Dick Francis, To the Hilt

£60.00

Dick Francis published his first mystery, “Dead Cert”, in 1962. Since then, he has published 42 thrillers until his death, aged 89 in 2010. During this period Francis made the action-suspense-detective story extremely popular and arguably forged the widest fan base of any writer before or since. A new mystery from Francis was almost always a guaranteed bestseller. A former jockey himself, horse racing always plays some part in his books. Although he had been been a novelist for over 30 years it had been suggested that his broader scope novels of the 1990s – exploring other interesting professions – were vintage Francis. This mystery story is set in the Scottish Highlands with an eccentric artist hero-figure Alexander Kinloch. Dick’s friend and colleague Margaret Yorke provided the appreciation

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 Dick Francis published his first mystery, Dead Cert, in 1962. Since then, he has published 42 thrillers until his death, aged 89 in 2010. During his career as a crime writer made the action-suspense-detective story extremely popular and arguably forged the widest fan base of any writer before or since. Each year the new Dick Francis was almost always a guaranteed bestseller.

A former jockey himself, horse racing always plays some part in his books. He achieved success early with several books that are still read today such as For Kicks (1965), Flying Finish (1966) and Forfeit (1968). In range and power as a suspense and mystery writer Francis was probably unequalled. Not only were they good puzzle books, but they had a emotional impact. His books had a strong following internationally, and especially so in the United States were he was a Grand Master. They were often centred on modest hero-figures such as the racing correspondent James Tyrone in Forfeit who looked after his invalid wife (as Frances once did himself). Although he had been been a novelist for over 30 years it had been suggested that his broader scope of his novels in the 1990s were vintage Francis – they focused more on artistic professions – rather than on skulduggery in and around the racing circuit.

Plotline: Artist Alexander Kinloch has worked out a good pattern for his life. His home is a small bothy on a remote mountain in Scotland; he paints on commission, from which he derives both pleasure and a decent income; he lives alone and likes it. One day, however, Alexander’s peace is violently shattered when he returns home to find a group of strangers waiting for him. After a scuffle, he is left for dead with only the words ‘‘Where is it?’ ringing in his ears. And the days that follow contain more danger than he could ever imagine.

To the Hilt combines the racing world and the life of a loner artist in the Highlands of Scotland. It is rich in history and has a well conceived moral centre – a favourite with Francis fans and was issued in 1996 with a lovely appreciation by the highly regarded psychological suspense writer Margaret Yorke. Margaret is one of the most knowledgeable crime writers we have met. She served in the Wrens until 1945 and published her first novel in 1957. She has been awarded many accolades including one for the most borrowed writer from the Library Service. She had admired Dick Francis’ achievements for many years. The print run was 99 numbered and signed copies, plus some deluxe copies for presentation purposes. They all sold fairly quickly.

5.00 out of 5

2 reviews for Dick Francis, To the Hilt

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Arati Devasher gave 5 stars on Goodreads on June 27, 2012 :

    Arati Devasher gave 5 stars on Goodreads (see also her reviewing site bookweyr.co.uk)
    This has to be one of my favourite Dick Francis novels. Aside from the fact that his writing style is pleasing and action is fast-paced, and that I always learn something new, I love that he writes about simple people in extraordinary situations. He creates unerringly charming characters, the sort that you’d like to know in real life, and I’ve never yet taken more than one session to read a book of his! Unputdownable!

    Alexander Kinloch, a somewhat eccentric but successful painter, lives in an isolated bothy on his noble Uncle’s (referred to as Himself) lands in Scotland, emerging from isolation every couple of weeks for provisions. He receives a summons from his loving mother calling him to the bedside of his stepfather, who, despite all his failed attempts to get Alexander to join his prosperous brewery business, has retained affection and respect for him. His mother may have exaggerated the urgency of the matter, but Alexander is surprised to hear that he is required to hide a horse for his stepfather, who is under the impression that Alexander ‘knows how to hide things’, an impression fostered by Himself (whose Hilt is also in Alexander’s care). This is necessitated by the fact that his brewery is going bankrupt due to the dishonesty of someone in the business (there’s a potential spoiler here, so I won’t say more). In addition he gains power of attorney, which leads to a great deal of inconvenience for him, including being beaten up, chased, and nearly killed several times over!

    The characters are beautifully rendered, realistic to the very last, with no exaggeration. And despite the rather offhand manner in which the protagonist describes events, it is patently obvious that he is a man of honour, who takes his loyalties and friendship very seriously, no matter the cost; an all-round misunderstood good guy. The curious investigators Young and Uttley are a wonderful surprise in themselves, and as charming as Alexander himself. His stepfather is portrayed wonderfully, dothery and dithery though he is; his mother is helpless but loving; his wife, from whom he is separated, is a gem; the stepfather’s daughter and son-in-law are as vicious as you would wish them to be; the villains are villainous; and Zoe Lang… ah, well, I’ll leave you to find out for yourself.

    Highly recommended. Go and borrow/buy it now!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Margaret Yorke on June 27, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by Margaret Yorke
    Every Autumn, as surely as the leaves change colour and begin to fall, a new Dick Francis novel makes its appearance, and this year, with the publication of To The Hilt, he completes a remarkable triple in a life which has combined many memorable moments, both in his career as champion jockey, and in his metamorphosis as a distinguished novelist. In May, Mystery Writers of America honoured him by making him a Grand Master, and he won their Edgar award for Come to Grief, in which his one-armed hero Sid Halley features. Apart from Halley, he does not have a series figure, but his heroes are cast in a similar mould. They are the walking wounded, emotionally damaged, but always brave and honest. Valour triumphant is a constant theme in his books, and in a world where ethical vacillation is the fashion, with excuses made for almost every human lapse, Dick Francis does not sit on fences. His villains are truly bad, and his heroes, in the pursuit of justice and their perceived duty, display – often against their own best interests and wishes – as in To The Hilt he says jockeys must, ‘endurance, courage and persistence’. The moral aspect of his writing is one reason why his books are so successful; readers like stories in which virtue overcomes iniquity, and the testing journey taken by his characters is always exciting and dramatic. The prose is crisp and economical and there are many fine descriptive passages where, in a few words or phrases, the reader breathes the sharp air of early morning on the downs with the horses on the gallops, or feels the bustle of the race course, or takes a train trip across the immense terrain of North America.

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