Monday, October 27, 2014
Damage - Felix Francis
This isn't a very clear photo of the book I just finished, but it will have to do. I have a problem with glare. My solution is to hold the flash closed to eliminate the glare from the flash. But that keeps the camera from focusing properly. I think there must be a way to shut the flash off, but I don't have the patience to read the manual.
I loved the old Dick Francis books, the very first books. When he deviated from books centered on horses, I kept reading, but not so enthusiastically. I understand that Dick's son, Felix, collaborated on several of Dick's last books and he's now taken over the franchise. I think he's doing okay, but I think the older books are better.
In Damage, Jeff Hinkley is an investigator for the British Horseracing Authority. He's dealing with his beloved older sister's cancer and trying to decide if he really wants to marry his live-in girlfriend. In the midst of all this personal angst, someone is trying to damage British horse racing, trying to shake the betting public's confidence in the integrity of the sport.
Jockeys and other racetrack personnel get poisoned, all the winners in one race are doped without their owners' knowledge, fireworks explode at a jump, causing mayhem and the death of one of the horses. I had the misfortune of seeing the death of a horse at Cheltenham Race Days and it pretty much ruined the 'sport' for me. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) receive a message extorting money to cease the disruptions. The BHA ask Jeff to go into deeper cover to ferret out the person behind it all.
There's a bit of slack in the middle of the book, as far as I'm concerned, and there are loose strings left at the end. There is an exciting bit in the last few pages when Jeff, his girlfriend, and another BHA investigator follow the offender and unmask him, literally. There is an, uh, smashing end in store for the perpetrator. But then the book just ends. Maybe there was a publishing deadline to keep, but I think the ending was too abrupt, leaving too many questions.
Now I get to tell you that I love the old Francis books, just as I used to like Westerns on TV or in movies. But with maturity and knowledge comes the realization that things are not always what they seem.
Race horses (and other horses used for competition) are bred with the hope that they'll be winners. If they're not, or if they stop winning, they're discarded, usually shipped to Mexico or Canada to a horrible death in a slaughterhouse. We closed all the US equine slaugherhouses (you can't kill a horse the same way you kill a steer because their anatomy is different, and killing a steer is wrong, too), a very good thing, but the law still allows us to ship them to other countries for slaughter. There's a bill in Congress to close this loophole, but it languishes year after year. (Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act S. 541 / H.R. 1094) Horses of every kind, including pets who go to auction and are bought by 'killers', face a similar end because they're expensive to keep.