The Queen Mother, ‘crazy’ jockeys and new thrillers: real life for Dick Francis’ son, Felix

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  • This week’s H&H Interview (13 January issue) features Felix Francis, son of the late great jockey and novelist Dick Francis. Felix has taken over the mantle of writing the Dick Francis novels – no small task given that when his father switched from being a champion jump jockey, he became one the most famous thriller writers in the world, with global sales in excess of 90 million.

    Enjoy some extracts from Martha Terry’s exclusive interview with Felix…

    Felix on the conversations his family had around the dinner table to help create Dick’s novels:

    “Someone would ask, ‘How much pressure is required to strangle someone?’ or ‘Could Sid Halley survive the night with a bullet in his head?’ – never who was doing the school run. I was growing up in the greatest fiction factory in the world.”

    Felix on how he perceives National Hunt jockeys:

    “National Hunt jockeys are crazy,” he laughs. “They live in the here and now, where past experience and future expectation have no place. They are like criminals, who always think they won’t get caught. But Dad had been in the RAF, flying Spitfires and Wellingtons. He said that riding racehorses at 30mph is a lot safer because no one is shooting at you.”

    Felix on The Queen Mother’s presence in his early years:

    “She was like an extra granny to me”.

    Dick had long requested that he could dedicate a book to the member of the royal family.

    “She would waggle her long little finger at him and say, ‘Only when I’m 100,’” Felix smiles.

    By the end of the millennium, with 38 novels published, Dick and Mary [Felix’s mother] decided to retire to the Caribbean. Mary had polio in her twenties and she struggled to breathe in cold British winters. Dick took a copy of his final book, Second Wind, to give to The Queen Mother in the Royal Box at Ascot.

    “I’m looking forward to my book next year,” she told him, aged 99.

    CHELTENHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 13: Queen Mother With Dick Francis At Cheltenham Races. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

    The Queen Mother and Dick Francis at Cheltenham

    Felix admits his father “didn’t leave me any storylines”, but he is forging new paths of his own. Iced is an “action-packed psychological thriller” set around the Cresta Run, with a jockey who has retired due to struggling with his weight, alcohol and mental health. He instead gets his kicks out of throwing himself down an ice chute at 80mph. He’s hauled back into racing via the St Moritz snow-racing festival, White Turf, and there we are, back on familiar Dick Francis territory.

    To read the full interview, pick up your copy of this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 13 January, 2022

    Here are some other Dick Francis novels that you might enjoy reading:

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