed something easily digestible to keep my reading pace going, I grabbed this one.  Interestingly, when I went to return it, somebody had taken all the original Pan copies and left any of the more recent versions.  I guess there may be another collector lurking in that building.

Not much to say here about this book that hasn't been said before about Dick Francis's books.  He was the biggest mystery author of his time but I wonder how long his literary legacy will last.  Rat Race has all the classic elements, lone male hero of good heart and skill but bearing a guilty burden even though he didn't actually do anything wrong (so much shame in England at that time).  Good, solid tension and intrigue with nasty bad guys and often realistically unsensational crimes.  The one new thing I observed at this age is how detailed and technical the stuff about flying and air communications is in the book.  I did a bit of research and of course it turns out this was all his wife's work, who herself was a pilot as well as the researcher for all his books.  He later basically came out and said that he goes by the name Richard in real life and that Dick Francis was really he and his wife.  I think there is a book here about so many succesful genre authors who when you dig a little deeper could only have been succesful because of their marriage to a woman who worked as hard if not harder and was also a crack writer.  Try to find me one of these dudes who didn't have such a wife.

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