Russell James has been named “the Godfather of Noir” by Ian Rankin. Russell writes crime novels - about criminals and victims, not the cozy procedural or whodunnit. He is the editor of Great British Fictional Detectives.
McCoy is by no means the first jockey to turn to fiction and in this, his first, he emphasises the fixing, intimidation and rigged gambling that lurks beneath the sport of kings – none of which is inhibited by the supine jobsworths of the Jockey Club, though McCoy distances his disturbing exposé by setting it back in 1979/80. Racing, we may console ourselves, is cleaner now.
Back then, Duncan Claymore, a rising young jockey, sets out to avenge his father, whose training business was criminally destroyed by rivals. Claymore’s quest (when he is not distracted by vigorous sex with rampant women) traps him against the rail of racing’s tawdry glamour and temptations before releasing him to canter home to a pounding climax at the Cheltenham Festival.
We’re given no hint that eighteen-times champion jockey McCoy (who’s still racing and still winning) was given a leg-up with this book, which is surprising, as this is an efficiently crafted and professionally written tale. If this is to be his new career, he’s still odds-on favourite to win.