Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What Are They Reading? Slay Ride by Dick Francis

Authors tend to be readers, so it is natural for them to create characters who like to read. It is always interesting to me to read what books the characters are reading in the books I read. Even if I can't say that ten times fast.

Usually, the characters' choice of books reflects the author's tastes or, I sometimes think, what the author was reading at the time. But sometimes the character's reading material is a clue to the character's personality, or is even a part of the story.

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I'm a big Dick Francis fan and am working my way through his 47 mystery novels. His mysteries are known for their horse racing themes, a subject he came to naturally after his own career as a prize-winning jockey. He is the only author to win the Edgar Award three times.

Slay Ride is one of his earlier books, published in 1973. David Cleveland, chief investigator for the British Jockey Club, goes to Norway to investigate the disappearance of an English jockey. While there, the local police detective sets him up with a driver, the officer's brother, described as an author who doesn't make much money so would like the work. The author-turned-driver is quite literary, and while he sits in his car waiting for Cleveland, he reads The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

The choice struck me because, unlike some authors, Dick Francis doesn't do a lot of book name dropping. His characters are usually racing horses, making movies, climbing mountains, or doing other hands-on activities that make for action-filled plots. So having a middle-aged Norwegian man reading Lessing's 1962 feminist classic jumped out at me.

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