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John Francome Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

You do not need to be a horse racing fan to have heard of John Francome. His staggering success as a jockey and, later, a trainer makes him one of the best known figures of all time in the world of racing. Aside from his amazing achievements racing and training horses, he has also enjoyed success in the world of broadcasting and publishing as both a commentator and novelist.

Born in 1952, in the south-western English town of Swindon, John Francome was the son of a fireman. A ride on a donkey, when he was just 6 years old was John’s first contact with anything resembling a horse. Having developed a strong, early bond, it was not too long before young John had a pony of his very own. He would recall he and his friends riding this pony with fondness, remarking in interviews that these were his happiest childhood memories.

When he wasn’t happily riding his beloved pony, John’s business sense was already beginning to show itself as promising, if a little dubious. In school, he created a scheme to print counterfeit lunch vouchers which he would then sell onto selected classmates for half the face value..

John made his first real mark as jockey a member of the British show-jumping team that went on to win the European Championship. Although his parents were from humble backgrounds, they always did their best to encourage John in his younger days and save the funds required for him to pursue his jockey career. It was support that would ultimately pay off.

Racing triumphs

Moving from show-jumping to the National Hunt seemed like a natural progression, and he took to it like he’d been doing it his whole life. Teaming up with Fred Winter,he and the trainer went on to forge a famous partnership that saw even more success. In total, John Francome won the National Hunt championship seven times in ten years before retiring in 1985.

Over the course of his entire racing career, John notched up 1138 wins. Retirement saw him try his hand at being a trainer, although this lasted just 18 months after which he moved onto broadcasting and writing. John Francome quickly became established as a leading, reputable and respected horse racing commentator. In 1986, barely a year into retirement, he was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to racing.

Of all the triumphs that John Francome enjoyed, one stands out more than any of the others for him. In an interview, conducted in 2016, John credited the Gold Cup as being the win that really stood out for him.

In an interview, John Francome stated that the Gold cup was important to him because it helped to finish off Fred Winter’s portfolio, as it was a cup that he hadn’t previously been able to ‘take home’.

Claiming the win would have belonged to anybody that happened to be riding that horse, he said that it was special because of Winter’s history with the Gold cup. Fred Winter had been the Gold Cup favourite for 4 years running, but had never won – until John Francome appeared. A champion trainer with two Grand National champion horses, he had also rode two Grand National winners himself.

John Francome winning the Gold Cup enabled Fred Winter to add that trophy to his already impressive collection.

For John, this win more than any other was his way of paying back Winter for all the faith that he had shown in him throughout the years. Francome had arrived at Fred’s yard in Lambourn as a youngster, eager to get hands-on experience and indulge his newly found passion for horses.

While there was nothing at the time to suggest that the young John Francome was a champion show jumper or jockey in waiting, after lots of hard work, John Francome and Fred Winter would eventually go on to be one of the most successful racer / trainer team ups in racing history.

To further honour Francome, alongside the prestigious MBE, The Berkshire racing track announced in 2017 that the novice Grade Two chase, will be run as the “Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase”. Francome’s name is now forever marked in the journal of racing greats.

Author history

After penning his autobiography, Born Lucky, Francome started working with one James MacGregor and continued working with him for a total of four books.

As with another retired jockey, the well established Dick Francis, John Francome turned to writing novels following his retirement from the sport he loved. Up until John’s entry into the world of racing mystery novels, Dick Francis owned the genre. After penning four novels with James MacGregor, John Francome set out on his own and so began his race to catch the old master.

Francome pretty much follows the tried and trusted formula first laid down by veteran Dick Francis: British righteousness is thrown against the might of evil forces. In John’s first solo novel, the British righteousness is portrayed by Kelly Connor – apprentice jockey.

In Stone Cold, there are certain individuals that do not want the horse that she is riding to win. Naturally, being the hero, Connor does win the race but, as is the way of these kinds of stories, she is disqualified; the weight cloth on her horse has been tampered with. Cue the inevitable disbelief and an indignant trainer accusing Kelly of incompetence at best, throwing the race at worst.

From here in the story onward, Kelly is in a world of trouble. Nobody trusts her with a horse, her father is murdered and her own life is being threatened if she continues to ride. Just about anybody else would quit, call the cops and get another job but that that just wouldn’t be a classic mystery novel, would it.

John Francome gives a slightly bumpier narrative than Dick Francis, but he does still provide a believable and exciting ride around the world of racing – which is hardly surprising given the background is as authentic as it can get. Francome is a natural storyteller, that much is clear, even if he is yet to find his feet in his early solo work.

A second Kelly Connor novel would have been warmly received, but it would seem that Francome prefers wiping the slate clean with each new novel – which is no bad thing as it keeps things fresh, the reader is left wondering just what happened with Connor beyond the final full stop.

Book Series In Order » Authors » John Francome

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