I’ve been a Dick Francis fan for years, and I was worried when he took on his son Felix as a co-author. Was he as talented as his father, and could he write the same sort of engaging mysteries that his father was so good at? He is and he can, as the books he has written independently after his father’s death show. Gamble, published in 2011, is a joint production that I seem to have missed.
The plot of Gamble is set in the world of horse racing, as in most of the Francis books. One of the strengths of Francis (both father and son) is that the setting is always something that the authors know well. When they venture into a field they don’t know from personal experience, you can tell that they have done their homework. They don’t write nonsense.
Even more important, from my point of view, is that the main character(s) are people I want to read about. Protagonists who are intelligent, brave, and honorable and also come across as human and likeable are a Francis trademark. I don’t know how they do it. I have read innumerable mysteries and thrillers where a heroic protagonist remains stubbornly two dimensional. Attempts to give him (or in some cases, her) some humanizing character flaws can sometimes just make things worse. Probably the easiest way to create such a fictional character is to be a similarly likable person and write about yourself. I have a feeling that’s the Francis secret. In cases where an author falls short of the outstanding qualities readers admire, the only solution may be to be either a great writer, or a really good psychologist, or both.