Dick Francis, CBE, FRSL (born Richard Stanley Francis) was a popular British horse racing crime writer and retired jockey.
Dick Francis worked on his books with his wife, Mary, before her death. Dick considered his wife to be his co-writer - as he is quoted in the book, "The Dick Francis Companion", released in 2003: "Mary and I worked as a team. ... I have often said that I would have been happy to have both our names on the cover. Mary's family always called me Richard due to having another Dick in the family. I am Richard, Mary was Mary, and Dick Francis was the two of us together."
James Tyrone is a sports writer for a tabloid paper called The Blaze. It's not the most respectable paper in town, but it pays better than its more prestigious counterparts and Tyrone badly needs the money.
Tyrone's principal beat is horseracing and one day after lunch he walks a fellow scribe back to his office. The other reporter, Burt Chekov, writes for a competitor, but he and Tyrone have been friends. Chekov has been drinking heavily of late and seems to be deeply troubled. He's also been touting horses in his column, encouraging readers to bet heavily on his picks, only to have some of the horses withdraw from the races at the last minute, leaving the people who bet on them out of luck. As Tyrone walks Chekov to his office, Chekov says something that leads Tyrone to believe he has been being blackmailed and then, shortly thereafter, Chekov "accidentally" falls out of the window of his office to his death.
Tyrone smells a story and begins digging into the horses that Chekov was touting. He ultimately discovers a nefarious scheme to cheat bettors out of their money. Before long, powerful forces are warning him to drop the story, "or else." Tyrone believes that he is impervious to the sorts of threats that doomed his friend, Chekov, but when the villains discover that Tyrone may have a weak spot after all, all bets may be off.
This is a fairly typical Dick Francis story that should appeal to anyone who has enjoyed his other books. James Tyrone is the usual stand-up Francis protagonist, and the bad guys are dependably powerful and villainous. The end result is a very good read.
James Tyrone is a former jockey,who is now a journalist,just like Dick Francis himself was.He has to take care of a polio stricken wife too,who needs a ventilator to breathe.This adds to his financial needs which become pressing.
Bert Chekov,a drunken colleague warns him not to sell his column.Then,Chekov falls to his death.Was it murder ?
The villain ensures that heavily favoured horses fail to appear at races,or fail to win.
An excellent effort by Francis,Forfeit deservedly won the Edgar Allan Poe award.
I enjoyed this thriller with James a racing journalist for the Blaze. It revolves around ante-post favourites where you bet on a horse weeks before a race where the odds can be much better. However, if the horse fails to run then you forfeit your bet and the bookie keeps all the money.
James uncovers owners being blackmailed or threatened unless they scratch their horses. The SA behind it and a bookie arrange for James to be beaten and warned to stop writing articles about it. James of course ignores this. He also looks after his wife Elizabeth paralysed by polio. This part of the story was fascinating and eye opening about a horrible disease.
The story has a great escape with James drunk managing to save his wife and deal with the villains. Great story and entertaining.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Dame Agatha Christie and Her Peers BOOK 23 CAST - 5 stars: James Tyrone (Ty) is a newspaper writer for the "Sunday Blaze" and is married to Elizabeth, a polio victim who is 90% paralyzed. Their relationship alone, here, is done so beautifully I'd give this novel 5 stars for the cast if there was ONLY Ty and Elizabeth. But this novel is packed with fascinating people. Luke-John Morton is Ty's editor, Derry Clark is Ty's fellow writer. Bert Chekov writes columns about horses for another publication. There is the "Lamplighter Race" coming up and some participants are Harry Hunterson (who won his horse, 'Egocentric' in a raffle) and his wife Sarah and their beautiful daughter Gail; Victor Roncy (Pa) who is the owner/trainer of 'Tiddely Pom' (a favorite to win the Lamplighter Gold Cup) and his wife Madge (who absolutely ROCKS during the actual race) and their five sons; and Norton Fox is the owner/trainer of "Zig-Zag" (Fox has a fascinating back-story about a previous horse, "Brevity"). Dermot Finnegan is a small-time jockey riding a small-time horse in the Lamplighter Race and he has recently suffered a race injury. You're gonna like all these people for various reasons, and at the end of the book, as the race commences, it's really hard to root for just one horse/owner. Then there is Charlie Boston who owns a number of betting shops...and his goons who are very, very bad people. Sensational heroes and rotten villians and a Fantastic LOVE STORY? It's hard to improve on a cast like this! ATMOSPHERE - 4 stars: Francis has done a better job in the past 2 novels I've read at taking us into the stables and into horse training and more. I was confused at a couple of terms (antepost betting, for example) and I'm not sure if a "4-Day-Stage" actually exists (declaration day to put horses in races 4 days before the actual race) for all English races, for a limited number, or just for Francis to up the suspense. But up the suspense it does. The descriptions of the impact of polio on Elizabeth are handled just right and I learned much about this illness which, thankfully, has almost disappeared from the world due to science (yea, that kind of science for which there was a Congressional hearing concerning climate change and a testifying 14-y/o girl was asked, by a US Congressperson, "Why should we believe in science?" Her jaw dropped then she answered, "Because it's science." You see, here in America, science and climate change is all fake. I'd have answered, "well, stand up on your desk, Congressperson, and jump off, head first...would someone call an ambulance please."). Francis also takes us into newspaper rooms and betting and how really bad people make a ton of money on 'fixed'-type races. PLOT/CRIME - 3: Ty notices that as of late, Bert Chekov has praised a large number of horses who were withdrawn from races about to occur, but after huge amounts of money had been through the betting process. That means the owner of the betting shops keeps the money! Bert had been drinking a lot recently, and suddenly decides to take a leap out of a high floor and dies in the opening chapter on the street right in front of Ty. Naturally, Ty wants to know why, and Ty also realizes there is some kind of sensational story to be written. I can't give this element a higher rating than 3 stars though because I didn't believe that 1)Ty would spill so much knowledge so soon and to all the wrong people as I didn't think he was that stupid and 2) Ty meets a villain or 2, but afterwards still trusts any ol' stranger. Francis throws in some coincidences that are oddly explained. Oh, this could have been a brilliant 5-star sting type plot, but there are plot holes. INVESTIGATION - 2 stars: As stated, Ty does some stupid things for the sake of suspense and I just didn't believe some of it. And when Ty brags, in a newspaper article, that he has almost caught the villians, well, that was a jaw-dropping moment for me. NO, wouldn't happen. Early, and on page 61 in my edition, someone says, "They said-" then a phone rings and we never learn anything more. I don't like that kind of trick authors play: just when the reader is about to learn something, there is a knock or a ring or some kind of interuption and for some reason nobody ever gets back to the conversation. RESOLUTION - 3: The race is absolutely thrilling. And do the villians get what they deserve? I liked those parts of the story. But I found the last paragraph detestable. I think you will also. SUMMARY - 3.4. This is a very good story but with a plot hole or 2 and a writer, Ty, who just can't be that stupid. There is another point I didn't like at all, and it has to do with Elizabeth, but that would reveal too much, so I'll just say that overall, this is good entertainment which could have been so much better. (Not that I personally could write better than Francis, although I think I could perhaps improve on the plot a bit.)
What is there to say about Dick Francis? As I think about all of his books (yes, this review covers all of his books, and yes I've read them all) I think about a moral ethical hero, steeped in intelligence and goodness embroiled in evil machinations within British horse racing society - either directly or indirectly. The heroes aren't always horse jockies, they can be film producers, or involve heroes engaged in peripheral professions that somehow always touch the horse racing world.
But more than that, Francis's heroes are rational human beings. The choices made are rational choices directed by a firm objective philosophy that belies all of Francis's novels. The dialogue is clear and touched with humor no matter the intensity of evil that the hero faces. The hero's thoughts reveal a vulnerability that is touching, while his actions are always based on doing the right thing to achieve justice.
Causing the reader to deeply care about the characters in a novel is a difficult thing to do. No such worries in a Francis novel. The point of view is first person, you are the main character as you read the story (usually the character of Mr. Douglas). The hero is personable, like able, non-violent but delivering swift justice with his mind rather than through physical means. This is not to say that violence is a stranger to our hero. Some of it staggering and often delivered by what we would think of normal persons living in British society.
You will come to love the world of Steeple Chase racing, you will grow a fondness for horses, stables, trainers and the people who live in that world. You will read the books, devouring one after the other and trust me Dick Francis has a lot of novels (over 40 by my last count).
There are several series woven into the fabric of Francis's work: notably the Sid Halley and Kit Fielding series.
Assessment: Dick Francis is one of my favorite writers. I read his books with a fierce hunger that remains insatiable and I mourn his death.
As a long term Dick Francis reader I would like to say what a refreshing departure this book was. I've been used to the hardy resistance displayed by his heroes, but only in a singular, insular way. Here we have a singularly tortured individual, tied, by love, to his crippled wife, tormented by more than the nasty criminals who are trying to bludgeon their way to success. A thoroughly engaging read which firmly involves the reader with sympathy driving the hero on to success, not in any way deterred by how long ago the book was written. Highly recommend, even in 2019.
The issues in this book were more intense than usual. Suicide, murder, blackmail, manslaughter, impossible love story, and more. James Tyrone is a bull dog of a newspaper columnist. He gets an idea about horserace fixing and blackmail, and isn’t going to let the story go until he can expose the blackmailers. He’s unstoppable, no matter how they try to break him down. I admit to being a little frightened by just how bad these guys were. Do they get their comeuppance? What do you think?
Also this Dick Francis was exciting, even if more ran next to the racecourse than on the racecourse. This time investigates a journalist unrealities in the horse betting. On a large scale, bets on horses are placed in advance, but shortly before the start these horses are deducted from the race. The bets always go to the same person, since the regulations do not provide for a return of the wagers made. Who is behind these mafia bets and how can this person be caught? With what means of pressure are the horse owners blackmailed so that they do not let their horses start? The journalist puts himself and his loved one in the greatest danger. Exciting from the beginning to the end.
classic Francis - an investigative journalist tries to take down a group of crooks at the racetrack. The usual confrontation where stubborness and brains overcomes brutality and greed. A very touching love story elevates this volume slightly above other books by the author.
I hadn't read "Forfeit" in, oh, twenty years or something, until I recently picked it up and reread it. As always, rereading is as enlightening as reading.
"Forfeit" is one of Francis's slighter works in many ways, but it gets added depth by the interactions between Ty (the hero) and his wife Elizabeth, who has been paralyzed by polio. Rather than exciting scenes of horseback riding (Ty doesn't ride once, and only occasionally goes to the races), the tension in the story is largely generated by Ty's conflict over his sexual desire, which hasn't gone anywhere with his wife's paralysis, and his desire to be faithful to the woman whom he still loves.
When I read the story as a teenager I was struck by the drama of the situation but had a hard time sympathizing with either character, both Ty's inner conflict and Elizabeth's fear that he would leave her over it, abandoning her to a life of utter dependency on strangers. Having spent the past several years quite ill (although not, thank God, completely paralyzed like Elizabeth--yet, at least), I was struck on the reread how well Francis captured both characters' emotional struggles. As always, he had a sharp eye for detail and for character, conveying in a few well-chosen phrases the agony that many writers about illness try and fail to convey in pages of purple prose.
The climactic action scene is also a gem. I don't want to give away anything about it, but once again Francis takes the mundane and turns it into high drama.
"Forfeit" is probably not Francis's best work, but it's good, and well worth reading both because it's a compelling read and because of his insight into the experiences of people struggling with difficulties, disabilities, and physical helplessness, a common theme in his work that takes perhaps its most overt form here. It's one of his more "domestic" works, and probably one of his more autobiographical books (Ty is a journalist, like Dick was, and Mary Francis was briefly paralyzed, providing the inspiration for this story) but it's never boring.
This is the second Francis novel I've read, and it showed that my enjoyment of Reflex was no fluke. This is a strong suspense novel which, while set in and dependent upon the milieu of horse-racing, does not require much in the way of previous knowledge. I have no real affinity for horses, in any capacity (though I do occasionally exclaim "And I want a pony," but that's beside the point), and I was only occasionally left out by this. As with many British mystery/suspense novels of the time (published in 1969), the plot here centers on extortion and blackmail. Our lead is a reporter at a weekly paper who covers the ponies and has a bit of a rep as a firebrand. After the death of a colleague, a string of suspicious drop-outs is uncovered. Foul play or coincidence? I'll let you guess... The plot is nothing ground-breaking, and the characters, though enjoyable, are a bit thin. There are some questionable ethics and gender politics, and the way race is handled, though progressive at the time, seems antiquated if not offensive. Remember, many of these issues stem from the novel being nearly fifty years old. On the other hand, the prose is clear and modern, the support cast is quite engaging, and the villains are convincing. It is only fitting that a novel about racing should be expertly paced, and that is certainly the case here. In fact, the prose and pacing read so thoroughly modern that the occasional mention of rotary phones or apartheid were jarring. I must mention that this is not an action novel. There is action, but in sparing doses. Our protagonist is no muscular man-at-arms, nor is he an athlete. He's a reporter, and so must rely on his wits when in over his head. This is how the book shows its age, as most modern suspense novels rely much more on visceral thrills. The villains here are thugs, no terrorists, so don't expect elaborate gunfights. This was an enjoyable read, one that certainly rewards the curious. I am still too new to the author to judge this book in relation to his canon, but can safely say that, in tone, pacing and attitudes, it holds up much better than many of its contemporaries. It has solidified Francis as, to me, an author worth exploring further.
This installment in the Dick Francis series has more soap opera than many of his stories, focusing as it does on a hero who is married to a woman paralyzed by polio. This nearly intolerable situation forms the core of our hero's life, and is an essential element of the plot -- which I won't give away here.
When I read this book for the first time years ago, it actually impressed a very important principle on me which I still believe in to this day. Specifically, don't let anyone blackmail you (whether financially or emotionally, or for any other pay-off) for any reason. That may sound silly, but in my opinion (and in Francis'), no revelation or embarrassment could be worse than allowing someone to have that kind of power over you. As one character says in the book, don't ever sell your soul....
Bert Checkov was a Fleet Street racing correspondent with a talent for tipping non-starters. But the advice he gave to James Tyrone a few minutes before he fell to his death, was of a completely different nature. James investigates, and soon finds his own life, and that of his wife, at risk.
Very good suspense. Journalist with wife in an iron lung. Well done.
"Racing correspondent for a newspaper dedicated to exposing scandals in the noisiest way becomes involved in exposing a racing fraud while dealing with the problems of his marriage to a woman housebound by polio."
Another great Dick Francis book featuring the horse racing world. This time the main character is a sports news reporter known for his sensational inside stories about owners, trainers and bookies. Even though the setting is in the horse racing world, Francis finds a way to make each of the books fresh and exciting.
The writer has been asked to do a piece for the magazine Tally, and as his salary at the newspaper is barely enough to keep him and his severely handicapped wife, he is given permission to go ahead. Instead of interviewing and writing about the superstars of the sport, he realizes this has been done many times before and he approaches the story by interviewing some of the secondary characters - a couple who won a horse in a raffle, a young female groomer and a jockey who does fairly well in the background but never quite gets to ride the top horses.
A friend of his who writes for a rival sports paper falls to his death after drinking heavily in the bar where the main character, an associate and their boss are having lunch and a beverage. The drunk makes many attempts to warn the MC not to sell his soul or his column. As this seems a very cryptic warning the MC merely tries to get him back to his office without him falling down drunk or being hit by a vehicle.
The MC is not far along on his way back when the friend falls to his death. The MC rushes back to the body and then investigates his 7th floor office to see if he was pushed or simply fell. (More to come)
This is a 1968 book by the famous British crime writer Dick Francis, who is renowned for his mystery novels that focus on horse racing in England. Francis has won the Edgar Award for Best Novel three times (Forfeit in 1970, Whip Hand in 1981 and Come to Grief in 1996). This book is a very enjoyable read. It is very well written and is fast paced. The book has an interesting mystery plot, plenty of thriller action, as well as a poignant portrayal of human sufferings and love. The setting is in London in late 1960s with a newspaper reporter as the main character. Like most Francis book, it goes into a lot of details of different aspects of horse racing. In this case, the focus is on ante-post betting and how fraudsters can exploit the system. The title of the book is very apt. Forfeit is the key to the whole scheme.
Spoiler Alert. The story is about how the book’s protagonist, a newspaper reporter called James Tyrone, who writes for the Sunday sports section of the newspaper the Blaze and cover horse-racings, uncovered a lucrative fraud scheme undertaken by some very unsavory characters. As Tyrone investigates and starts exposing the scheme in his weekly articles, he was threatened, beaten, kidnapped, and almost killed. In the end, he single-handedly unraveled the scheme, disposed of all the bad guys, and saved a horse. The fraud scheme is the brainchild of an international criminal called Vjoersterod from South Africa and exploits a quirk in how ante-post betting works. Basically, ante-post betting allows the public to bet on a horse many weeks in advance of the race. However, if the horse subsequently does not run in the race, the bet will be considered a losing bet and the bet money will be forfeited to the betting shop. What Vjoersterod did was first to buy up a small chain of betting shops in England run by a small-time crook Charlie Boston. He then blackmailed a newspaper sports writer Bert Checkov and forced him to talk up a horse Vjoersterod has chosen so the public got excited about it as an ante-post favorite and bet a lot of money on it. Charlie Boston could then take in a lot of those bets in his shops. A few days before race day when it is in the forfeit period, Vjoersterod would either threaten, blackmail or strongarm the owner of the chosen horse so that the horse is withdrawn from the race. All ante-post bets are therefore automatically forfeited to Vjoersterod. His scheme ran for a year and was quite successful. Finally, racing authorities got suspicious and was going to interview Checkov to figure out why a high percentage of the horses he pitched for ante-post bets ended up being scratched before the race. Checkov committed suicide shortly after he made some cryptic remarks to Tyrone suggesting he was being blackmailed into writing those articles. Tyrone started investigating and ultimately broke the crime ring and was successful in hiding the talked-up horse and the owner’s family from Vjoersterod so he cannot get to it to get it scratched before the race.
The book is also very interesting with a side story about polio and its impact on its patients and their families. Tyrone’s wife Elizabeth is 90% paralyzed from polio and is confined to her bed at home with a Spiroshell iron lung. Francis did a good job portraying the life of the caregiving husband and the toll it takes on the couple and the people around them, as well as Tyrone’s constant struggle balancing various aspects of life. A very moving side story to balance out the action and crime solving aspect of the book and changes the tempo of the book periodically.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A goodish little thriller ruined by Richard Brown's dreadful, mechanical reading. A cut-glass British accent is all very well, but when every sentence, whether it be narration, threats, words of love or desperation has the same inflection and lack of emotion, it quickly palls. With a better reader I might have given this book four stars. I mention the bad reader as a warning to others. I see that Mr Brown has videos on Youtube demonstrating "how to read aloud." If this sample of his technique is characteristic, I'd give them a miss, along with any other recordings he may have made.
As far as the story goes, it's entertaining. Mr Tyrone is of course a Gary Stu, as most of Francis' early heroes were. He can do just about anything, from containing his emotions to standing up to beatings and alcohol overdoses worthy of 1930s noir film. I was predicting the big scene with the bad guys from their appearance, though their ending was a bit Deus Ex Machina, so to speak. However, one doesn't read Francis for factual encounters with reality. I should try reading it in print next time.
Sportswriter James Tyrone writes about horse racing. But something odd is happening with fellow race writer Bert Checkov – whenever Bert touts a horse, the horse loses badly or fails to show up for the race. Bert drunkenly confesses to Ty that he has sold his soul; and then falls to his death out of a seventh story window.
Ty discovers there is a rigged betting scheme and the bad guys expect Ty to be the next one to fall in line. Not only does he resist, but he must protect his paralyzed wife from murder and mayhem from people who will literally stop at nothing. And then there’s the lovely Gail, whom Ty is falling in love with, although he knows he can never leave his wife.
Ty is a conflicted and complicated protagonist. Like many of Francis’s main characters he has a heroic moral sense along with intelligence and physical strength to win through solving the mystery and a beating or three. In this one we see the character’s more human side as he wrestles with the moral dilemma of choosing between his beloved paralyzed wife and a woman who could be lover, companion and equal.
The beginning gives you the feeling you've stumbled onto an episode of Murder, She Wrote about 10 minutes after the start. Or considering all the car chases and crashes maybe The Rockford Files. The scenes revolving around the publication of Blaze and James Tyler's interactions with his co-workers were awfully dull and made me feel as if I were trapped like an invalid attached to a breathing machine. Speaking of which, I thought everything having to do with Elizabeth and her predicament and how she unwittingly becomes involved in the crime story was riveting. I was much more involved in Ty and Elizabeth's relationship through it's various stresses than what was going on with the horses.
The cover of my copy of the book breathlessly brags of a story at "the center of a powerful ring of international intrigue, the middle of a high-finance farce."
Um, no. The story is more humdrum than that: a London tabloid writer discovers a horserace-fixing racket. He uses his column to cast light on the racket. This leads to the obvious skullduggery: threats, blackmail and beatings.
The last 50 pages or so involve a car chase, home invasion and kidnapping. This is mildly stimulating fare, but not a lot of fireworks here.
The quality of the print, paper and artwork made it look cheap. A book about horse racing is not the sort of thing that I would normally read - but - it was pretty good.
A little dated and at times cringeworthy it has charm. Imagine Arthur Daley (from TV show Minder) working as a reporter - meeting up with dodgy geezers in pubs - and solving a crime in the racing industry.
My father and I read this soon after it came out, probably in the early 70s, and although we read all of the Dick Francis books thereafter, and raved about them all, we liked this best. Whenever we suggested a Francis book to a newcomer, we’d mention “the one about the wife” first. (By the way, James Tyrone is the father in “Long Day’s Journey Into Dark,” which, in its way, is the one about the wife.)
The seventh Dick Francis novel, this one has, perhaps, less to do with horses directly than the others, despite the crooked gambling scheme that is the basis for the plot. Like the first six Francis books, it starts out quietly enough, then gradually builds to the point of almost unbearable intensity.
Initially it was slow going and did not present very likeable characters, however once the racing angle and featured horse were prominent in the story, it became, like all Mr Francis' books, hard to put down. Not as complex as some of his others, yet the protagonist becomes more likeable as it goes on and exhibits unusual resolve and presence of mind.
I love all Francis books, but this one a little less than most. Not quite sure why. It was a good story, with some moral dilemma and lots of intrigue. The main character was in lots of danger, but showed spunk and wit. And it wrapped up nicely in the end. Not a bad read, but just not a favorite.
Classic Dick Francis: danger, an anti-hero who gets violently beaten more than once, but who has an iron will and a problem in his marriage. James Tyrone writes for a weekly newspaper that thrives on the sensational. He uncovers a horse race betting scandal that nearly costs him his life. Great characters throughout. Francis' metaphors and similies are fresh as ever!
Excellent and moving. All the thrills of anteposte betting - and the nonstarter market racket —on the track— while the organized crime bosses continue to get more desperate to cause favored horses to forfeit. This interesting UK track rule makes for a good crime thriller.
Rereading all of Dick Francis' work in order. This is another one I'd give 4.5 starts to, rather than 5, if that were an option, but since I can't, it deserves the bump up. This book features a very interesting and difficult moral dilemma faced by the hero/narrator. Makes you think.