Champion jockey turned thriller writer dies aged 89
DICK FRANCIS, the champion jockey who went on to an even more successful career as a thriller writer died yesterday aged 89 at his home on Grand Cayman island.
He had not been suffering from any particular illness, said his publicist, but had been getting "more and more frail" in recent years.
Over six decades, Francis wrote more than 40 books, which sold more than 60 million copies worldwide in more than 20 languages.
As a National Hunt rider he won 345 races and claimed the title of Champion Jockey for the 1953/54 season.
He rode in eight Grand Nationals but never won it, famously being denied victory in 1956 while riding Devon Loch for the late Queen Mother. The horse suddenly gave way under him 60 yards from the winning post at Aintree.
He retired from racing the following January but the interest caused by the Grand National incident led him to write his first book, 'The Sport of Queens', his autobiography.
He said in 2006: "The Devon Loch episode was a terrible thing but I look back on it now and I can say that if it hadn't happened I might never have written a book, and my books have certainly helped keep the wolf from the door."
His first thriller, 'Dead Cert', was published in 1962. Between then and 2000 he published 38 novels and a collection of short stories, making him one of Britain's most prolific thriller writers.
His wife Mary became his researcher until her death in 2000 after 53 years of marriage. He is survived by two sons, Felix and Merrick.
Felix Francis, who from 2007 co-wrote four more novels with his father, said: "My brother, Merrick, and I are, of course, devastated by the loss of our father, but we rejoice in having been the sons of such an extraordinary man.
"We share in the joy that he brought to so many over such a long life." (© Daily Telegraph, London)