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Dead Cert (2004)

Dead Cert (2004)

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3.93 of 5 Votes: 2
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0425194973 (ISBN13: 9780425194973)

About book Dead Cert (2004)

This book was a turning point in my life, although I didn't know it at the time. I was just 14 when I read it and 'on the run' from school again (I was a frequent truant). I've never forgotten the first line ..."The mingled smells of hot horse and cold river mist filled my nostrils." It drew me in immediately and I read it in one sitting.If you'll forgive me for not summarizing the plot, as a normal reviewer would - others have done that well enough - I'll tell you what Dick Francis and Dead Cert did for me.The following weeks just seemed to slip out of my life as I spent them reading all the Dick Francis I could get hold of. When I'd consumed everything, I found that it had consumed me. Horse racing consumed me, and I began searching for anything to do with the sport. The fascination even led me to haunt the doors of my local betting shop, still five years short of legal age.I skipped school even more often to go and work (unpaid) as a 'lad' in my local racing stable. The outcome was expulsion from school aged 14 without a qualification to my name. All I knew was how to read and to calculate winnings on bets.There is so much to tell of what Dead Cert led me to, and it's probably best laid out by pasting here a blog article I wrote a couple of years ago.Seventeen years ago today I was having breakfast in Winterborne Cottage where I was living at the time. It was the shortest commute I’d ever had, nestled in the trees about a hundred yards west of the winner’s enclosure at Aintree racecourse. Aintree’s 270 enclosed acres held a few properties and I was fortunate to live in one, at a peppercorn rent. I’d left SiS the year before to become Aintree’s first marketing manager.At 8.20 my mobile rang. Aintree MD Charles Barnett, perfect diction unruffled as ever said, ‘Joe, Red Rum died this morning. He’s on his way here. We want him under the ground before telling the press. Can you meet me by the winning post in half an hour?’It was a job. I didn’t stop to reflect on my life or the part Red Rum had played in it, or the path that had led me from a pit village in Lanarkshire to the best racecourse in the world. I was a mongrel working class boy whose habitual truancy led to a note from the headmaster to my father eight weeks short of my fifteenth birthday: “If your son dislikes school so much, tell him not to come back.” (Oh those pre-politically correct days!).And I never went back, considering myself expelled at 14. I rejoiced and headed out into the world without a qualification to my name but armed with a twenty-two carat romantic view of life gained from all the books I’d read, huddled in the corner of warm libraries when I should have been at school.The only teacher I ever paid attention to was one I’d never met, Dick Francis. I’d got through a book of his a day.On a patch of old farm land behind St Pat’s school in my village, an optimistic farmer called Jim Barrett trained a dozen horses. I never thought then how incongruous it was, these ten acres or so, surrounded by steelworks and abandoned pits. I never noticed the smoky industry; I saw Uplands, Saxon House, Seven Barrows. But no Lanzarote or Bula was housed there.Still, third-rate thoroughbreds were racehorses, creatures of unlimited potential and I’d be there in many frozen dawns to groom and muck out and sometimes ride and watch the stable jockey, three years my senior and better known in the village as the son of the owner of the fish and chip shop. His name was Len Lungo and a couple of years later he headed south to ride Martin Pipe’s first ever winner, Hit Parade.The Guv’nor (oh, how I loved calling him that) used to weigh me once a week and I’d starve in the previous twenty four hours hoping that next day he’d tell me I’d make it as a jockey. But he never did and I never stopped growing. Jim Barrett died a relatively young man and I was cast adrift looking for some way to stay in ‘the sport’.The best I could manage was a job with Ladbrokes the bookmakers. By the time of Red Rum’s first National I was nineteen and managing a busy betting shop in Hamilton and cursing Red Rum not just for catching the magnificent Crisp in the dying strides of that wonderful race, but for being the best bet for many at 9/1 joint-fav with the runner-up.Those were the days when settling was done without machines. We worked furiously through around 5,000 betting slips as the queues of happy punters snaked around the shop and out the door.That was the first of Rummy’s Nationals. It was the first of mine as a bona fide worker in the betting industry. That race, that finish, the participants were to play a huge part in my life - unplanned, never knowingly sought. Had someone told me that day how it would all pan out, even at my most romantic and optimistic, I’d never have believed it.Twenty two years later, breakfast abandoned, I sat in Winterborne Cottage drafting the press release to fax to my great friend Nigel Payne who had recruited me to SiS and had been instrumental in me getting the job at Aintree. The plan was to give the old horse a quiet burial without the media swarming all over the track. One of the reasons for the secrecy was, I suppose, the fact that it is almost impossible to bury half a ton of thoroughbred in a dignified manner.Walking toward the winning post on that fine dry morning, I passed the place where I’d stood with Red Rum on the day of his 30th birthday, five months before.May 3rd was to be just another meeting at Aintree. We were down to five meetings a year. In the 60s, Aintree had staged about 17 meetings a year, flat and jumps, but as the course fell further into disrepair, Mrs Topham gradually surrendered meetings till we were left with just a handful.Anyway, preparing for that May meeting, I noticed in Red Rum’s Timeform essay that he’d been born on May 3rd 1965. I suggested to Charles Barnett that we call our meeting Red Rum’s 30th Birthday Meeting. Charles, always open to ideas said “Crack on.”I rang Ginger to see if the horse would be well enough to attend and, cheery and helpful as ever, he said. “Of course he will, old son.” It didn’t take long to get a buzz going. The BBC and ITV asked if they could send news teams. We were getting calls from the international media and I got kind of carried away and told Charles I was going to create a special racecard and order 10,000 of them. That May meeting had seldom attracted more than 3,000 racegoers.“You won’t sell them, Joe.”“We will. Trust me. I’ve got an interview with Ginger in there, a special portrait of Red Rum on the cover. Timeform have agreed to let me publish their full essay on him from Chasers and Hurdlers!”“There’s no way, you’ll sell close to ten thousand.”“Trust me, Charles!”He smiled and gave one of his shrugs (think Hooper in Jaws trying to dissuade the men in the overcrowded boat “They’re all gonna die!”)When the track emptied after the meeting I was left staring at a stack of unopened boxes holding about 7,000 racecards. But CB never ever said “I told you so,” and the fact that he didn’t meant a lot to me.Anyway, on that May evening, I’d walked out with Red Rum and his handler from the old stables. We came across behind the stands, Rummy looking splendid in his coat in the fading sun, ambling along quietly. But just as we came around the end of the Queen Mother stand, about thirty yards beyond the winning post, Rummy raised his head quickly and pricked his ears. His eyes became brighter and he stood very still for what seemed a long time, just watching. Lord knows what he was remembering but I will never forget that image.Twenty four weeks later he was back close to the winning post he loved so well. This time he was lying on his left side, head toward the red and white disk above him, eyes closed, breath gone. No pallbearers, no coffin, no shroud.Ginger was on my left, Charles on my right beside the only other man there, Bob Dixon, head groundsman whose precious turf had been gouged by the shovel of a yellow JCB which scooped out more than enough earth to make sure there’d be no embarrassing ‘rehearsal’.Charles turned toward Ginger. Ginger looked at his oldest equine friend one final time and nodded. Charles raised a thumb to the JCB driver and the shovel was lowered to slip slowly below the spine of the finest Grand National horse that had ever galloped those acres since the first National in 1839. Slowly, slowly, slowly, Rummy was pushed toward the edge of his grave until gravity took over. Ginger walked forward and threw in a handful of fresh earth. I turned and went to my office to place an order for his headstone and to write his epitaph for it.It didn’t take long for me to figure out that a square yard of marble was never going to be enough on which to do credit to a true equine legend and I settled for the simplest of words. I showed them to Charles and to Ginger and they agreed there was nothing more to say.A couple of weeks ago, on a beautiful morning, another player in that 1973 National sat with me on Fred Winter’s memorial bench outside his old yard Uplands, the place I’d dreamed of as a teenager. Richard Pitman and I published our first novel 20 years after Rummy’s first win and Richard’s heart-rending defeat on Crisp.I’d wanted to go there with Richard. Next year is the 40th anniversary of the great race. From that famous yard behind us, Crisp had been driven north to Liverpool. He came back having endeared himself to anyone who had a heart. His jockey came back with the memory of an experience no other human being would ever have. Richard never claimed to be a great jockey. He wasn’t, but he has always been too modest. There were few who could get a horse jumping the way he could and even fewer who would blame themselves for losing the most famous race in the world when giving 23lbs to what turned out to be the greatest Grand National horse in history.Sitting on that bench Richard explained to me, “It wasn’t so much picking up my stick before the Elbow that was the mistake, it was taking my hand off the reins to use it.” He has had almost 40 years of being tough on himself. I have had 40 years in a sport I love. I never knew the touchstone for me would turn out to be the 1973 Grand National. I helped bury the winning horse. I wrote novels with the man who rode Crisp. I have not sat on a racehorse these past 40 years but it has turned out a great ride through life for me - no skill required from the pilot, carried safely round the course by Lady Luck.Joe McNally

What is there to say about Dick Francis? As I think about all of his books (yes, this review covers all of his books, and yes I've read them all) I think about a moral ethical hero, steeped in intelligence and goodness embroiled in evil machinations within British horse racing society - either directly or indirectly. The heroes aren't always horse jockies, they can be film producers, or involve heroes engaged in peripheral professions that somehow always touch the horse racing world.But more than that, Francis's heroes are rational human beings. The choices made are rational choices directed by a firm objective philosophy that belies all of Francis's novels. The dialogue is clear and touched with humor no matter the intensity of evil that the hero faces. The hero's thoughts reveal a vulnerability that is touching, while his actions are always based on doing the right thing to achieve justice. Causing the reader to deeply care about the characters in a novel is a difficult thing to do. No such worries in a Francis novel. The point of view is first person, you are the main character as you read the story (usually the character of Mr. Douglas). The hero is personable, like able, non-violent but delivering swift justice with his mind rather than through physical means. This is not to say that violence is a stranger to our hero. Some of it staggering and often delivered by what we would think of normal persons living in British society.You will come to love the world of Steeple Chase racing, you will grow a fondness for horses, stables, trainers and the people who live in that world. You will read the books, devouring one after the other and trust me Dick Francis has a lot of novels (over 40 by my last count).There are several series woven into the fabric of Francis's work: notably the Sid Halley and Kit Fielding series.Assessment: Dick Francis is one of my favorite writers. I read his books with a fierce hunger that remains insatiable and I mourn his death.

Do You like book Dead Cert (2004)?

Alan York a trader in family business from Rhodesian. He lives while near London with Major Bill Davidson, wife Scilla and children. Major Bill Davidson steeple final jump is sabotaged by a wire stretched across that only AY later sees. Reports to Maidenhead racecourse and later the police. AY is 2nd to MBD and the suggestion by the police is put that he could want either or both wife and 1st position in amateur steeple jumping MBD is AY best friend.Admiral was suppose to be a dead cert MBD igno
—John Marsh

Started: December 1, 2007 Finished: December 3, 2007***This is another re-read by one of my favourite authors. Dick Francis was a highly successful jockey, and he used to ride the Queen Mother's horses. When he retired, he started writing books*, and I think they're brilliant. They all involve horse racing in some way (though some of them very peripherally), and with few exceptions, the protagonist (of which very few are repeated) is forced into the role of amateur detective, usually out of self-defense (or defense of his loved ones). His books are almost all quite thin, and thus a quick read, and they are a capital example of how to pack a lot of story into a short book. He wastes no words, and has a deft hand at both characterization and story craft. There are no tricks, though the reader doesn't always know everything the protagonist knows, especially as all threads start coming together, but the denouement always makes spectacular sense. He ramps up the stakes for his characters by steady turns, and his protagonists are, to a man, well-rounded, interesting, flawed, human, and heroic. It's been a long time since I read this particular volume, and I'd forgotten how much I liked it. ****Yes, I know that people have said it's his wife who wrote the books. Who cares? The books say "Dick Francis"; makes no difference to me if it's a pseudonym for his wife; the books are just as brilliant.

After reading the latest too-clever pseudo-mystery that tried too hard to be darkly funny, I had to get that taste out of my mouth with an actual mystery. I know I can always count on Dick Francis for an interesting murder in the world of horse racing.True to form, a likeable fellow is killed off in the first chapter leaving just enough clues for our narrator to track down the culprit with minimal involvement from the police. The mystery in "Dead Cert" was complicated enough to keep me guessing for most of the chapters, but still gave me a chance to figure it out before the detective. The main character is likable, has a love interest, and an affection for horses. The plot is a frothy mix of drama, danger, and humor, and the setting of English steeple-chasing is entertaining.It's a fun book. It may not be a psychological mind-bender or dramatically original or startling intense or some other book jacket proclamation, but it's what books should be: enjoyable.

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