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Francome, John 1952–

Francome, John 1952–

PERSONAL: Born December 13, 1952, in Swindon, England; son of Norman John and Lillian Maud Francome; married Miriam Strigner, 1976. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, music.

ADDRESSES: Home—Berkshire, England. Agent—SFX Sports Group (Europe) Ltd., 35/36 Grosvenor St., London W1K 4QX, England.

CAREER: Novelist, jockey, horse trainer, and broadcaster. Seven-time National Hunt champion jockey, beginning 1975, with 1,138 wins. Racing commentator for British Broadcasting Corporation's Channel Four, London, England.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named member, Order of the British Empire, 1986.

WRITINGS:

Born Lucky: An Autobiography, Pelham Books (London, England), 1985.

(Author of picture captions) Francome in Pictures, Partridge Press (Haywards Heath, England), 1986.

Twice Lucky (autobiography), illustrated by Graham Thompson, Pelham Books (London, England), 1988.

Francome's Fifty to Follow for the Jumps, Winning Line (Alderly Edge, England), 1999.

(With members of the Channel Four Racing Team) The Channel Four Racing Guide to Racehorses, edited by Sean Magee, Channel Four Books (London, England), 1999.

Contributor to volumes such as The Channel Four Book of Racing, edited by Sean Magee, introduction by Brough Scott, photographs from Gerry Cranham Library, Sidgwick & Jackson (London, England), 1989.

MYSTERY NOVELS

Stone Cold, Headline (London, England), 1990.

Stud Poker, Headline (London, England), 1991.

Rough Ride, Headline (London, England), 1992.

Outsider, Headline (London, England), 1993.

Break Neck, Headline (London, England), 1994.

Dead Ringer, Headline (London, England), 1995.

False Start, Headline (London, England), 1996.

High Flyer, Headline (London, England), 1997.

Safe Bet, Headline (London, England), 1998.

Tip Off, Headline (London, England), 1999.

Lifeline, Headline (London, England), 2000.

Dead Weight, Headline (London, England), 2001, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.

Inside Track, Headline (London, England), 2002, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.

Stalking Horse, Headline (London, England), 2003.

Back Hander, Headline (London, England), 2004.

NOVELS; WITH JAMES MACGREGOR

Eavesdropper, Macdonald (London, England), 1986.

Riding High, Macdonald (London, England), 1987.

Declared Dead, Headline (London, England), 1988.

Blood Stock, Headline (London, England), 1989.

SIDELIGHTS: Champion British jockey John Francome is also a prolific author of novels that combine the milieu of horse racing with intricate mysteries. Many reviewers compare Francome to another well-known jockey-turned-novelist, Dick Francis. Francome's "prose is a bit less stylish than that of Francis, but the storytelling is dead-on," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic in a review of Inside Track. Many consider Francome one of the sport's most talented competitors, and his career of seven championships in the British National Hunt and more than 1,100 racing wins attests to his superior performance in the sport. He has also served a stint as a horse trainer, and has taken a position as a popular racing commentator and broadcaster on the British Broadcasting Corporation's Channel Four.

Blood Stock, an early Francome novel written with collaborator James MacGregor, involves a murder, a slain racehorse, and a possible insurance scheme designed to collect on the death of the champion stallion. Fergus Kildare's father, Patrick, has been missing since the shooting death of Moondancer, their racehorse, a year and a half earlier. The Kildares and other investors had hoped the horse would make them wealthy, but his performance as a stud was not what had been hoped for. When Fergus makes the grisly discovery of his father's skeleton, and later the body of friend and ranch hand Joe Slattery, he begins to fathom a connection between the deaths of the men and of the horse. Meanwhile, investigator Jack Hendred is searching for clues at the behest of the company that had insured Moondancer for five million pounds sterling. As the investigation unfolds, the list of those who would benefit from the death of the horse and the men begins to grow alarmingly. Francome and MacGregor "provide a thoroughly entertaining read," remarked Sybil Steinberg in Publishers Weekly.

Dead Weight is the prolific Francome's twelfth thriller novel, "and it may be his best," commented Booklist reviewer Dennis Dodge. Championship steeplechase jockey Phil Nicholas is almost physically recovered from the severe injuries he suffered during his first serious spill from his horse. However, his "mental game" is not up to championship standards, and he seeks assistance from sultry psychotherapist Simone Brown, who helps him recover the psychological edge necessary to race successfully. His brother's sudden death damages him further, and marital problems erupt on the suspicion (unfounded) that he is having an affair with Simone. As Nicholas strives to improve his psychological condition, that of brutish psychopath Keith Jeffries continues to deteriorate. Jeffries believes that some shadowy person or persons are responsible for his continuing financial losses at the race track, and he sets out to have his revenge on the perceived culprits in more and more violent ways. When Nicholas finally draws the attention of the hulking Jeffries, he draws upon all of his resources of stamina, courage, and resolve just to stay alive. The novel is "a fast-paced tale of the racing world," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Francome's story's "rapid pace creates a powerful, multifaceted thriller," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Francome will have readers turning the pages at breakneck speed," Dodge concluded.

Jamie Hutchison, the protagonist of Inside Track, was once a successful jockey in Britain. After serving eighteen months in prison for the drunk-driving death of fifteen-year-old Alan Kirkstall, Jamie finds his career completely derailed. Worse, at age twenty-one, it seems that he will not be able to return to the track. At the stern but loving encouragement of his sister, Pippa, Jamie slowly begins to put his life and career back together. Blocking his way are Alan Kirkstall's father, Clem, and Aunt Joyce, who bear deep grudges toward Jamie, infused with malice and a desire for revenge. Complicating matters is a budding romance between Jamie and Alan Kirkstall's sister, Marie. "Fast women, faster horses, trainers, and jockeys abound in this exciting page-turner," commented Patsy Gray in Library Journal. "Francome is adept at ratcheting up the suspense" as his characters discover the truths they have been seeking, Dodge remarked in another Booklist review.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Francome, John, Born Lucky: An Autobiography, Pelham Books (London, England), 1985.

Francome, John, Twice Lucky (autobiography), illustrated by Graham Thompson, Pelham Books (London, England), 1988.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 1, 2004, Dennis Dodge, review of Inside Track, p. 313; September 1, 2005, Dennis Dodge, review of Dead Weight, p. 56.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of Inside Track, p. 838; August 15, 2005, review of Dead Weight, p. 870.

Library Journal, December 1, 2004, Patsy Gray, review of Inside Track, p. 95.

Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Blood Stock, p. 55; September 27, 2004, review of Inside Track, p. 41; August 22, 2005, review of Dead Weight, p. 40.

ONLINE

AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (November 18, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Inside Track.

Famous Francomes Web site, http://www.francome.com/ (November 18, 2005), biography of John Francome.

Hodder Headline Web site, http://authorpages.hoddersystems.com/ (November 18, 2005), biography of John Francome.

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