Monday, October 17, 2011

The Pirate (published in 1974) - A book about the conflict between jews and arabs

Harold Robbins is one of the prolific writers of the 21st century. Born Harold Rubin, his parents were Russian and Polish immigrants. After dabbling in sugar futures he took up a job in Universal pictures which propelled his interest towards writing. Thus came out “Never love a Stranger” which courted a controversy for its graphic sexual content. Soon Robbins would become a prolific writer churning out innumerable best sellers. He had this knack of mixing up a thriller with sex and historical anecdotes to create a taut mystery. The worlds favorite author, Harold Robins would publish over 20 books which is translated in to 32 languages and estimatedly selling over 750 million copies.
Many of his books were made as successful movies, the very first being “A stone For Danny Fisher” which was adapted as “King Creole” starring Elvis Presley. The stories were also made in to mini series and were part of documentaries. Robbins also lived a jet setting life style with cars, wine and women at his disposal. His decadent life style along with those of the high and mighty of Hollywood is often mirrored in his books. Robbins was one of the authors honored with a star on the Hollywood walk of frame. This prolific writer died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 81 in Palm Springs, California.



The pirate is Baydr Al Fay, the rich globe trotting, prostitute seeking, cocaine snorting millionaire who is given a promise by the prince of an unnamed Arab state that his son would inherit the oil rich kingdom. Baydr so is desperate for a son and therefor divorces his poor Arab wife to hook up with blond bombshell Jordanna who bears him two sons. Baydr is an anti father himself, never looking up his children, abandoning his wives and family for pleasure seeking adventures. Schooled in western thought he is more European than Arab except for his antisemitism. Unknown to him he has a Jewish heritage, being the son of a Jewish resistance fighter. Cut to circa 1930, where Samir Al Fay would meet Ben Ezra in the desert with pregnant wives in tow. Both the wives deliver in the desert storm and Ben gives his son to Samir as his wife dies at child birth. Samir raises Ben Ezra's child as his own and gives him the name Baydr.
Baydr with his money and education makes oil riches, as his personal life spirals. His wife Jordanna also experiments with sex with multiple partners and cocaine snorting and application is the norm of the day. But Baydr's estranged Arab daughter, channelizes her rage in to being a Jihadi and kidnaps her fathers family and hold them to ransom. Baydr is helped by the one counter intelligence officer, Ben Ezra, his real father. Soon its terrorist vanquished, and grand reconciliation takes place which is sort of an anachronism after such a racy life. Well its Harold Robbins at his corny best again. So expect graphic sex scenes, female anatomy descriptions, the big O's and homosexual encounters. The drug usage and other paraphernalia may be too much to bear, but still that’s what makes Robbins the most widely published author. The movie was made in to a film starring Franco Nero and Ann Archer. Keep it away from children please!!!!!

The Pirate (published in 1974) - A book about the conflict between jews and arabs

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Betsy (published in 1971) - A book on the automobile industry, written by Harold Robbins

Harold Robbins is one of the prolific writers of the 21st century. Born Harold Rubin, his parents were Russian and Polish immigrants, although he claimed to be of Jewish heritage. After dabbling in sugar futures he took up a job in Universal pictures, which propelled his interest towards writing. Thus came out “never love a Stranger” which courted a controversy for its graphic sexual content. Soon Robbins would become a prolific writer churning out innumerable best sellers. He had this knack of mixing up a thriller with sex and historical anecdotes to create a taut mystery. The worlds favorite author, Harold Robins would publish over 20 books which is translated in to 32 languages and estimatedly selling over 750 million copies.
Many of his books were made in to successful movies, the very first being “A stone For Danny Fisher” which was adapted as “King Creole” starring Elvis Presley. The stories were also made in to mini series and were part of documentaries. Robbins also lived a jet setting life style with cars, wine and women at his disposal. His decadent life style along with those of the high and mighty of Hollywood is often mirrored in his books. Robbins was one of the authors honored with a star on the Hollywood walk of frame. This prolific writer died of a cardiac arrest at the age of 81 in Palm Springs, California.



A fictional take on the dwindling Detroit Automobile Industry, this book chronicles the days when American car makers had only past laurels to rest on to. With profits plummeting and the public taste leaning to low cost small Japanese cars, many had shut shop during the 60's and 70's. An ode to Henry Ford, Harold Robbins presents “Loren Hardeman I”, the patriarch who was the pioneer car maker presiding over a company which was once the premier automobile maker. Now his grandson Loren III has diversified and to the senior Loren's distaste is now a major Auto spare parts maker. Loren I enlists the talents of a race car driver Angelo Perino to once again make a car that the world would love. He plans to name it after Betsy, his Great Grand daughter.
Angelo, is the narrator of the novel and the narrative swivels back and forth in time. Being a race car driver Angelo is blessed with looks and money and with his shrewd business acumen steers the company to make “The Betsy”. True to Harold Robbins style the protagonist enjoys wealth, women and wine in copious quantities. The affairs and sex drives are graphically described, but still the story of the car Betsy focuses on all the emotions. It tries to understand the apathy among the Lorens and the distaste of Loren III for his grand father for having an affair with his mother. Angelo also tries to juggle the affections for a British lady and the real Betsy who would inherit millions of dollops from her grand father, not to mention the car named in her honor.
Unlike Harold Robbins' gritty dark novels, this book is a tad more cheerful. The tone and the plot makes it a pleasant read, the most important aspect being that you actually believe it. The same is made in to a wonderful movie with young Tommy Lee Jones essaying the role of Angelo Perino. So watch the movie and read the book.

The Betsy (published in 1971) - A book on the automobile industry, written by Harold Robbins

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Risk (published in 1977) - Written by Dick Francis, a story of a kidnapping

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded the CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Ronald Britten the hero is an accountant who moonlights as a steeplechase jockey. This is one of the few books of Dick Francis which has an accountant as the star, as accountants are considered the nerd incarnates. But as it is foretold “nerds rule the world”, Ronald Britten with his penchant for number's analyses and observes each and every situation and gets tailored made solutions for them. Any ways as he wins the Cheltham Open Championships, he is kidnapped and locked aboard a sail boat.



Ronald cannot make head or tail of his incarceration and gets no answers. He soon escapes to an island and is helped by the middle aged spinster Hillary Pillock to evade the criminals. Hillary has a very unusual request as a price for her help and she becomes very crucial for Roland later. Ronald reaches mainland and continues his investigations. He checks out whether he has any bad run ups with anyone while doing auditing and soon he pin points certain suspicious elements.
As the investigations go on, Ronald gets involved in the races and develops a romantic interest with a jockey's daughter. But as he is riding to another race, he is again kidnapped, but let go. Soon he peels off the disguises of many of his so called friends and with the help of his fiancée and Hillary manages to bring his captors to the book.
A very engrossing tale complete with all the racing trivia which an insider like dick Francis can only provide. The language is simple and to the point, therefore there are no skip areas. This page turner does follow the formulaic thriller of Dick Francis, with an underdog hero coming up trumps against a violent world intent on killing him. But Francis manages to get the readers attention focused on the who done it plot. The unmasking of the villain is the masterpiece of this novel and I would suggest not to miss this one.

Risk (published in 1977) - Written by Dick Francis, a story of a kidnapping

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In the Frame (published in 1976) - Written by Dick Francis - into the world of art fraud and crime

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded a CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Yet another fabulous novel from the master mystery writer and its all about horse racing again. One of the enduring traits about the Dick Francis book is that there is an endless variety of jobs and passions related to the racing fraternity. In The Frame has a horse painter as the protagonist.



Yes Charles Todd is a painter or an artist who paints horses. During the course of his book Dick Francis gives you the trivia or the interesting facets of painting a horse picture. Many are an event frozen in time by the artist. It is said that Mary, his wife used to help him undertake extensive research to help him get through the book. So she learned photography, parachute gliding and for this book she learned to paint. As Felix, Dick Francis's son put it “they were a team, a cottage industry with out a cottage”.
Charles Todd like all the Francis heroes, is an unassuming gentleman, albeit a cheeky one here. He comes down to Australia to check on a cousin. But as luck could have it he walks in to a crime scene. The cousin's house is burglarized, and the wife is murdered seemingly intercepting the thieves. The house is completely burned down ruining all the expensive paintings and a cellar full of wine. Charles stays back to help his cousin to deal with the police and the insurance. The investigation appears to be stalled and his cousin sinks deeper in to depression. To help the stagnant situation to move Charles takes matter in his own hands follows up the clues.
He meets another middle aged women whose house has been similarly burnt down and the common thread running between the two being a purchase of a painting done by the master. Soon patterns evolve and Charles finds that all the paintings bought were fake and to cover the trail of the phony paintings the fraudsters were trying to destroy them as soon they were purchased. Charles detective work takes him all over Australia and New Zealand where he is battered, bruised and almost killed. But he soon manages to uncover the gang's modus operandi and once again rescues the racing world.
Only Dick Francis can come up with a thriller like this and the simplicity is the major brownie point for this book. An incisive knowledge about the racing world and his vast experience helps Francis to mold a fantastic character like Charles Todd who may not be a jockey but paints horses. The language is engaging, simple and down to earth. Only jarring feature is the prevailing old British overtones through out and its still difficult to believe such chivalry exists in the real world.

In the Frame (published in 1976) - Written by Dick Francis - into the world of art fraud and crime

Friday, May 20, 2011

High Stakes (published in 1975) - Written by Dick Francis, a toy designer being cheated by his trainer

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded a CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Published in 1975, High Stakes is vintage Dick Francis, a thriller amidst the turmoil of the racing world. The star is Steven Scott who pays for his expensive hobby of horse breeding with his inventive toys. As a toymaker Steven is a novice with horses and relies on his trainer Jody Leeds whom he trusts implicitly. The duo nets winner after another and this makes Steven a successful horse owner. But as he goes through his stable finances, Steven realizes that he has been taken on a ride.



Jody Leeds had been pilfering large sums of money and Steven proceeds to sack him. Rudely awakened from his neat take aways Jody tries to hurt Steven where it matters most, by taking away his prized stallion, “Energise”. Jody tries to run over Steven while escaping with Energise and is stopped. But he tries again and succeeds in carting off the horse which makes Steven dig deeper.
Soon public opinion sympathize with Jody which further sends Steven's quest to despair. He finds that the racket involves many small betting outfits which have been loosing money. Villains who soon loose money over this affair try to stop Steven and soon he is facing a game of life and death. But Steven is not the one to let things go. He soon acquires new friends which involve his romantic interest and puts in a great plan to get back his horse. All his mechanical inventive genius is put to use to get back Energise and neutralize the villains.
This book is a real page turner with its taut story telling. The ramblings of the horse racing scenario is absent with Dick Francis focusing on the inventive genius of the hero who succeeds to get the horse back. The plot is mesmerizing and I say that the book is a must read.

High Stakes (published in 1975) - Written by Dick Francis, a toy designer being cheated by his trainer

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Knock Down (published in 1974) - A novel by Dick Francis - the story of a bloodstock agent

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Knock Down is the story of a blood stock trader, well it is not as macabre as it sounds. In the English horsing terminology it is equivalent of a horse trader or the horse buyer. Dick Francis gives another aspect of the English horse racing terminology with the respect of buying and selling horses.



As the writer himself implies, this profession is full of phony traders, bribing and cheating gullible customers, and the hero Jonah Dereham is an exception. An ex-jockey who was grievously injured, Jonah is happy with a small commission and is zealously honest. His goodness and immense knowledge make him the favorite of buyers but "when success could breed envy even in friends, in enemies it could raise spite of Himalayan proportions”. Jonah is a reclusive loner with an alcoholic brother Crispin who in this day and age would never get out of rehab.
Jonah is asked by an American heiress Kerry Sanders to choose a horse for her. After their successful bid for a great horse, two thugs corner Jonah to write over the horse to them. The motives for not bidding, and then at the same time asking to resell the horse intrigues him and Jonah refuses to sell the horse; he is promptly clubbed. Soon a series of run-in happens for various horses and pretty soon Jonah is on the run for his life. But a Dick Francis hero never leaves the scene midway, and Jonah true to the adage determinedly goes against his adversaries.
Jonah suffers threats, harassment, violence against himself and Crispin and knock downs. Amidst all this action he meets Air Traffic Controller Sophie Randolf when his horse bolts across the run way crashing her car. Sophie is suspicious at first and soon falls for the gentleman Jonah and helps him out with his case. Together they solve the mystery about Kerry Sanders, the Horses and the thugs.
A vintage Dick Francis book with an action backed story revolving around the racing fraternity. Knock Down guarantees a good read with a suitable romantic angle to keep the interest. The hero is a likable honest English Gentle man who pursues the villains even when all chips are down. The book I feel is condescending to the American lady but still the slight is forgivable with Jonah's winnable ways. A good book to read, a knockout buy.

Knock Down (published in 1974) - A novel by Dick Francis - the story of a bloodstock agent

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Slayride (published in 1973) - By Dick Francis, investigating a disappearing English Jockey in Norway

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded the CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
SlayRide is a racing novel amidst the Norwegian back drop. Dick Francis sets the whole cast in Norway where the racing community is very small and therefore invite British Jockeys to give a fillip for their fortunes. Bob Sherman is an English Jockey who disappears with a large sum of the earnings, like sixteen thousand kroner. Embarrassed by the turn of events, the British Jockey Clubs send in an investigator, David Cleveland who tries to understand the case. As he digs deeper he finds many clues where he finds the robbery and escape theory implausible. Bob Sherman leaves behind a pregnant wife and a good career which makes a case for his innocence.



As David goes through the case his life is also in peril. He survives a vicious boating accident and numerous attempts on his life. But slowly and steadily he keeps on the path of the killer and he is flushed out. This book is not one of the finest of Dick Francis books but still holds on its own. Sometimes you might feel a little unfulfilled as the thriller element takes a back seat as Francis rambles about the horse racing scenes in Norway. His prodigious knowledge about Jockeying and the racing scenes around the world with respect to the English racing is great, but its only for the racing fans. Well much of the English Gentlemen thing is also a tad over done especially in this day and age. David has lot of lady friends about whom he thinks polite amoral thoughts is a funny element.
I felt a little let down by this book when compared to his Smokescreen and Rat Race. This may not be a hard to put down kind of book but enjoyable all the same. It is a recommended read at-least a first time read.

Slayride (published in 1973) - By Dick Francis, investigating a disappearing English Jockey in Norway

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Smokescreen (published in 1972) - A movie actor trying to break a mystery related to horses

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded the CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Smokescreen slightly deviates from the usual text of Dick Francis where the protagonist is a swash buckling movie star, happily married and much touted family man. Edward “linc” Lincoln is a handsome movie star happily married to Charlotte with three children. Though English, Francis shifts the action away from the English shores to Spain and South Africa. Linc happens to be the star of a Spanish film, “man in the Car” and which while shooting in Spain comes across a draining scene. He is handcuffed and left to die for the shoot which proves to be for real. After this nerve racking experience Linc craves for something akin to a vacation. His godmother, Nerissa asks him to visit her and Linc on meeting her is taken aback by her condition. Nerissa suffering from a kind of cancer has few days to live. She asks Linc to check out her ranch in South Africa where her prized stallions are going bust in all the races.



She wants to leave her stallions to her nephew upon her death and also to Linc. Nerissa in her simplicity feels that the inheritance she leaves should not be a burden to her nephew. Linc agrees to go to South Africa and sort out the issue.
Linc, apart from being a movie star, in his earlier days was actually a prized jockey, whose only fault was to grow very tall. So he knows quite a bit about the horses and meets Nerissa's nephew, Danillo. At first Danillo seems to be a innocent young man, but soon Linc's suspicion shifts to him. Danillo seems to lead a double life and intends to usurp Linc's inheritance as well. As soon as Linc lands in South Africa, continuous attempts on his life takes place and he is compelled to play a game of cat and mouse with a tough assailant. As all the Dick Francis stars, Edward Linc is left battered, but he doggedly pursues the case and helps to get the knots untied.
As usual Dick Francis has come up trumps with a great book of the day and I can assure you that you cannot keep it down even for a second. If you are planning to read through the night get the lights properly checked for you ain't gonna let this go half way. Linc as a hero is superbly sketched and each encounters with the villain brings in goosebumps. South African scenery is well exploited in this book and mind you these are the dark apartheid days. In-spite of little craziness Smokescreen works wonders and is one of the best thriller you can put your money on.

Smokescreen (published in 1972) - A movie actor trying to break a mystery related to horses

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bonecrack (published in 1971) - Father and son relationships in the world of horses

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded the CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Bonecrack is a delightful book which chronicles a father and son relationship. Neil Griffon has racing in his blood and as a son of a world class stable owner and trainer he is a natural. But his father does not have trust in his abilities, which forces him to move away and make a name for himself. Neil comes back when his father suffers an accident and is bed ridden. He takes up the upkeep of the stables intending to hand it over to a efficient trainer as soon as he has found one. But a night changes the equation – when Neil is kidnapped and threatened.



Just as Neil's father never gave anything, Enzo Riviera is ready give everything his son Alessandro asks him. Alessandro wants to become a champion jockey and ride Archangel, the race favorite. Enzo is ready to do anything to get his son's wish come true. Neil is threatened to give in to Enzo's demand. Enzo vows to burn the stables down unless and until Alessandro is allowed to supersede all the other experienced jockeys. Neil has no alternative but to accede to his wishes.
He takes Alessandro under his wing and tries to groom him in to a good jockey. Aless is a snooty and cocky guy with scant regard to authority. But fearful for the stable, Neil perseveres and Alessandro thaws and gets in to the training mode. In an heartwarming finish Neil gets Alessandro do the best things in the world. He also earns the respect of his father and defeats Enzo's evil plots.
I just love Neil Griffon's character who has no great personality except for his dogged determination to save his horses. Many horses do get killed and this might turn off the animal lover, but the pace of the book helps to forgive all. I just loved the story, its heartwarming and ingenious. Dick Francis is a great mystery writer and Bonecrack once again proves it.

Bonecrack (published in 1971) - Father and son relationships in the world of horses

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rat Race (published in 1970) - Famous jockey, bomb explosions, and insurance

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
For a change the main hero of Rat Race is not directly connected with racing, but Matt Shore is a pilot who pilots an air taxi service. But still it is a Dick Francis story and there will be a racing angle. So Matt Shore is a pilot, down on his luck and who flies a light aircraft ferrying horses and jockeys to different racing locations. This book is heavily drawn from Francis's experience as a pilot and when he and his wife did run an air taxi service.



Matt Shore is a pilot whose life has taken a beating with some incidents, and an acrimonious divorce. His successful career as an pilot ends, retreats into flying for an air taxi, and is forced to live in a trailer. He gets the job at an Air taxi Service, Derrydowns as their pilot when one of the regulars go abroad. Other pilots do look down upon him and the competition for customers are tough. On his first day he ferries a couple of passengers who do not get along and among them is Colin Ross, a moody but a prize winning jockey. During the flight due to faulty wiring Matt undertakes an emergency landing and the plane explodes as soon as the passengers disembark. Even though no one was injured Matt is reprimanded and left searching for answers.
During his investigations he finds that one of his passengers was an explosive expert and deduces that the scheme was to eliminate Colin Ross. Because of the lack of evidence, the investigation is a bit slow, and the police are not so sure of what Matt is finding out. Matt soon finds the girl of his dreams, Nancy who turns out to be Colin Ross's sister. Soon they are romantically involved and things move on the leisurely plane. But then Nancy's plane is hot wired while piloting her brother and Matt guides their plane to safety. Matt restarts his investigations and unearths the syndicate which eliminates jockeys. Soon the villains smell the rat and start pursuing Matt and in a tense standoff he outwits them all, in a thriller that goes to the right page. Matt gets the girl and also Colin Ross's gratitude.
Dick Francis never disappoints with his taut narration of a mystery. But thats the only saving grace, otherwise the idea is a much used one. The villains are also etched well and does not glorify the violence to survive. A good book if you have lot of time to kill.

Rat Race (published in 1970) - Famous jockey, bomb explosions, and insurance

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Enquiry (published in 1969) - A jockey in search of justice, find out who framed him

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Jockey Kelly Hughes and trainer Dexter Cranfield are suspended for life by the Oxford Stewards for deliberately throwing racing matches. Dexter goes in to a depression and numbs his grief with the help of the bottle. But Hughes, made of sterner stuff channelizes his anger in finding out who framed him and planted the evidence. His journey takes him in to a murkier world of murder, deceit and blackmail.



This book is extremely interesting because Hughes is not a detective or even a snoopy curious guy. He is just a person in search of justice and so he does not even know where to begin. He just starts with the obvious, investigating all the people who gave evidence against him during the hearing. So the chipping away of the layers happens where shady characters who do away non conforming jockeys are unveiled.
Hughes gets his help from an unexpected quarter, Roberta - his employer's daughter helps him in his quest. Hughes and Roberta are poles apart with a yawning class divide between them. Roberta's dad treats jockeys as third class citizens and would be horrified to find his daughter consorting with such men. Hughes initially does not like this snooty, spoilt rich girl, but soon they become allies and then love blossoms. To my extreme relief Dick Francis let Hughes to get the girl which is pretty unusual. This is one of the characteristic of Dick Francis's novels, that the good guys never surely get the girl, the only thing he assures is that the good guy survives even romantic failures.
The book is amazing with a great pace. Each actions and even simple happenings are for some reason and Francis ties all the loose ends admirably. When Hughes clears his name I just said a hurrah for that man's indomitable spirit even though he was just a character. A real feel good book, but beware of being sucked into the vortex. You can never stop at anytime till you have reached the end.

Enquiry (published in 1969) - A jockey in search of justice, find out who framed him

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Forfeit (published in 1968) - Written by Dick Francis, an Edgar Award winner

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Forfeit is just another Dick Francis mystery set against the racing background. Here the protagonist James Tyrone is a sport writer who tries to solve the problem of the favorites of the race track not coming up to scratch. James Tyrone works for the London Tabloid, the “London Sunday Express” and is a racing correspondent. His friend Bert Chekhov in a drunken stupor advises him about being true to his self while covering the races. His blabbering about selling the soul, lies and fraud makes no sense to Tyrone who leaves him alone in the office.



The next news he gets is about Chekhov's death as a result of a fall from the seventh floor. Tyrone smells a story and his enthusiastic editor smells a scandal with profit and encourages him to go ahead with his investigations.
As Tyrone investigates, he comes across the betting syndicate which forces racing correspondents to mislead the general public. The syndicate which has made a great fortune is not willing to let go of it and can even resort to murder to prevent the cash outflow. Tyrone has his own personal demons to kill. His wife is incapacitated by polio and he feels he is living a life of “dust and ashes”. He is very much attracted to another women but loves his wife too. Picking up a life with pleasure or getting a world with love is a hard choice is make for any man, but the dilemma is managed beautifully by Tyrone.
As he meets the cold blooded murderer in the wild life cages of London, Tyrone manages to make the choice. He helps to save his wife inspite of being drunk and also fends off the assassin thus solving the mystery. A very fast paced book from the master of mysteries which manages to to keep your attention to the last. The language is very crisp and fresh with all the characters very properly nuanced. It is one of the first books where Francis delves in to the romantic nature of the hero. Tyrone's dilemma in letting go of sex and his love for his wife is well put through. This episode reflects Francis's personal life where his wife Mary had contracted polio. This book would be one of my favorite Dick Francis books and would highly recommend it.

Forfeit (published in 1968) - Written by Dick Francis, an Edgar Award winner

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Flying Finish (published in 1966) - By Dick Francis, a heir to an earldom becomes a horse groom

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Henry Grey in real life is a viscount and a very poor one too. A dwindling family fortune does not allow him any luxury to engage in his passions of racing and flying. Sleepwalking through his depressingly dreary desk job, he keeps his passions a secret. So just as any hero in the Dick Francis novels, Henry is sick of his life, struggling, but has great abilities with horses, mental toughness and determination. To compound his miseries, his family expect him to find a loaded wife who could bring in the money.



But Henry, tired of this life throws caution to the winds and takes up the job with a company which transports horses. He is the groom to the horses and this job albeit low in money and prestige takes care of his twin loves i.e flying and horse racing. But the company is not what it seems and Henry with his curiosity soon gets suspicious with the going-ons. As he goes on with his life he meets Gabriella in picturesque Milan with whom he feels a connection. But as he investigates the mysterious disappearances of colleagues and killing of horses he understands that, what he is transporting is more than equine cargo. This realization brings him face to face with a cold blooded ruthless killer. So Henry fights for his life, the horses and his love all while hanging precariously up in the air. After the fight sequences, the novel stops rather abruptly especially not resolving the romantic conflicts. These hanging loose threads may cause insomnia for a while.
On the whole the book is quite satisfactory with a great pace and action sequences. It also serves as a time machine which gives peek in to the past where the iron curtain ruled the political landscape. The villains are more blood thirsty and violence more graphic. The only disappointment is the ending, but many readers might wonder the fate of Gabriella. But a good book for all those who crave a mystery.

Flying Finish (published in 1966) - By Dick Francis, a heir to an earldom becomes a horse groom

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blood Sport (published in 1967) - trying to find a kidnapped horse in America

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Blood Sport has Gene Hawkins as its leading man. Like all other heroes of Francis he has lots of issues with the world. Gene has had his heart torn apart by an ex-girlfriend and he becomes suicidal and depressed. Well it is the 70's where rehab was not much of a fashion and popping pills were considered habit forming. Maybe current technological advances would have saved Gene from sleeping with a Luger under his pillow and taking unwarranted risks just to loose his life. Gene Hawkin works as a screener which is to prevent spies from getting planted in British offices. His ability to spot a fake resume and listening techniques make him invaluable.



The suicidal and manic depression has such an effect on his life that his boss, worried, packs him off for a three week vacation. On aboard a ship he rescues an drowning man who is convinced that his “accident” is not for real and asks his help to locate an expensive thoroughbred. He also informs Gene that some expensive British horses have disappeared from American stables about which the police have no clue. Hawkins takes up the case to escape from the boredom the vacation was causing him.
So the trail of the missing horses takes Hawkins across America from Kentucky, to Wyoming dude ranches, to eerie Arizona desert and even Las Vegas. As he struts along making less of his depression, he gains lot of friends and attracts lot of women. Gene is the archetypal Dick Francis hero who looses his heart but is suave and macho to get the girls. He escorts his bosses daughter to California and also supports another depressed women as the action hots up.
The trail includes a grand blood line scam with a family of crooks trying hard to cover tracks which can include murder. So Hawkins who tried to get out of life, at the right point chooses to live and bring the crooks to the books. A great story where pace is build up never to lag behind. Francis does not describe much about the American livery and lifestyle and for modern readers all the mystery could have been solved by a DNA test, still Blood Sport packs a solid punch. It helps us to relive the days where men lived by their wits and hands not by technology. A good read always.

Blood Sport (published in 1967) - trying to find a kidnapped horse in America

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Odds against (published in 1965) - A mystery around horse racing by Dick Francis

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He droppd out of school to train as a Jockey and was fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall an d became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Odds Against can easily be one of the great mysteries of Dick Francis. Sid Halley is one of those for whom leadership is thrust upon and find to their surprise that they wear it well. We find easy to relate to this simple down to earth guy who fights against injury, bad luck and divorce to find a way.



Maybe that is why Dick Francis conferred this unlikely honor of featuring Halley in three of his books, not a bad decision many would agree. Sid Halley is an impoverished teenager who drops out of school to train as a jockey. Soon he is a success in the racing circuit, has great investments and a lovely wife. When life seems to be going great, he has a fall and is forced out off his racing career, looses much of his money and faces the stark reality of a divorce. Sid continues life as a private investigator for Hunt Radnor Associates Detective Agency and is soon dubbed a failure. The moment of epiphany happens when he is shot in the arm during a skirmish with a petty thief and his life, success, failure's, love and divorce flash before his eyes, and Sid chooses to turn it around.
Sid's ex-Father-in-law, admiral Charles Rowland invites him over to his farm house to recuperate. Rowland introduces him to Howard Kraye who plans to take over Seabury Racecourse, Halley's old Racing haven. Rowland suspects Kraye sabotaging the races to induce a take over bid of the course. A series of bad accidents and death has many believing that Seabury is jinxed improving Kraye's chances. Halley has the unenviable task of investigating the ruthless Kraye and his wife Doria who treat the less fortunate as dirt and plans to build condo's at Seabury. Sid is fully recharges to save his old institution and it does not come easy, but he does it.
Dick Francis builds the suspense with each page and I have literally chewed all my nails in anticipation of the showdown. The villains do not get any of the sympathies which is very uncharacteristic of Francis. But as Sid slowly peels away each layer of deception we have nothing but to rejoice at the revival of the man who was a goner. Good book for all times.

Odds against (published in 1965) - A mystery around horse racing by Dick Francis

Sunday, January 30, 2011

For Kicks (published in 1965) - Doping and horse racing - a book by Dick Francis

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He droppd out of school to train as a Jockey and was fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall an d became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
"For Kicks" is the quintessential Dick Francis book where the Hero tries to solve the mystery in the racing world, but this time it is doping. Daniel Roke, an Australian stud farmer is asked by Earl October to investigate a series of wins posted by unfancied horses at the all England Racing Circuit. Roke is happy in Australia but the money dangled by Mr. October is too juicy a carrot to refuse. It does not help to have dependent siblings and family, the need for money makes it more difficult to refuse the offer. So Roke reaches England to investigate and takes up a job as the stable hand in various stables.



The mystery baffling the officials are the fact that unfancied horses win the race and they appear stimulated. But tests done on them only show an increased adrenaline count with no trace of any drug. The fastest horses are also tested whether they are doped to lose, but these too come negative. Roke disguised as the stable hand at the Earls stable come in to contact with his daughters regularly. He rebuffs the elder one and a tender relationship builds with the younger Elinor.
As the investigations proceed, Roke notices that most of the winners were horses once owned by a Humber or Adams. He gets in to their stables as a stable hand and find the work conditions atrocious. Slowly but steadily he unearths the mystery which ultimately threatens his survival. This may come as a spoiler, but the real scorcher of the book is the method of doping. Using the Pavlovian principle, Francis gives a new doping mantra, fear. Fear incited by prolonged torture followed by a stimulant in this case a whistle makes the horses bolt in terror and win the race. As always Roke is found, tortured and survives to tell the tale and reap the rewards.
An amazing book, crisp and refreshing which only Francis can imagine. Dick Francis builds up the suspense gradually that the reader is completely drawn in to the plot. Unlike his many heroes, Roke is handsome and suave, but goes through the similar travesties in search of answers. One can sense the English society of the seventies, the racing fraternity and the ambience of the field through this amazing book. This one heck of a journey every reader can take.

For Kicks (published in 1965) - Doping and horse racing - a book by Dick Francis

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nerve (published in 1964) - Jockeys and horses, a book by Dick Francis

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He droppd out of school to train as a Jockey and was fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall an d became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
Rob Finn is the black sheep of the family of talented musicians. Not only he cannot sing he cannot get the love of the woman he wants. Finn is head over heels in love with Joanna who finds his attentions unwarranted due to the fact that they are first cousins. Finn learns to ride at the outback and is hired as a trainey jockey when he reaches England.



He rides the tempestuous horses and his fearlessness helps him to overcome the most beastly ones. Slowly his fame spreads and he is catapulted in to the big league of horse racing. After basking in the glory of great wins he finds sinister going ons around him. Vicious rumors are spread about fellow jockeys and soon suicides and murders happen. Canards are spread about Finn who suddenly find his rides sluggish and his winning streak severely down in the dumps. Word goes around that he has lost his “Nerve”.
As Finn tries to find the answers about himself, he looks into the death of his colleagues and finds similar patterns and rumors surrounding their ends. As he investigates he is kidnapped and is tortured and given up as dead. But the resilient Finn manages to escape and gets the police and tries to piece the puzzle. Now the motivation is to find revenge for his torture and Finn goes against a powerful adversary whose motive is to destroy jockeys who do conform. This tale is the ultimate revenge drama of a determined but unassuming man against the power corridors in the racing land. The ending is superb and you feel for Rob Finn as he struggles to find his place in the competitive world of horse racing and love. He wins the former, but alas I feel cheated as Joanna who rescues him does not return his love.
Again a great racing story from Dick Francis in his typical crisp English. Readers can feel the yesteryears Britain through his writings, especially the English Gentleman's stiff upper-lip. Rob Finn is the typical hero who plods through torture, injury and bad luck to find a smile. Again a great mystery solved with out the high tech devices, just by pursuit and brains. A great book to take home.

Nerve (published in 1964) - Jockeys and horses, a book by Dick Francis

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dead Cert (published in 1962) - a horse racing story by Dick Francis

Richard Stanley Francis or Dick Francis was born in Pembrokshire, Wales, England on October 20th 1920. His father was a renowned jockey and Francis was catapulted in to the world of Horses, Jockeys and racing. He dropped out of school to train as a Jockey and was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air-force during World War II. After the war Francis became a celebrity Champion Jockey winning over 350 races. He was the lead Jockey for the Queen Mother. But he had to drop out of Horse racing after a serious fall and became a racing correspondent for Sunday Express. Dick Francis churned out numerous best sellers and most of his books deal with the mysteries in the realm of Horse racing and Jockeys. He wrote more than 40 international best sellers and is the recipient of numerous awards. Being a three time recipient of Mystery writer of America's Edgar Award he was made the Grand master of MWA. He is also the recipient of Britain's Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award for fiction in 1979 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger lifetime achievement award. He also has the Gumshoe award to his credit. He was accorded in CBE in 2000. Dick Francis died in his Caribbean home on February 10, 2010 bringing down the curtains to an illustrious life.
The Dead Cert Hero, Alan York is an Amateur Jockey in the steeplechase races. During one of the races, he witnesses his friend Bill Davidson falling down from his horse and getting injured. Alan pulls up to help his friend to the hospital where he is declared dead. On his return his suspicions of foul play are confirmed when he finds the wires coiled near the fences and grooves on the posts. When he tries to bring it to the notice of the law enforcers, the wires disappear. Alan forms one of the credible witnesses for the police and soon is asking questions to the officers.



Soon he is kidnapped and beaten up severely with a warning to let go of the case. But the beatings harden his determination to find the truth about his friends death. He also meets the women of his heart, Kate and soon indulges in a cat and mouse game with the wily antagonist to protect Kate. As he digs deeper he finds a ring of power crazy aristocrats who rig races and are even willing to murder jockeys who do not agree to their demands to fix races. Bill Davidson's children secretly listening to their fathers telephonic conversation provide the vital clue to crack this mystery.
This mystery describes us the world of British race tracks before the advent of high tech. If you are interested how crime was solved without the aid of cell phones, DNA and the host of other innovations, you have come to the right place. Alan York is the upright British Gentleman, who keeps his English uptight demeanor in-spite of beatings and injuries and doggedly pursues his much connected adversary to pay for his friends death.
Francis weaves a great tale effortlessly and the amount of suspense is really high. The language is clear cut and crisp like a refreshing summer day. A great book to unwind.

0425194973

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (published in 2008) - A fantasy book, by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is a an American Fantasy writer currently based in Utah. He has a degree in creative writing from Brigham Young University and is currently one of the most exciting science fiction writers around. Nominated for the prestigious John. W. Campbell Award for science fiction twice, he also served on the staff of Leading Edge, a semi-professional speculative fiction magazine. His first novel as Elantris was well received followed by the “Mistborn” series which propelled him to great heights. He has since then established himself with the Alcatraz series and many short stories. Harriet McDougall, the widow of Robert Jordan commissioned Brandon to complete his famed “Wheel of Time” series. At present Sanderson lives in Provo, Utah and is an instructor at the Brigham Young University.
The last book of the Mistborn series is equivalent to a amazing roller-coaster ride. The ups and the downs of the final battle where all the secrets are laid bare is the ultimate book. All through the 749 pages which seems to fly, not a single word is worthless and weighs its role in gold. Vin inadvertently releases a power imprisoned by Lord Ruler in the well of ascension called Ruin. Ruin is the power of destruction which was one of the foremost powers along with preservation in the universe. So with Ruin on the prowl the world is again a more dangerous place to live, mists swirl around this time making people severely ill, and ash continuously fall from the sky.
Vin tries to get through the mists swirling around to get to the bottom of the many secrets held by them. Vin's journey to unravel the metaphysical manifestations of the world takes her in direct confrontation with Ruin. She and Elend move through the normal politics of negotiations and realignment with neighboring counties often gatecrashing high profile parties.



But as Elend understands the nuances of politicking, Vin confronts the powers of the world. She understands the purpose of her chaotic childhood and becomes the essence of Preservation against Ruin.
Elend matures to a politically astute leader attracting followers and also finds time for being a proud husband. His allomantic powers also extends and slowly he becomes a natural Mistborn. But his understanding with Vin, and his trust in her powers along with love helps him to confront Ruin. Sazed, the Terris scholar, and chronicler of religions finds himself adrift after the death of his life. He is in search of the true god and a true religion. Both Elend and Sazed find their faith about the Hero of Ages is the only thing that keeps them going and ultimately this is the faith which helps them to the true word.
As the book moves along, old notions about Lord Ruler as a despicable despot are pushed away and we find reasons for his tyranny. Vin, Elend and Sazed confronts the demons of myth mongering, selfishness, superstitions and destruction of the the world. The lives and secrets of the Kandra, Koloss and the inquisitors are laid bare which helps Elend to find the ultimate metal of Attium. Ruin with his lust of destruction is checkmated by the power of love which lets Vin forget her pain and loss. She becomes the essence of preservation drubbing Ruin to help create a new world with flowers for the survivors.
This book is the ultimate fantasy saga with the most unconventional twist. Great language, greater plot and the greatest of all characterizations keeps this book a real page turner till the end. Alas these adventures are only for Allomancers and its sad indeed to be a simple mortal to watch the Mistborn's save the world.

Mistborn The Hero of Ages (published in 2008) - A fantasy book, by Brandon Sanderson

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (published in 2007) - A fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is a an American Fantasy writer currently based in Utah. He has a degree in creative writing from Brigham Young University and is currently one of the most exciting science fiction writers around. Nominated for the prestigious John. W. Campbell Award for science fiction twice, he also served on the staff of Leading Edge, a semi-professional speculative fiction magazine. His first novel was Elantris, well received, followed by the “Mistborn” series which propelled him to great heights. He has since then established himself with the Alcatraz series and many short stories. Harriet McDougall, the widow of Robert Jordan commissioned Brandon to complete his famed “Wheel of Time” series. At present Sanderson lives in Provo, Utah and is an instructor at the Brigham Young University.
Well of Ascension is the second book among the Mistborn trilogy. The world has changed with the death and defeat of Lord Ruler and his evil empire and after the exhilaration of triumph, the realization of a rudderless entity is causing chaos. This confusion has many claimants for the spoils of the earlier ruler. The pure anarchy has even people cherish the earlier rule.
Vin, the protagonist and the pivotal spear against the Lord is now the girl friend of Elend the dreamy noble man. Elend is idealistic and plans to rule in a text book fashion, where constitutional rights govern all. He does not have real experience in realpolitik and is considered weak. He forms an assembly to govern the erstwhile capital of Luthadel, but these men who have no experience brings his ideals down. There are other set of Nobles, like his father Straff Venture who wants to keep their share of spoils. He amasses a large army to besiege Luthadel.



Vin on the other hand returns as the most powerful Mistborn of the region. With Keisher dead, she is emotionally very vulnerable and her only source of companionship is Keisher's Kandra, OreSeur. Kandras are magical companion's or servants whose contracts pass through inheritance. Vin also is very insecure with her relationship with the scholarly and blue blood Noble man, Elend who does not have any Allomancy powers. Will this unequal relationship survive?
Sazed pursues scholarly pursuits and stumbles upon the journal of the Lord Ruler whose ascension was the part of prophesies of Alendi. As he rushes to inform Vin he stumbles upon the most deadliest armies of all ready to savage Luthadel, the Koloss. Another noble man Lord Ashweather Cett also plans to invade Luthadel. As the petty squabbles reach the boiling point it is upon Elend's and Vin's courage to defeat the villains. Straff tries to depose Elend by manipulating the same laws that he wrote. Elend's half brother, a Mistborn himself seeks out to Vin, convinced that he can escape serving Straff if he could elope with her. The mutual fear of Elend and Vin threatens their relationship further. As the novel hurls in to one disaster after another the reader feels the pure chaos feeding Luthadel. How do people go on without a purpose? What happens after a revolution succeeds? These are the questions answered through this novel. Lofty ideals and good intentions are never enough to run a nation and satisfy the good and the bad alike.
Elend and Vin discover this bitter truth and the mist which swirls turns up another surprise for Elend. This helps Vin to reaffirm her relationship and see through the machinations of Zane. This second book takes from the real world where revolutions are planned and executed with no vision for the future. It exemplifies the great plans gone awry when greedy gather together for the spoils. This book as any middle book does hangs up over the ultimate fate and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one.

Mistborn The Well of Ascension (published in 2007) - A fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mistborn: The Final Empire (published in 2008) - A fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is a an American Fantasy writer currently based in Utah. He has a degree in creative writing from Brigham Young University and is currently one of the most exciting science fiction writers around. Nominated for the prestigious John. W. Campbell Award for science fiction twice, he also served on the staff of Leading Edge, a semi-professional speculative fiction magazine. His first novel was Elantris was well received followed by the “Mistborn” series which propelled him to great heights. His has since then established himself with the Alcatraz series and many short stories. Harriet McDougall, the widow of Robert Jordan commissioned Brandon to complete his famed “Wheel of Time” series. At present Sanderson lives in Provo, Utah and is an instructor at the Brigham Young University.
Mistborn: the final empire is the first book of the trilogy by Bryan Sanderson. Here he creates a new world ruled by the evil Lord Ruler and his feudal aristocrats and a new magic Allomancy. Allomancy is the capability to ingest metals and use them to acquire superhuman abilities. This is inherent in the Mistborn's who then can manipulate any metal to propel themselves or use it as a weapon. The chief protagonist in this book itself is the evil Lord Ruler. He was the long awaited boy liberator who turns to the shadow to become the worse oppressor of the land of Skaa.



The brutal and absolute regime has gripped them in fear for thousand years with volcanic ash covering the city devoid of blooming flowers. The populace is ground under the thumb of oppression with executions for minor infractions being a norm. Food has become a scarcity and the slaves of Skaa loose their health and will to live.
Into this conundrum enters Keisher the ultimate revolutionary and Robin-hood rolled in to one. He was brutalized by the ruling class and had witnessed the killing of his wife by Lord Ruler. Thrown into the mines, Keisher is famous for being the only one to escape from the hell holes of the Lord. He seeks redemption for his people and revenge for his wife. He commands a rag tag army of small time crooks who have the confidence to infiltrate the palace of Lord Ruler himself seeking the means to kill him.
Vin is a thief off the streets who roams with her brother. Keisher soon finds her using Allomancy against an important official of the Lord Ruler and is fascinated by her talent and confidence. He takes her under his wings to tutor her to control her power. He teaches her the nuances of misting and in a Pygmalion like role helps her to move in the society. Vin learns to behave among the royals and feudal roles and soon infiltrates their rank as a lady. She soon enters the palace and stumbles upon the journals of the boy who would become Lord ruler. Vin also questions Keisher's belief that all aristocrats are evil killers especially as she falls for the young nobleman Elend. Vin grows taking along Keisher with her, as she develops her abilities to bring about the change of guard.
Mistborn is one of the most amazing book written by Sanderson. The pacing, characters and the idea itself is the most captivating. Sanderson does not indulge in time tested magic tricks, instead develops new capabilities, like Allomancy. Who else can imagine such innovative magical capabilities? Sanderson takes the story of a messiah and turns in on its head, with the corruption of the savior itself. There is no dull moment in the book as the action explodes right from page one. This book is definitely a captivating read and the only problem is keeping one's hands off it.

Mistborn The Final Empire (published in 2008) - A fantasy novel by Brandon Sanderson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Alcatraz Versus The Knights Of Crystallia (published in 2009) - A fantasy book by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is a an American Fantasy writer currently based in Utah. He has a degree in creative writing from Brigham Young University and is currently one of the most exciting science fiction writers around. Nominated for the prestigious John. W. Campbell Award for science fiction twice, he also served on the staff of Leading Edge, a semi-professional speculative fiction magazine. His first novel was Elantris was well received and followed by the “Mistborn” series which propelled him to great heights. His has since then established himself with the Alcatraz series and many short stories. Harriet McDougall, the widow of Robert Jordan commissioned Brandon to complete his famed “Wheel of Time” series. At present Sanderson lives in Provo, Utah and is an instructor at the Brigham Young University.
Alcatraz after successfully putting down the Librarians returns to his real home of Nalhalla. After being in the Hushlands he returns to the Smedry's hometown where he discovers that he is a celebrity. Books are written in his name and people love to be with him. Considering the painful and isolated life in the Librarian infested United States, it is a very welcome change and Alcatraz fully welcomes it.
Meanwhile the librarians who are down but not out are weaving their own webs of treachery. Alcatraz finds his father whom he rescued from the pits of Alexandria is incoherent, silent and very distant. His efforts to engage a conversation is stiffly denied. Bastille on the other hand is stripped of her title and powers as she has broken the sword. Alcatraz discovers that he was kidnapped as a baby by the librarians with his mother active complicity as she was a librarian herself. In-spite of the problems Alcatraz revels in his newfound fame and grandpa Smedry has to zap him out of it.



So begins his adventures as librarians are negotiating with the king of Nalhalla. They ask for the kingdom of Mokia in return for the cessation of hostilities. His mother Shasta meanwhile try to infiltrate the royal archives to get a rare book which gives information about the origins of the Smedry talents. So Alcatraz on his teen shoulders has the responsibility of rescuing Bastille's reputation, foil the librarian plans, nullify the treaty of Mokia and open up his father. Does he do it by keeping his wit and brash teenage angst intact? Joining Alcatraz on his quest are the usual suspects grandpa and Bastille along with a Crystin Knight; Folsom Smedry, a cousin and literary critic; and Himalaya, a reformed librarian.
Another amazing adventure from Brandon Sanderson who just knows the pulse of the reader. However here Alcatraz comes to terms with his “greatness” and admit to himself that he is the cool jock of the free kingdoms. So a new self assured Alcatraz full of himself is presented. But his sarcastic wit and classic one liners keep his ego from inflating and the readers interest. This book has a little more action with dragons, trials, and maybe a budding romance. One little jarring thing is the knights of Crystallia, which actually does amount to much. The fights between the knights are not very much the center of the plot as the title suggest. And never read the book in isolation, always follow the series order and be prepared for the unexpected giggles and guffaws.
But still just as Alcatraz realized about himself, its time we accept the fact “that the book is just awesome”.

Alcatraz Versus The Knights Of Crystallia (published in 2009) - A fantasy book by Brandon Sanderson

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (published in 2008) - The second novel in the Alcatraz series

Brandon Sanderson is a an American Fantasy writer currently based in Utah. He has a degree in creative writing from Brigham Young University and is currently one of the most exciting science fiction writers around. Nominated for the prestigious John. W. Campbell Award for science fiction twice, he also served on the staff of Leading Edge, a semi-professional speculative fiction magazine. His first novel was Elantris which was well received, followed by the “Mistborn” series which propelled him to great heights. His has since then established himself with the Alcatraz series and many short stories. Harriet McDougall, the widow of Robert Jordan commissioned Brandon to complete his famed “Wheel of Time” series. At present Sanderson lives in Provo, Utah and is an instructor at the Brigham Young University.
The second book of the Alcatraz series, it further explores the magical kingdoms and the evil cult of the librarians. Alcatraz after successfully infiltrating the Librarians is one of the most hunted boy in the planet. His grandfather plans to evacuate all of them to a safer place, but Alcatraz has other plans. He is tormented by the disappearance of his dad and plans to go to the Library of Alexandria which was his last know destination. This library is manned by its soul stealing curators who entice people to check out with a book. This library has everything written by man and is the last word in knowledge. The only catch is, if you read its books your soul is sucked out by the curators.



In Alexandria Alcatraz is soon joined by Bastille, her mother Drauline, his uncle, Kazan and cousin, Australia. Australia has the talent of waking up and looking ugly, or looking like the person whom she last thought of before falling asleep. Uncle Kazan is blessed with the talent of getting lost, that is he can get himself lost from dangerous situations and find himself back when things are favorable. Reaching the library the whole group separates and the curators tease and taunt the Occulators to take a book. Alcatraz understand their language through his translator lenses. Kazan manages to find him and awesome Bastille with the help of his “getting lost” skill. Adventures follow as they are out maneuvered and mange to outwit at the same time. Alcatraz on the trip to Alexandria learns that his is one of the greatest and dangerous talents and his father Attica had sold his soul to the curators. He finds a note written by dear dad before his transformation and finds a way to turn the clock back for his family.
The second book is hilarious, sparky and the most engaging. Sanderson employs great wit for all his characters especially for Alcatraz which makes him the smart Alec of boy wizards. The gadgets like Translator lenses and windstormers are really the ultra cool ones which all boys like to have. I am sure Bryan Sanderson would have converted some teenage fantasies writing about Alcatraz. There are some moments of awkward dialogues like when Bryan and Bastille are trapped in the pit which makes you turn the page a little faster, but on the whole the book is fast paced, engaging and great fun.
A word of caution though, always follow the Alcatraz series faithfully or else you may loose some vital points of importance. One can go ahead and have some fun times with the family with this one.

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (published in 2008) - The second novel in the Alcatraz series