Saturday, April 7, 2007

Book: Dick Francis: Rat Race

One book that I have liked a lot is a book by Dick Francis called 'Rat Race'. Now Dick Francis is an odd bird. He writes almost solely on horse-racing, but he writes good stuff. He was a champion jockey in the 50's, and has written a number of books ever since.
One of the books of his that I really like is called 'Rat Race' (written in 1971). It is not a very complicated plot, but does involve horse racing to some degree (although tangentially). It is about a small-time divorced pilot who is not doing so well in life. He is almost perpetually broke, has to pay regular alimony to his wife, and works for a small charter airline where the owner wants to keep him down. He meets all kind of passengers on the way, many of whom look down on him.
With this background, the story starts escalating. One day when carrying a group to a race-track including a famous jockey, he senses danger and lands, only to see the plane explode a few minutes later. He starts investigating, even when dealing with the repurcussions of this explosion. He meets the family of the famous jockey, and gets romantically interested in his sister, and the sister feels the same. This part of the story is really an excellent sub-plot. The other sister of the jockey is terminally ill, and the way that the family is dealing with the upcoming loss and the resulting grief is an inspired piece of writing. One cannot but help feeling impressed with their courage and ability to handle grief.
The novel moves towards the investigation coming to a peak, with some inspired detective work from the pilot. In addition, the way that the love story between these two moves along with the plot is interesting. The last few pages is when the story climaxes. It is a good read.

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