FELIX FRANCIS is Dick Francis’s youngest son. Born in 1953, Felix studied Physics and Electronics at London University and then embarked upon a 17 year career teaching Advanced Level physics at three schools, the last seven as head of the science department at Bloxham School in Oxfordshire.
Felix remembers conversations around the Francis breakfast table being somewhat unconventional. “The production of a Dick Francis novel has always been a mixture of inspiration, perspiration and teamwork. The first one was published when I was nine, and I grew up in a house where breakfast talk would be about the damage a bullet might do to a man’s guts rather than the more mundane topics of everyday life”, he says.
Over the past 40 years Felix assisted Dick with both the research and the writing of many of his novels. They shared a love of racing and often worked together on plot and character details at Dick’s home in the Cayman Islands. This partnership allowed Dick to draw upon Felix’s knowledge and experience as a physics teacher in Twice Shy and his past as an international marksman in Shattered (2000) and Under Orders (2006).
With the publication of Dead Heat in 2007, Felix took on a more significant role in writing. Silks (2008) was the second novel in this father-and-son collaboration and Even Money (2009) was the third. Crossfire (2010) was the novel Dick and Felix Francis were working on when Dick died in February 2010, marking the end of one chapter and the beginning of another in the Dick Francis brand.
Dick Francis was acclaimed as one of the greatest thriller writers in the world and he wanted his legacy to live on through his son, Felix, and the novels that they planned together. Gamble, which was published in September 2011, was the first Dick Francis novel written by Felix Francis, with his latest novel, Bloodline following suit in 2012.
What was the first crime novel you ever read?
Dead Cert by my Dad. I was eight when it was written.
Who is your favourite crime writer?
Other than Dick Francis it would have to be Phyllis (P D) James.
Which crime novel do you wish you’d written?
The Day of the Jackal (does that count as crime?) Wonderful story and so exciting.
Has any thriller ever made you sleep with the lights on?
No. But some real-life news stories have made me recheck the door and window locks on occasion.
What’s your favourite crime/thriller series on TV and why?
It has to be Morse, or Cracker, or Taggart. All character driven. Strong characters are what make good stories. People need to care what happens to the characters.
Who is your favourite fictional detective/sleuth?
In a book it would have to be Hercule Poirot – read them all as a kid between the Dick Francis ones.
If you were stranded on a desert island – which fictional character would you most want to be stranded with and why?
Bugs Bunny – always optimistic. “What’s up, Doc?” He would probably drive me crazy but I suppose I could eat him if I was hungry!
When you begin – do you already know the end?
Not always but I usually have some idea. I know the destination but I am not sure of the route. The book has a way of taking over.
What is the most outlandish plot idea you’ve come up with – and did it become a book?
I’m still a beginner and I haven’t come up with plots I haven’t used yet! Outlandish? Certainly – read on.
What are you working on at the moment?
Screenplay of Dead Heat, then a new book due on March 15th 2010 and another in 2011.
Please give your top three crime writing tips.
Work, work, work. 99% perspiration. Oh yes, and get someone to read it to you out loud. If it sounds rubbish, it probably is.