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Richard Stanley "Dick" Francis CBE FRSL (1920 - 2010) British steeplechase jockey and crime writer,.
Between the world wars came a youthful "Best Boy Rider" who would become much more
as the years flowed by. Born in 1920, at Lawrenny, South Wales, this wonderful
young horseman won many major horse show awards during this era of his life.
As a young man he laid down his saddle and bridle and mounted a different kind
of transport, still flying high he served his country in the Royal Air
Force for six years at the controls of something with much more than one
horsepower. He piloted fighter and bomber aircraft, between 1943 and 1946
he rode the skies with his Spitfire and Lancaster mounts.
As peace once again returned Francis became famous for his abilities as a
horseman in the world of British National Hunt racing. 350 races under his
belt, this son of a jockey must have been a great source of pride for his
father as he was named Champion Jockey in 1953/54 and became the jockey
for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother for four seasons 1953/57.
He rode eight times in the Grand National Steeplechase and nearly won riding
Devon Loch, the Queen Mother's horse in 1956, but as fate would have it his
horse had a horrid front page collapse just a few short strides off the finish
line. This was both the high point and low point of his career as a jockey,
Francis said. Not too long after this a literary agent approached Francis
and suggested he do an autobiography.
Francis suffered another serious fall in 1957 and retired from racing as
was advised. He wrote his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, being
published later in the year. He also wrote six features for the London
Sunday Express and remained on as the paper's racing correspondent for
16 more years.
All this writing soon lead to fiction writing and the rest is history. Francis'
first novel Dead Cert published in 1962 was the beginning of a winning tradition
of popular novels set around the background of jump racing. He also wrote the
biography of Lester Piggott, A Jockey's Life and with John Welcome four
collections of racing stories. He also penned other short stories, anthologies
along with some periodicals.
Francis' books have been translated into 30 languages and were best sellers in
many countries and his novels have been recorded on audio along with several
being done for television. Francis' wife Mary who helped with research for his books
died in September of 2000. Dick died 14 February 2010 (aged 89) Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, Caribbean.
Officer of the Most Noble Order of the British Empire in 1984
The British Crime Writers Association Silver Dagger in 1965
Gold Dagger in 1980
Cartier Diamond Dagger for his life's work in 1990
Three Edgar Allen Poe Awards for Best Novel
The Mystery Writers of America Grand Master 1996
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tufts University in 1991
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