The master of the first line

Dick Francis

I’ve long admired the works of Dick Francis, whose horse-racing yarns captivated readers and critics for over four decades. As the title suggests, his books lured readers who may not have been horse enthusiasts (myself included!), but who found themselves snared by a seductive opening. And once lured, readers couldn’t help turning page after page thanks to the author’s passion for his topic, his flawed but resilient characters, and engrossing writing.

As this CrimeReads article explains, Francis authored over 40 international best sellers thanks to his natural talent as a storyteller, remarkable discipline, and a writing routine that included his wife Mary, who not only edited his manuscripts, but performed extraordinary research for his stories, including learning to fly a plane. (?!)

In my opinion, Dick Francis ranks up there with Mickey Spillane not only as a crime writer, but as a master of the first-person point of view. The first person, I think, provides both the flexibility and constraint that lets the writer achieve the depth of intimacy and detail that make a story come alive. By centering the writer around one character’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences, the first person helps focus the writer’s efforts by giving a place and a consciousness on which to anchor that story in both the writer’s and reader’s imagination.

12 thoughts on “The master of the first line”

  1. I must admit, Dick Francis is one of those rare mystery/crime writer I’ve not yet read. Shame of me, because I believe I have a copy of one of his books collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. I’m also a BIG fan of first person narrative. Out of all my published books, only one is in third person. There’s just something “up close and personal” reading a well-executed first person account. Thanks for an interesting post, and for reminding me of Mr. Francis and his body of work! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I picked up a tattered Dick Francis paperback decades ago and was immediately hooked! His first lines/paragraphs do indeed lure you in, and I’m fascinated by his ability to bring “flawed characters” to life.

    Liked by 2 people

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