Straight (1989) by Dick Francis
Pbk, Pan, 302 p.
Dick Francis passed away the other day at age 89. Francis was a British writer of thrillers that took place in and around the world of horse racing and jockeys. A successful racer himself, Francis had a keen ear for the milieu of exhilarating wins, brutal injuries, shady trainers and wealthy owners. I'm not sure when I picked up my first Francis book but I am sure it was years ago when I was in my Bagley/Innes/MacLean phase.
Straight, his twenty-eighth novel, has many of the Francis tropes that can be found across his oeuvre. The hero is involved with the racing world, lower class, tough and has a strong sense of morality. He is thrown into a situation quite unexpectedly often. In this novel, Derek Franklin, a jockey recovering from injury, is informed that his estranged brother has been in a horrific accident. Derek takes over his brothers semi-precious gemstone business and becomes more and more involved in his life. In the Francis books, there is often a woman, usually upper class, who is the love interest and who is of course drawn to the studly hero. The antagonists generally are career criminals or someone within the racing fraternity who has turned to evil.
Although they are formulaic, a Francis novel is immensely readable. He is just one of those genre writers who has the innate ability to make you keep turning the pages as the hour gets later and later. I would recommend his earlier books especially Dead Cert, Nerves, Flying Finish and Whip Hand.