Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Edge by Dick Francis

I'm always up for a Dick Francis novel. Gripping crime stories, beautifully written, with memorable, believable characters. The fact that they always hinge on horses is, if anything, a bonus.

Speaking of bonuses, The Edge is an exceptionally interesting Dick Francis tale as far as I'm concerned, because it's set on a train speeding across Canada. I grew up in Canada, and my dad worked for the railways. The story even includes a visit to my hometown, Winnipeg. 

I mentioned the quality of Francis's writing. His prose brings scenes to life with sensual immediacy, as when he talks of the "deepening orange of the autumn sunshine" or how "The daylight faded almost imperceptibly into night, electricity taking over the sun's job smoothly."

Indeed, all his descriptions of being on the train are terrific: "One moment we were stationary, the next sliding forward smoothly... as if on silk ... swaying gently now to the movement of gathering speed."

Then there's "the chilly shifting join between cars" and the "grunting uphill slither" as the train hits the mountains — which are described as "silent giants towering above". Plus there's some amusing character stuff, as with the teenager who momentarily "forgot to look sullen."

What I didn't like about the book is his dud evocation of one of the local characters. Dick Francis seems to think that Canadians say "eh" all the time. Now, I know this is a widely held view, but having lived in Canada myself for decades I've never encountered anyone who talked like that.

And every time Francis proudly trotted out this solecism I felt like throwing the book across the room. I mean, he wouldn't have written about a Cockney character who said "Cor blimey, guvnor" every five seconds, would he?

Lest we forget though, this is nevertheless a splendid book, classic Francis. And, like Come To Grief, it features an evil secret involving animal cruelty — in this case, nastiness to cats, which as you might imagine I found especially disturbing.

(Image credits: The main shot, the edition I read, is from G.D. Price at ABE Books. The other covers are from Good Reads, as is traditional.)

No comments:

Post a Comment