The Danger – by Dick Francis

Yes. I’m a Dick Francis fan. You know, the Welsh-born English jockey turned prolific crime writer in the world of horse racing. Most are passingly entertaining, and just enough different from the run-of-the-mill, everyday adventure/crime story to keep a reader wanting to read his next book. Though Dick Francis died at age 89 in 2010, his books are still read by fans today. Toward the end of his life his books were co-authored by his son Felix.

One of the best of his 40-plus international bestsellers has to be the one I just finished reading. The Danger, published in 1984, explores the world of international kidnapping from kidnapped to kidnappers, police, and those whose business it is to inform and prevent, or negotiate when such crimes happen. The book, being nearly 30 years old, is naturally dated in some things. After all, the world has moved a long way since 1984.

What hasn’t changed, however, is the emotional impact of abduction upon the lives, homes, companies, families, and individuals, which Francis explores quite vividly and with surprising insight throughout the novel. He shows the dehumanizing and demoralization of victims, and their almost childlike dependence upon their abductors for food, water, and even bodily waste. He takes us into the homes of the rich and famous and gives us a view of the family dynamics between husbands and wives, parents and children, and siblings, and how these homes are held together or torn apart through it all.

His protagonist is Andrew Douglas, a member of a jointly-owned international firm dedicated to preventing kidnapping, or bringing the victim back alive. Most of the partners are from crime prevention or spy-network backgrounds, though not Andrew. He was a lowly Lloyd’s of London clerk with a gift for being empathetic and emotionally well-grounded when he was recruited. For victims and their families he is their lifeline, their counselor, therapist, friend and confidante, helping them ride the waves of outrage, shock, guilt, hope, and despair.

When a drop goes awry in Italy with the kidnapping of a famous girl jockey, Alessia Cenci, her wealthy father is ready to beggar himself for her release. Usually a shrewd businessman who is always in control, he is slowly going to pieces right in front of Andrew, who counsels the father with empathy and hope.

Later, Cenci studies this strange young man who has come into his life and asks how he can always go directly to the heart of a problem —  if he has studied self-analysis.

“No,” replied Andrew. “Lived it. Like everyone does . . . facing the shameful things, the discreditable impulses.”

“Did it result in sainthood?” Cenci smiled.

“Er . . . No. In sin, of course, from doing what I knew I shouldn’t.”

But Andrew is also a shrewd observer of events as well as people in all parts of the world. With this advantage he pulls together disparate bits of information that allows him to dog the kidnappers while staying behind the scenes, a faceless, dangerous, and unknown factor. He is a liaison between the police who, all too often, are focused more on the capture of the kidnappers and not the fate of their victims, and the hapless families, often preventing tragedy.

In “The Danger”, Dick Francis delves more deeply into human nature, motives, and the quixotic personalities of people under pressure, than any other book I’ve read by him. It is also fast-paced and relentless, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “The Danger – by Dick Francis

  1. I must say, I applaud your ability to write reviews. I don’t think I could do it without giving away the entire plot of a story. I read a couple of Dick Francis books YEARS ago, but have no recollection of what the titles may have been. I know I enjoyed them though.

    Have you ever read any of James Clavell’s books — Shogun, Nobel House, Tai-Pan, to name a few? Excellent writer who keeps you on the edge of your seat. He’s one of my favorites, but he died in 1994 from cancer at the age of 69. Such a loss to the literary world….at least MY literary world.

      • Shogun was excellent. I loved the TV mini-series, too, and have the DVDs. Maybe I’ll read The Danger after I finish Best Kept Secret. After all, you got me reading The Clifton Chronicles so I trust your judgement. :>)

      • Thanks. I do trust yours also. You help me see things in different ways. That’s always a plus. Mike and I do that for each other, also. Makes for interesting relationships.

      • “Mike and I do that for each other, also. Makes for interesting relationships.”

        Well, Frank and I discuss, but we RARELY agree on anything so, yes, it’s an interesting life. Sometimes I think he thrives on playing the devil’s advocate. I can’t remember us ever watching a TV program together in the past 20 years except the 9/11 coverage. He hates the stuff I watch and vice versa. I try to order movies once in a while from Netflix that I think he’ll enjoy, but my batting average is pathetic. I can only win with documentaries or classical music-related videos. The minute I tell him a movie, or one of its stars, won an Oscar, he decides in advance that he won’t like it.. So I don’t tell him anymore. He’d rather be tortured than watch the Oscars on TV so if I don’t tell him, he doesn’t know.

  2. Well, Mike and I don’t always agree on everything, but most of the time we like the same movies and books. Like in the video you sent of Candice, I set aside my “run” prejudices and listened with an open heart. Mike has helped me like all kinds of music by doing that. Just a little nudge and telling me why he liked it and to just give it a chance. He’s done the same with my suggestions on literature. I can’t believe how far he’s come in literature. Now he spots meanings and metaphors that I’ve missed. He’s always been an avid reader; read Greek and Norse mythology when he was about 12 because he lived on a farm and there was not much else for entertainment. On our first date I asked Mike what authors he liked. He was astonished. He turned to me with utter fascination and said, “You know AUTHORS?” That’s one of our favorite “prehistoric” stories. Our anniversary is May 4. Day after tomorrow? 39 years.

    I’m glad you and Frank have classical music in common. We like documentaries, also. There are some I’d like to do reviews on. But there are so many things I want to write about there’ll never be enough time in one lifetime. I see places online dedicated to giving people ideas for what to write about. I think, sheesh, I could give ’em a million of ’em.

    The library ought to be calling any day now about the second Chronicle book. Will let you know when it comes in.

    • That was very interesting how you and Mike met. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In my case, the way to Frank’s heart was through his ears. LOL I was working at RCA Records when I met him and I offered to get him any recods he wanted for free. He was flabbergasted, needless to say. We both loved classical music at the time. I didn’t discover pop and other genres until the early 1990s.

      Frank is one of the few men I’ve known who is equally interested in math and science and the arts; Literature, theater, music, and art. However, we’ve always had our differences, with my interests being much more far flung than his. I used to devour the “New York Times” AND “The New York Daily News,” which he considered little more than a scandal sheet. I love R&B, pop, and rock while he never branched out from classical music. He’s an early riser and I’m a night owl. I read all kinds of books, but he reads only non-fiction. He has no interest in blogging or making friends via the Internet and that is one of my greatest joys. I’m a people person; he tends to be a loner. In my case, it’s very true that opposites attract.

      Another thing we have in common and spent much time doing in the early days in hiking. It’s ironic…..now that we live where there are endless hiking opportunities right outside our back door, we rarely find the time to indulge in that activity.

      Did you ever read my comment about the friend who grew up with missionary parents in Peru?

      “Best Kept Secret” is spellbinding, BTW. I can barely put it down.

      Many congratulations to you and Mike on your anniversary tomorrow. We’ll have been married 23 years in August. It’s the second marriage for both of us. My birthday is May 11 and my age has become an unlisted number. I can’t believe I’m getting so old. Sigh…..

      I was shocked that Amber went home Thursday instead of Kree. I think Kree was quite surprised herself. It totally escapes me why viewers have never seemed to embrace Amber. I hope she will be successful regardless. Much as I like Harry Connick, Jr., I thought his performance on the results show was a major bore. Didn’t care at all for the song he sang.

      OK, your turn.

  3. I think my reply about the missionary parents and Peru fell into one of those black holes we discussed about wordpress. I’ve learned now to not do the reply button that pops up when I click on the comment button, but to go to my stats page and click on the blog from there. When I read your comments I want to reply immediately (when I see it) and trying to keep something from getting lost on the click button is like juggling because the link pops off in the middle of what I’m typing. Even if I had the patience to cut and paste like you do, because of my surgery I’m having to do my blogs from the couch instead of at the office computer and I don’t have my word processor hooked up from there to here.

    Mike and I even talked about your missionary friend and how there are so many unusual connections between us. The church I attend is one that was founded for missionary endeavor by A. B. Simpson called the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Simpson (if I’m remembering correctly) was Presbyterian and gathered other churches like Baptists, etc, into a unity of churches to fund not only missions, but Bible colleges – one in Nyack and one in Toccoa Falls, Georgia. Missionaries and pastors from many churches attend – thus “Alliance”. I went to summer camp a few times at Toccoa and loved every minute. It was gorgeous there. It was also the one that was wiped out by flood (I think in the 1970s) and rebuilt. That was long after my camp days there. Did you ever read “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck? She was a missionary kid who became disillusioned by missions, but her writing was superb.

    Speaking of hiking, that was one of our favorite pastimes in earlier days. We camped and hiked in the Smokey’s and we love “trails” through parks. We have not had much opportunity to hike here, though we live among these gorgeous hills and ridges. I have gone a few times alone, but found places where there were people who had camped or “stayed” that I would not want to meet up with alone. The last outing Mike and I had together like that was at Coleman Lake that I posted back in the fall. That was a two-mile hike and so beautiful and peaceful.

    I agree about Harry Connick’s performance. It was a little too laid back for me, though I’ve heard him better.

    Sorry I’m late in answering. The health situation is unstable at the moment and I had a really bad day yesterday, and still worn out from it today.

    • I’m so sorry writing is such a chore for you these days, but please know that I greatly appreciate your efforts to reply to my comments.

      I remember your entry about Coleman Lake and all the beautiful photos you posted.

      Do take care of yourself and don’t overdue. I hope the orthopedist comes up with some solutions soon for your extremely painful shoulder problem. Constant pain can really drag a person down.

      • Oh, writing the blog or to you is definitely anything but a chore. I enjoy our “conversations”. Mike says our comments and replies are like the old-fashioned party-line telephones where anyone can listen in. But I don’t say anything I’d want to hide anyway. If there is something totally private I just email.

      • Yes, it is a lot like a party line. My grandmother had a party line when I was a little kid. I don’t recall her ever “listening in” — she’d have died from the embarrassment of being caught — but plenty of other people did.

        I’ve often wondered how many people read our exchanges here and what they think of them. I’m definitely your blog’s champion chatterbox. I NEVER say anything on line that I wouldn’t want the world to see because regardless of what we think, NOTHING is private once it hits the Internet. I’m more comfortable with Live Journal because no one can see my entries unless they also have a Live Journal. Also, I make nearly all my entries “friends only” which further lowers the risk. Only people I really trust are “friends” at LJ and can see everything I post. Still, I’m careful. As you say, email is always best for anything that’s meant to be truly private.

  4. Glad to hear the next two books in the Chronicle are so good. Can’t wait to catch up with you. Right now I’m reading two books. One is a true story that I’m making notes on as I go along called “The Man Who Moved A Mountain”. It’s my second reading and is amazing. I’m making notes for a review. For just plain reading I’ve picked up “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austin again. Over the years since my first reading I guess this is about my fourth or fifth reading. It’s my friend Jane’s favorite (the one whose brother was a missionary in Vietnam). There’s something so steady and comforting about Jane Austin’s writing. I can’t put my finger on it, but it must be something. It has never gone out of style.

    • Over the years, I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books, but I’ve never re-read any of them. Now I rely on all the brilliant movie and TV adaptations of them, mostly from Masterpiece Theatre or other British TV.

      I got the shock of my life today when I finished “Best Kept Secret.” It ended with a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers so there will obiously be another book. How on earth will I wait? I’m going to go to Jeffrey Archer’s website and see if there’s anything there about when the next book will be released. That assumes he’s even started writing it.

      • I’ve got several of the Austin books and revisit every so often. But LOVE the movie and TV adaptations, also. The Jane Eyre version I love the most (and I think I’ve shared this before so forgive if I’m repeating myself) was from around 1996 or so. That was the one when I asked for Jane Eyre at Blockbuster the little twit of a girl looked puzzled and said, “You mean Con Air?” I still laugh.

        You mean the third book is also a cliffhanger? We could hang Archer in effigy at the same time we do the pixie cut diva caper on Mariah and Nicki. Wouldn’t that be fun. So . . . I guess CHRONICLES means chronicles, not a trilogy. Bummer!!!! I hope it doesn’t go on forever like some others we know of. Sometimes, if the author is really good, he can stretch five books into a good story. But more than that it gets drawn out and cumbersome. We’ll just have to wait and see.

        Just finished watching what I thought was a movie with my daughter-in-law. Her birthday is today – same day as our anniversary. (Mike had to work). It turned out to be the pilot of a TV show. I’m not a big fan of “girl” movies, but there have been a few – like Legally Blonde – that I loved. This TV show was on the order of Legally Blonde. I tried it earlier and found that it was actually really good. It’s called “Drop Dead Diva”. I wouldn’t have given it a second glance if I hadn’t been bored witless. But glad I tried it. And Tammy loved it. We’re going to get back together to watch some more episodes (streaming Netflix).

  5. Well, I went to Jeffrey Archer’s web site and saw this from several months ago:

    Q. When will your next book be published?
    A. I am currently working on the third installment (BEST KEPT SECRET) of The Clifton Chronicles, a five-part epic that follows the fortunes of a fictional family from Bristol. Books one (Only Time Will Tell) and two (The Sins of the Father) are out now! Keep an eye on my my official blog for all the latest details.

    It’s from here: http://www.jeffreyarcher.co.uk/site/faqs

    So we have two more books to look forward to, but he says nothing about when book four will hit the shelves. Arghhh! But I do love sagas as long as they don’t lose the momentum.

    I remember the story about the clerk saying, “You mean ‘Con Air’?” Very funny. Who played Jane in this version?

    I think I’ll pass on “Drop Dead Diva.” I just looked it up at IMDb.com and it sounds a bit too corny for my taste. And I’ve never liked Margaret Cho. Something about her rubs me the wrong way.

    • Guess what?! I got “Sins of the Fathers” today. I’m just finishing up another book, so will probably start it tomorrow. The shot I got in my shoulder joint has made it very painful, so don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue typing. I’ve taken some Ibuprofin and a Goody Powder. Maybe those will relieve some of the pain of the actual needle injection. I have medications prescribed but can’t pick them up until tomorrow.

      • Wonderful news about the book. Do let me know how you like it. Did you ask the library if they also have the third book that was just published, “Best Kept Secret.” or if they plan to get it?

        I just read your email about your shoulder and replied. I’m so sorry. :<(

      • I forgot to ask. We were on our way home from the orthopedist, and since I don’t think on my feet at the best of times . . . I’ll call tomorrow and ask.

  6. Charlotte Gainsbourg played Jane Eyre and William Hurt (love him) played Edward Rochester. I have a favorite minister on radio (a Scotsman, Alistair Begg) who loved it so much I think he said he took his daughters to see it four times. To me it’s the best of all the Jane Eyres, though, of course, they had to adapt the book into the two-hour movie. I would like to see a mini-series on it with good actors, which would include her hardships and life after she left the manor.

    Margaret Cho must be the Asian assistant. Yeah, Linda (duh). It did sound corny and that’s why I only gave it a passing click and stayed to watch the whole pilot. The acting was good and they delved into ingrained prejudices and how people view and judge other people by how they look, not how intelligent or gifted they are. The scenario was a stretch, but it held my interest and was therefore entertaining. However, they have two good-looking guys on there who look so much alike Tammy and I had to pick out different facial features to keep them apart. They were both good actors, but that was still bad casting.

    But, of course, I loved “Heaven Can Wait” with Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, and James Mason, and have watched it several times. Maybe I’m just a sucker for sentimental movies (or TV shows).

  7. OK, I found the Jane Eyre you like so much and I don’t think I’ve seen this version. I’ve added it to my Netflix queue. What a great cast.

    Jane Eyre 1996 PG 116 minutes
    Jane Eyre is an orphan forced to endure life at a harsh boarding school. As Jane grows into an independent, strong-willed woman, she takes a governess job at Thornton Hall and falls in love with the estate’s brooding owner, Mr. Rochester.

    Cast:William Hurt, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Joan Plowright, Anna Paquin, Geraldine Chaplin, Billie Whitelaw, Fiona Shaw, Samuel West, John Wood, Edward De Souza, Elle Macpherson, Maria Schneider, Amanda Root, Josephine Serre

    Genre:Romantic Dramas, Period Pieces, Dramas Based on the Book, Drama

    I’ve seen “Heaven Can Wait” and liked it. I wonder why Warren Beatty stopped acting. His wife, Annette Benning, is still making lots of movies.

    • I didn’t know Annette Benning was his wife. She’s a good actor, too. I know Shirley McLaine is his sister. I think she’s lost most of her marbles, but for crying out loud she’s a great actress. One of my favorite movies with her was when she co-starred with Nicolas Cage in “Guarding Tess”. I’ve so wanted to do a review of that movie, but haven’t found it streaming, and I don’t own it. There’s another movie that I can’t get (short of buying it) that I want to see again and perhaps do a review on. It’s called “Saving Grace” and stars Tom Conti as the Pope – who, while engaged in his favorite pastime of gardening dressed in his old gardening clothes, accidentally locks himself outside the gates of the Vatican with no money. And who’s going to believe he’s the Pope. During his “journey” outside the hallowed halls, he learns about life from people who have to live it the hard way. Not only must he face temptation, in female form, he must come to terms with his flagging faith.

      • Yes, they’re been married a long time and have 4 or 5 kids. The eldest is nearly 30.

        I remember the movie “Saving Grace,” but don’t recall if I’ve seen it or not. Netflix must have the DVD. Have you checked?

        Guess what? I found that Jane Eyre with Hurt and Gainsbourg on Hulu.com so I’m going to watch it now instead of waiting to get it from Netflix. Ciao for now.

  8. Pingback: Dick Francis: The Danger | Past Offences

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s