oracne - Victoria Janssen (oracne) wrote,
oracne - Victoria Janssen

Francis, 10 LB PENALTY

Dick Francis' 10 Lb Penalty, another one that didn't quite coalesce for me, but that had potential.

10 Lb Penalty is another one of the later novels, and I can see Francis was trying something new: his hero, Benedict Juliard, begins the novel at age 17, and ends it five or so years later. I don't think the teenager thing worked; the voice sounded essentially the same as one of his older heroes. Ben does think about things a teenager might think about--Francis worked at that, you can tell--but his voice...well, it's clear from the first-person narrative that Ben-the-adult is looking back at those years, which is an excuse for the more adult voice, I suppose, but I still didn't feel like it quite came off.

Ben's father, George, is running for Parliament, and Ben agrees to accompany him campaigning. OF course, someone keeps trying to kill George, and Ben ends up being a bodyguard. There are some nifty things about local elections in there, and about steeplechasing as an amateur, and about insurance scams (Ben's job when he grows up).

What dissatisfied me is that I think Francis would've liked to have been writing more about George, the charismatic rising political star, and he couldn't, it wouldn't fit the classic Francis-novel shape. We follow Ben instead, and after the election there's a sort of pastoral middle where he goes to university and gets a job and all that, which seems separate from the suspense novel plot. I had the feeling there Francis could have written a lovely slice-of-life novel about someone who got joy from racing, and what happened when that person couldn't race anymore, but he didn't do it, just put those bits of writing into one of his regular suspense novels.

Now I'm curious to read Francis' autobiography and see if any of that feeling about racing made it into the more obvious place for it.

Tags: books, francis, mystery

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