Dick Francis (1920 - 2010) was one of the most successful thriller writers in the world, with global sales in excess of 90 million copies.
He was born in South Wales and served in the RAF for six years during WWII, before returning to his equestrian roots. The son of a jockey, Dick became a celebrity in the world of British National Hunt racing, winning more than 350 races. He had a Champion Jockey season in 1953/54, after which he was retained as jockey to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1953-57). He rode in the world famous Grand National Steeplechase eight times, and nearly won in 1956 when his horse, the Queen Mother’s Devon Loch, suddenly collapsed a few strides away from victory with a clear field. This incident, which Dick has called “both the high point and low point of my career as a jockey”, was the impetus for him to begin a second career as a writer.
Shortly after the incident, he was approached about writing an autobiography. The following year Dick suffered a serious fall and was advised to retire from riding; after completing his autobiography, The Sport of Queens, he accepted an invitation to write six features for the Sunday Express. He stayed on as the newspaper's racing correspondent for the next 16 years.
Journalism soon led to fiction writing, which in turn led to a string of 45 bestselling novels, the last five co-written with his son Felix. His debut was called Dead Cert, and following the death of his wife Mary, many feared his thirty-eighth novel Shattered would be his last. Happily, and with the help of his son Felix, 2006 saw the publication of Under Orders, a runaway bestseller and true return to form. The pair then wrote a string of bestsellers. His final novel was Crossfire, published in 2010 to universal acclaim - although his name lives on in future Felix Francis novels.
His books have been bestsellers all over the world and translated into more than thirty-five languages. In addition to novels and his autobiography, Dick also wrote Lester, the biography of Lester Piggott, and Field of Thirteen, a volume of short stories. He co-edited four collections of racing stories, and contributed to numerous anthologies and periodicals.
Dick was appointed OBE in 1984, and was awarded both the Silver Dagger and Gold Dagger by the CWA, and in 1990 the Cartier Diamond Dagger for his life’s work. He has received three Edgar Awards for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, most recently for Come to Grief at the time, he was the only author to have been awarded this prestigious award more than once. In 1996, the Mystery Writers of America named Dick a Grand Master for his life’s work, and he was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tufts University. In 1998 he was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and he was promoted to CBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list of 2000.
Dick lived in the Caribbean until his death in February 2010, and his life was celebrated at a Memorial Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.