The very first adult books I ever read came out of the deep chest of mystery novels that my parents kept in one corner of the living room. Agatha Christie, Nero Wolfe, and Dick Francis were my first window onto the grown-up world, and even now, when I am blue, I return to those books, which have a power to soothe my anxieties that nothing else has ever matched.
Dick Francis held a special place in my heart, because like many girls, I loved horses. I spent my summers riding, and firmly intended to become a jockey when I grew up. (Yes, I was 5'8 by fifth grade. No, no one disabused me of my dreams until they had already long been obviously ludicrous.)
Dick Francis novels are almost aggressively wholesome, and wholesome is not fashionable this decade. He plasters a happy face atop the deep human instinct for loneliness so well that I didn't recognize the fundamental isolation of his main characters until I was . . . well, too old, anyway. They are about entertainment, not gritty realism or deep psychological drama. But I'm not ashamed to admit that I still love them, and have a bookshelf full of them, and that I gasped in dismay when I learned that he had died.
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