Dick Francis is one of the truly prolific British writers, having written over forty international best sellers during his writing career. In his early years however, he was known as a champion horse racing jockey and even rode the Queens horse in a race. After changing this career as a jockey into a career as a horse racing correspondent, in 1957, he began his writing career, one for which he would become forever known and admired throughout the world.
Dick Francis was born in Coedcanlas, Pembrokeshire, Wales on Oct. 31, 1920, the son of a horse racing jockey, a profession which he hoped to pursue himself. At the age of 15 he did exactly that, leaving school and immediately finding work as a jockey and a horse trainer. When World War II started, it was his hope to join the cavalry. but instead he was enlisted into the RAF, first beginning work as part of the ground crew, but later becoming a pilot of both fighters and bomber aircraft.
After the war, Francis returned to horse racing and went on to win 350 races in the British National Hunt racing competition, becoming a champion jockey and soon after was awarded the privilege of riding the Queens horse in a race. Unfortunately the horse fell during the race, an event which he regretted for the remainder of his life. His racing days allowed him to pursue a job as a racing correspondent however and he held that position for 16 years. He also married soon after the war and the experiences of his wife and himself gave life to many of the books he would later write.
1957 saw the release of his first literary work, an autobiography entitled “The Sport of Queens.” Following this release, he wrote one novel every year for the next 38 years, only pausing briefly in 1998 when he released a collection of short stories. It was a surprise to many readers after his death that he collaborated with his wife on many of his books; she took on the role of lead researcher. As she was an English major and instructor, her contribution was likely crucial to the success of his work since Dick Francis himself left school at age 15.
Much of his work centers around horse racing and the lives of those involved in the sport and fits within the crime and mystery genre. A prolific writer, Francis was very methodical and time sensitive in his approach to writing, scheduling time for research, drafting, completion, and then delivery of the manuscript. His second novel “Dead Cert” was released in 1962, “Nerve” in 1964, but it was in 1968 that he won his first Edgar Award. This was an important achievement in its own right, but more importantly, Francis would later become the only three-time winner of the Mystery Writer’s of America’s Edgar Award.
As early as the 1970s, his work began becoming adapted for the screen, with “Dead Cert” becoming the first in 1974. Returning to his work on novels after his 1998 release of a short story collection he collaborated with Felix Francis on his last few works. After losing his wife in 2000, Dick Francis himself died on Feb. 14, 2010 in the Cayman Islands leaving behind him a rich legacy of award winning work that this known throughout the world for its wit and intelligent crime drama.