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Virtually all of his novels take place in and around the world of British horseracing. While he repeats the same character only a couple of times, virtually all of his protagonists are the same sort of man--relatively young, intelligent, determined, courageous, and somewhat aloof--at least until th First published in , this is the book that started Dick Francis on his career as a novelist. While he repeats the same character only a couple of times, virtually all of his protagonists are the same sort of man--relatively young, intelligent, determined, courageous, and somewhat aloof--at least until the point where they might the right woman and then, often as not, it's love at first sight.

Early on in the course of each novel, the protagonist discovers some glaring injustice and determines to investigate. Inevitably, he antagonizes the wrong person and finds his own health and well-being in grave jeopardy. Often there is some powerful, sinister force, directing events from behind the scene, and our hero must root him out. In this case, the protagonist is Alan York, an amateur steeplechase rider. He comes from a moneyed family in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe , and when he's not riding, he works in this father's shipping firm in London. As the book opens, York is riding in a race alongside his best friend, Bill Davidson, who is riding a horse called Admiral.

Davidson and Admiral are the heavy favorites in the race, a "dead cert" to win. But then, at the back of the course, Admiral trips over a fence. The horse goes down on top of Davidson, who will die as the result of the injury. York, riding right behind Davidson, saw something suspicious just before his friend fell. After the race, York goes back to the jump where Davidson fell and discovers that someone had stretched a wire across the top of the jump, causing the horse to fall and Davidson to be fatally injured.

By the time York can get someone in authority to examine the scene, the wire has been removed and there is no evidence that the horse was deliberately tripped. York knows this to be the case, however, and begins his own investigation. He discovers that someone has been attempting to fix races and the deeper he gets into the investigation, the more trouble he finds himself in.

Before long, he discovers that he's in a contest of wills against a very dangerous adversary who will stop at nothing to preserve his criminal enterprise. All in all, it's a good story. As in all of these books, one learns a great deal about the world of British horse racing, and the novel should appeal to anyone who enjoys classic British crime fiction.

View all 3 comments. Horse racing can be a dangerous sport, but it becomes a deadly one when a champion is killed.

Dead Cert by Dick Francis

The film doesn't build the suspense in the same way at all - the book was a corker! View all 4 comments. Feb 25, Col rated it really liked it Shelves: Three jockeys were warned not to win their races, someone wanted good riders turned into also-rans. Bill died when the sure-footed Admiral fell, Joe was scared rotten, and Alan York became the prime target of a vicious gang. But Alan wanted revenge, and to hell with the danger. I have seen and heard of this author for many years before finally deciding to give him a try. I read and enjoyed Forfeit last month and having picked up a few of his books recently decided to try his first published novel from next.

At odd pages long it was a fairly quick read. Sufficient length for the author to develop his characters into more than stick people, but not over-long like so many of the books published today. Alan York is our main man here. Alan is trailing his best friend Bill Davidson during a steeplechase race, when disaster strikes the leading horse and jockey. Davidson suffers a bad fall, incurring fatal injuries after his horse landed on him. York having witnessed the accident is sufficiently disturbed to re-visit the fence where the incident took place.

Hidden in the fence is a coil of wire which has been used to bring Davidson and Admiral, his odds-on favourite mount down. Unable to attract assistance that evening, York returns to the course the next day with a policeman in tow, but the evidence has disappeared. As the plot quickly unfolds, Alan is threatened and warned off by the gang responsible for the race-fixing, which is in addition to a protection racket they have been operating in Brighton. Short, sharp, concise, with a few twists and turns before the identity of the culprit was revealed.

A fairly straight-forward thriller-cum-crime-novel can someone explain to me the difference? Verdict - nothing to complain about. Aug 06, Shorty rated it really liked it Shelves: But he sure did know how to tell a great mystery story. His heroes are always kind, tough, clever, and very good, in a very basic, old-fashioned way. His plots are always engaging, with plenty of actual knowledge from the sport involved, since he was a jockey in a former life.

His romances are very old-fashioned at times, but they are sweet, and with none of the extensive sex scenes that most books these days insist on having. It sure is nice to get back to a time when that wasn't not only completely necessary to sell a book, but also the entire reason for the storyline in the first place! And I find the world of British horse racing he describes to be a fascinating and exciting one. I also rather like Francis's writing style. His spare prose never draws attention to itself; he writes in his genre very eloquently, very plainly, and very much like the gentleman I expect he was in his lifetime.

After every book I read of his, I wish I could have met him, all over again. I expect there were not many men like Dick Francis around, either here or in England. Dead Cert happens to be the first of Francis's many mysteries. One thing that Francis got better at over time was romance -- this one could probably be called cheesy, in someone else view. But the basic plot was great and I quite enjoyed this book as well as the others I've read. Also, I found it very refreshing to read a mystery that was written before the age of computers, cell phones, and DNA testing. Crime sleuthing was quite a different game back then.

Mar 31, Steelwhisper rated it it was amazing Shelves: A re-read as a palate cleaner. Still love it as much. Wonderful language, great characterisation and perfect racing lore. What a great writer. Now and then I'll reread one. I try to wait a long time because they're so memorable. Dead Cert is more than half a century old, and shows its age.

Would you believe a fleet of taxis directed by radio from a central location being described as a brilliant innovation? But terrific characters, terrific suspense, and the wonderful world of steeplechase horse racing in England add up as usual to an eagerly read novel -- even the second or third time around. I love all of Dick Francis books, well written and always has an interesting story.

Jan 07, Beth rated it really liked it. Dick Francis may not be trying to earn literary awards, or communicate any life-changing truths with his writing, but he does know how to tell a great mystery story. His heroes are always kind, tough, clever, and good.

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His plots are always engaging. His romances there is almost always a romance do border on overly-cheesy at times, but they are sweet. And I find the world of British horse racing he describes all of his characters are jockeys or involved in racing in some way or another to be Dick Francis may not be trying to earn literary awards, or communicate any life-changing truths with his writing, but he does know how to tell a great mystery story. And I find the world of British horse racing he describes all of his characters are jockeys or involved in racing in some way or another to be a fascinating and exciting one.

His spare prose never draws attention to itself; he writes in his genre very competently and never annoyingly. One thing that Francis got better at over time was romance -- this one was really cheesy. But the basic plot was great and I quite enjoyed the book. Also, I actually found it very fascinating and a bit refreshing to read a mystery that was written before the age of computers, cell phones, and DNA testing. Aug 04, Harry rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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 tha What is there to say about Dick Francis?

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. 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: Dick Francis is one of my favorite writers. I read his books with a fierce hunger that remains insatiable and I mourn his death. I read this because one of the Penguin 60 books Racing Classics I read recently contained, instead of a short story, the first chapter of this book.

It was a very well written first chapter, which built suspense and set up a great story. I was pretty annoyed at that, and had whetted my appetite to finish the novel, which I picked up for a couple of dollars a few days later. Dick Francis is a former steeple-chase jockey, so is writing well within his sphere of knowledge, and that comes across in I read this because one of the Penguin 60 books Racing Classics I read recently contained, instead of a short story, the first chapter of this book.

Dick Francis is a former steeple-chase jockey, so is writing well within his sphere of knowledge, and that comes across in this book. To a person with little knowledge in the racing industry, and less interest, it reads as a technically correct book. The story involves a number of steeple-chase race 'accidents', which of course are not accidents at all, and I would expect that without the technical precision of the writing, a book like this would fail to convince.

Also wrapped in are organist crime in the form of race fixing, bet fixing and general intimidation tactics. I enjoyed it for what it is - a fast paced murder mystery thriller, where the main character is cleverer that the police and all others. I don't read a lot of these types of books, probably one or two a year usually, so this one sits ok with me.

Three and a half stars, rounded down to 3. Jun 17, Laurel rated it really liked it Shelves: Dead Cert, the title of this Dick Francis novel, refers to a sure thing in the racing world as much as that can be possible when enormous horses and the men riding them, are dashing around a steeplechase course consisting of a variety of jumps, different terrains and water barriers to cross. When a highly respected jockey dies from a fall that occurs while riding Admiral, in a ride which had been touted as a dead cert by those in the know, fellow amateur jockey Alan York realizes that foul play Dead Cert, the title of this Dick Francis novel, refers to a sure thing in the racing world as much as that can be possible when enormous horses and the men riding them, are dashing around a steeplechase course consisting of a variety of jumps, different terrains and water barriers to cross.

When a highly respected jockey dies from a fall that occurs while riding Admiral, in a ride which had been touted as a dead cert by those in the know, fellow amateur jockey Alan York realizes that foul play was involved. He finds a wire coiled beside one end of the jump where the terrible fall occurred, and knows that someone meant for his friend to fall. He decides to investigate, and the tightly woven plot begins to unravel, doled out by Francis, a bit at a time. Alan is a likeable main character, and not many pages pass before you begin to root for him to win his races, win the heart of the young lady he desires, and come safely through the ever growing dangers posed by a mysterious man who is pulling criminal strings from the shadows.

I know nothing about horses, steeplechase, or racing. This is not a problem, since Francis adroitly spins all of the necessary information needed into the plot as required, in an interesting and dexterous manner. No heavy handed dumping of facts here! There is plenty of skulduggery, a little romance, some humour, and the actions of a dedicated, principled young man, who is determined to do right by his deceased friend and his family.

A pleasure to read, and a great way to enjoy all things equine without triggering an allergic reaction. Like Archie Bunker, I have always wanted to ride a pony or a horse. It will not happen, due to allergies and asthma, but reading a Dick Francis gem satisfies the need quite nicely.


  1. Dead Cert (novel) - Wikipedia.
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Only thirty some odd books left to go-what a pleasant thought, and it is a dead cert that I will enjoy them as much as I did this one. Wealthy Rhodesian and narrator Alan York, rides in England for fun until his best friend, family man Bill Davidson fulfills a "dead certain" win on Admiral, ignoring a warning to lose, and dies from a wire across the last jump, then cheating Joe Nantwich is knifed.

Another pal, poor but honest and handsome Dane, competes romantically, for novice owner hot Kate. An angry whisper masterminds racetrack fraud, and a protection racket conducted by Marconicar radio taxis. Blue Duck's new innkeeper T Wealthy Rhodesian and narrator Alan York, rides in England for fun until his best friend, family man Bill Davidson fulfills a "dead certain" win on Admiral, ignoring a warning to lose, and dies from a wire across the last jump, then cheating Joe Nantwich is knifed.

Blue Duck's new innkeeper Thomkins was a soldier, now organizing local resistance, including guard dogs. Who is leaking secrets? Typical Francis hero with pluck, physical and moral strength, gets beaten up cracked ribs and collarbone p, walks into the lion's mouth, not a believable move to me, despite his motives to shield typically innocent female. Subtle romance and humor, he does not want a sisterly kiss p, is better than crude.

Maybe tough-guys are as dated as pennies for the phone p He knows the criminal from the first. Teasers vary in importance, but effectively hang us over a cliff at the end of chapters, such as "a lot of things became clear to me. But not enough" p Eight-year old Henry Davidson, son of Davidson, does not hold the answer p in either his habit of overheard phone calls p, or betting slip collection, so why the wide-eyes?

Stopping for lunch at the Blue Duck p provides a clue early, but the mass countryside chase would have given the cabs involvement away eventually. Especially when expecting an attack, I did not need to recognize a stolen custom tie to know the pickup police were fake p When Alan remembers who kicked him unconscious, and takes revenge, the step outside the law is troubling; the reunited friendship with romantic competitor hopefully permanent.

Dec 07, Orinoco Womble tidy bag and all rated it really liked it Recommends it for: When I was growing up, certain names were part of the book landscape. In the library, those book-of-the-month club ads, magazines, I'd always see the same names: Which is weird, because the horse thing started earlier and lasted longer for me than for some kids. I'm sure if I'd actually checked Francis out then I'd have devoured them all, just as I did all the ones I could find in the s.

I decided to begin at the beginnin When I was growing up, certain names were part of the book landscape. I decided to begin at the beginning, and as this book was written the year I was born, it felt like "fate. But I've always wanted to say that. It was a decent read, as all of the earlier Francis novels are: Upper middle class wishfulfillment stuff, but at least in the earlier novels not too much in the way of sex and violence.

Right now I just need some mental popcorn, as insomnia has again reared its ugly head in my life. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first racing thriller Francis, and while the foreshadowing clunks a bit in spots, it is a decent read. The "chase scene" was at least original, and in Francis' world, of course a killer even a bespoke one has to be insane.

There's been some debate in the past few years as to "who wrote them, Francis or his wife" but whoever did, they made a decent job of it. Dec 11, Book Concierge rated it liked it Shelves: The victory is a hollow one because Bill is so seriously injured he dies in hospital. As Alan thinks over the race he is certain that there was something unnatural about the way Admiral took that jump. He finds a coil of wire — proof that the course was sabotaged. But by the time he gets a race official to take a look the wire is gone. Trying to figure out why someone would want to hurt his friend, Alan begins investigating and finds a network of corruption that involves much more than racing.

He writes a good thriller. His plot is well-crafted and moves quickly. There are plenty of red herrings as well as legitimate clues. I thought I had it figured out, and was happy when I was proved wrong. Simon Prebble does a fine job on the audio version. He has good diction, great pacing and does a particularly good job on the thrilling chase scene.

Sep 16, Dolly rated it liked it Recommends it for: I've only read one other book by Dick Francis, and although I enjoyed the story, I wasn't sure if I'd really be that anxious to read another. I'm not sure if it was the violence, the horse racing and gambling, or what, but it just didn't pull me in as other series have done. All of my previous grievances still hold true, but I will admit that he is adept at writing an exciting, suspenseful story.

I liked it and may read more by this author, but he's still not my favorite. Sep 27, Inger Faherty rated it really liked it. I love Dick Francis; his stories always seem familiar and comforting. I enjoy listening to audio books while I commute and his books are often read by Simon Prebble, who is quite enjoyable. Aug 20, Joe McNally rated it it was amazing. This book was a turning point in my life, although I didn't know it at the time.

I was just 14 when I read it and 'on the run' from school again I was a frequent truant. I've never forgotten the first line If you'll forgive me for not summarizing the plot, as a normal reviewer would - others have done that well enough - I'll tell you what Dick Francis and Dead Cer This book was a turning point in my life, although I didn't know it at the time. If you'll forgive me for not summarizing the plot, as a normal reviewer would - others have done that well enough - I'll tell you what Dick Francis and Dead Cert did for me.

The following weeks just seemed to slip out of my life as I spent them reading all the Dick Francis I could get hold of. When I'd consumed everything, I found that it had consumed me. Horse racing consumed me, and I began searching for anything to do with the sport. The fascination even led me to haunt the doors of my local betting shop, still five years short of legal age.

I skipped school even more often to go and work unpaid as a 'lad' in my local racing stable. The outcome was expulsion from school aged 14 without a qualification to my name. All I knew was how to read and to calculate winnings on bets. There is so much to tell of what Dead Cert led me to, and it's probably best laid out by pasting here a blog article I wrote a couple of years ago. Seventeen years ago today I was having breakfast in Winterborne Cottage where I was living at the time. We want him under the ground before telling the press.

Can you meet me by the winning post in half an hour? I was a mongrel working class boy whose habitual truancy led to a note from the headmaster to my father eight weeks short of my fifteenth birthday: And I never went back, considering myself expelled at I never thought then how incongruous it was, these ten acres or so, surrounded by steelworks and abandoned pits. But no Lanzarote or Bula was housed there.

But he never did and I never stopped growing. The best I could manage was a job with Ladbrokes the bookmakers. Those were the days when settling was done without machines. We worked furiously through around 5, betting slips as the queues of happy punters snaked around the shop and out the door. It was the first of mine as a bona fide worker in the betting industry.

Dead Cert (Judi Dench-Michael Williams) Part 1/3

That race, that finish, the participants were to play a huge part in my life - unplanned, never knowingly sought. Twenty two years later, breakfast abandoned, I sat in Winterborne Cottage drafting the press release to fax to my great friend Nigel Payne who had recruited me to SiS and had been instrumental in me getting the job at Aintree. The plan was to give the old horse a quiet burial without the media swarming all over the track. One of the reasons for the secrecy was, I suppose, the fact that it is almost impossible to bury half a ton of thoroughbred in a dignified manner.

May 3rd was to be just another meeting at Aintree. We were down to five meetings a year. In the 60s, Aintree had staged about 17 meetings a year, flat and jumps, but as the course fell further into disrepair, Mrs Topham gradually surrendered meetings till we were left with just a handful. We were getting calls from the international media and I got kind of carried away and told Charles I was going to create a special racecard and order 10, of them. That May meeting had seldom attracted more than 3, racegoers.

Timeform have agreed to let me publish their full essay on him from Chasers and Hurdlers! We came across behind the stands, Rummy looking splendid in his coat in the fading sun, ambling along quietly. But just as we came around the end of the Queen Mother stand, about thirty yards beyond the winning post, Rummy raised his head quickly and pricked his ears.

His eyes became brighter and he stood very still for what seemed a long time, just watching. Lord knows what he was remembering but I will never forget that image. It was an American style that many clever people in England had attempted to reproduce without much success, and it was a wonder how a barely educated former jump jockey was able to do the trick with such effortless ease.

The New York Times added,. A chance encounter with a literary agent led to his writing The Sport of Queens , published the year after he retired. Emboldened by its success and further motivated by his paltry wages as a journalist , he began writing Dead Cert. Drawing on his experiences as a jockey and his intimate knowledge of the racetrack crowd — from aristocratic owners to Cockney stable boys — the novel contained all the elements that readers would come to relish from a Dick Francis thriller.


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  • There was the pounding excitement of a race, the aura of the gentry at play, the sweaty smells from the stables out back, an appreciation for the regal beauty and unique personality of a thoroughbred — and enough sadistic violence to man and beast to satisfy the bloodthirsty.

    Fred Glueckstein, in Of Men, Women and Horses , wrote, "During the course of York's adventures, one can identify in Francis's work the elements that would precede his future success: A Guide for Libraries by Carol Alabaster From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Dead Cert First edition cover. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved December 17, The New York Times. Of Men, Women and Horses. Developing an Outstanding Core Collection: