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Dick Francis

Dick FrancisDick Francis CBE (born October 31, 1920) is a British author and retired jockey whose crime fiction novels are based on horseracing and include Lambourn as a setting in more than one novel.

He was born Richard Stanley Francis in Lawrenny, South Wales, the son of a jockey and stable manager. He himself won over 350 races, becoming champion jockey in the 1953-54 season.
During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force, piloting fighter and bomber aircraft, including the Spitfire. He left the RAF in 1946 to become a celebrity in the world of British National Hunt racing.

From 1953 to 1957 he was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. when, in 1957, he was forced to retire from racing as the result of a serious fall. His most famous moment as a jockey came while riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, in the 1956 Grand National when the horse inexplicably fell when close to winning the race.

His first book was his autobiography, The Sport of Queens (1957), which led to him becoming the racing correspondent for the London Sunday Express, a position he held for 16 years. In 1962, he published his first thriller, Dead Cert, set in the world of racing. Subsequently, he regularly produced a novel a year for the next 38 years, missing only 1998 (during which he published a short-story collection). Although all his books were set against a background of horseracing, his heroes held a variety of jobs from artist (To the Hilt) to private investigator (Odds Against).

Francis is the only three-time recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Novel, winning for Forfeit in 1970, Whip Hand in 1981, and Come to Grief in 1996. Also in 1976 he was given the Grand Master Award, the highest honor bestowed by the MWA.

A number of the novels are set in and around Lambourn often referring to real Lambourn place names and at other times referring to them under a pseudonym.

References include:

  • St Michaels Church for the wedding of Alex and Emily in To the Hilt
  • Bolt - featuring Lambourn based steeplechase jockey Christmas "Kit" Fielding as the hero. 
  • Break In - featuring Lambourn based steeplechase jockey Christmas "Kit" Fielding as the hero. 
  • if you are a Dick Francis fan please let me know of other books which reference Lambourn!!

 His son Merrick continues to be a key figure in Lambourn Racing life.