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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Writer's Life 10/17 - Giddyup

The late Dick Francis had a long impressive life, RAF pilot in WWII, successful jockey, journalist, award-winning author of more than 40 international best sellers, married for 53 years until the death of his wife, with whom he collaborated extensively. He won more than 300 races in the steeplechase event and served as the jockey for Queen Elizabeth from 1953-'57. He survived many serious injuries and spent 16 years as a racing correspondent. His autobiography, The Sport of Queens, was published in 1957, his first novel in 1962. All his works, except the bio, are mysteries and he rarely used the same lead character twice, highly unusual, especially in this age. He was a three-time winner of the Edgar and was named a grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America. His novels have been translated in 22 languages. When a paperback version of To the Hilt came my way, I checked its length, 330 pages, and decided to give it a shot, despite the fact that I've never been a fan of horse racing. I was also hesitant because Francis was touted long ago by a columnist whose opinions I despised. Well, the guy was right in this case. I really enjoyed the novel, especially since the featured race is but a subplot and quickly rendered. The story is intriguing and the body count minimal. It begins with the assault by thieves of a 29-year-old artist at his remote dwelling in Scotland. He has shunned his aristocratic upbringing, although he loves his mom, a widower, and respects his step-dad, the member of an Earl's family. The mystery involves embezzlement, and the hiding of two valuable heirlooms. Although I found the prose a bit quirky, it is eminently readable. The syntax seemed odd in spots but I'd guess he knows more about it than I do or ever will. He humanizes the characters, even the higher-ups, which is refreshing. Published in 1992, To the Hilt is still selling modestly. 122 readers at Amazon have rated it, forging to a consensus of 4.6 of five. I wouldn't go nearly that high. I say 3.5. It's more than a cut above most of the mysteries I've sampled.

There was a blurb in today's NY Post about the theft of snake venom, which sent me on a Google search. Here are uses I found at a blood-clotting protein in Taipan venom has been found to stop excessive bleeding during surgery or after major trauma; components of Malayan Pit Viper venom have shown potential for breaking blood clots and treating stroke victims; enzymes from cobra venom may be instrumental in finding cures for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's; an enzyme derived from copperhead venom could be used to treat breast cancer; some venoms are even used in a commercial wrinkle cream. Who knew?

After Saturday's 41-0 win at Akron, the WMU Broncos are 7-0 and ranked 20th nationally in both polls.

No luck selling books on the street today. A lull has begun after a solid two months of sales.
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