Dick Francis Field of Thirteen

ISBN 13: 9780515126099

Field of Thirteen

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9780515126099: Field of Thirteen
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In this collection of short stories the settings range from the national Hunt at Cheltenham, where a middle-aged owner falls in love with her jockey, to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, where the demon drink and wilting willpower take their toll.

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Review:

This first collection of short stories by Dick Francis (author of 10 Lb. Penalty and more than 30 other horseracing mysteries) pulls together five new tales with eight that have appeared scattered in periodicals over the last three decades. One of the pleasures of his stories is witnessing the breadth and variety within Francis's racetrack milieu. In "Dead on Red," a jealous jockey named Davey Rockman hires Emil Jacques, a French assassin and gun collector, to kill the famed rider who stole his job; but Rockman is haunted by his deed much in the same way as is the protagonist in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." "Raid at Kingdom Hill" tells of Tricksy Wilcox's scheme for a not-so-bright bomb scare, a plan that still might yield the payoff of a lifetime. "Collision Course" is free of murder but frames a delightful conflict between an out-of-work newspaperman and a bounder whose faux manners threaten to bring him down at the peak of his racing syndicate career. The Kentucky Derby story, "The Gift," follows Fred Collyer, a drunken writer who overhears plans for a major racing swindle and struggles against alcohol to publish the story by his deadline. And the collection ends with a what-if story called "Haig's Death" that examines the consequences of the sudden passing of Christopher Haig, an animal feed consultant and race-meeting judge.

Poe, who most historians of literature credit as the creator of the short story, declared that a good short story should have nothing extraneous. Francis's stories, for the most part, obey Poe's dictum. Each character and description fits tightly into an unfolding plan so that the mystery or twist is revealed with a satisfying economy of words. While Field of 13 will appeal to Francis loyalists, newcomers, too, will find much to relish in the short fiction of this mystery grand master. --Patrick O'Kelley

About the Author:

Dick Francis (pictured with his son Felix Francis) was born in South Wales in 1920. He was a young rider of distinction winning awards and trophies at horse shows throughout the United Kingdom. At the outbreak of World War II he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot, flying fighter and bomber aircraft including the Spitfire and Lancaster.

He became one of the most successful postwar steeplechase jockeys, winning more than 350 races and riding for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. After his retirement from the saddle in 1957, he published an autobiography, The Sport of Queens, before going on to write more than forty acclaimed books, including the New York Times bestsellers Even Money and Silks.

A three-time Edgar Award winner, he also received the prestigious Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger, was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2000. He died in February 2010, at age eighty-nine, and remains among the greatest thriller writers of all time.

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