My Top Five Dick Francis Books

Written by Felix Francis


 How can I choose just five? I love them all.




1. Bonecrack (published 1971)

This has always been my favourite of my father’s books.

It is a story about two fathers and two sons and, in particular, how the development of a working relationship between the sons changes the dynamics that exist between each father and his son. It is a tale of how the sons seek to establish their own existence, emerging from the shadows of their domineering fathers, and the distinction between total dependence and true independence as a means to that end. But, of course, it’s a thriller too – a story of threats and coercion, of mystery, violence and intrigue. It is not a ‘whodunit’ in the traditional sense, as the reader knows who the villain is on page six. It is more a tale of a battle of wills between two strong personalities both of whom are determined to prevail.


2. Odds Against (published October 1965)

Sid Halley makes his first appearance (of five) in Odds Against as the recently retired champion jockey, forced to quit the sport he loves due to an horrific injury to his left hand. He appears to be wasting his life until he gets shot and nearly loses it altogether. The incident spurs his into action, investigating the world of high finance and property development, in particular the taking over of racecourses for building land, and those who would stop at nothing to force the deal through – including murder.


3. The Danger (published 1973)

Kidnapping is a fact of life. Always has been, always will be. Less risky and more lucrative than robbing banks.

Andrew Douglas is a kidnap negotiator charged with obtaining the safe return of a hostage while ensuring that the ransom paid is not so extortionate that the family resent the victim for evermore. An Italian lady jockey is snatched and Andrew is sent to get her back. Then there’s another grab, this time of a child. Is there a pattern? Andrew pits his wits against the mastermind behind it all, and it’s a fight to the death.


4. For Kicks (published February 1965)

I am unashamedly going for some of the earlier of my father’s books because they had the greatest influence on me both as a reader and, now, as the writer of the “Dick Francis Novels”. For Kicks certainly remains one of the very best Dick Francis books, even 50 years after it was first released. Daniel Roke is a young, wealthy, successful horse breeder in Australia who has his life turned upside down (literally) when he is invited to come to the UK to investigate some bizarre goings-on in the world of Thoroughbred horseracing. And death and destruction tag along for the ride.


5. Forfeit (published 1968)

Winner of the first of my father’s three Edgar Allen Poe Awards for Best Novel, Forfeit is the story of a journalist, James Tyrone, who is a racing reporter for a London scandal sheet. He knows that fellow writer Bert Chekov is a drunk, but always thought he was an honest one. But when Bert suddenly dies in an "accidental" fall from a window, Tyrone suspects the clues to his death might be found in some newspaper columns he’d been writing touting can't-lose horses – who then mysteriously failed to show up on race day. In between trips to cover the next big race and secret rendezvous with a sensual new mistress, Tyrone sets out to prove that Chekov has been murdered. But he doesn't appreciate the terrifying risk he’s taking until it’s almost too late.

Front Runner by Felix Francis is out now, published by Michael Joseph, price £18.99 in hardback

Photos from the London launch of FRONT RUNNER. © Mike Stotter 2015

Editor Alex Clarke presents Felix with his leather bound copy of FRONT RUNNER

Felix posing in front of the especially commissioned frame containing all the pages from the book

SHOTS team of Mike and Ayo with Felix

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