A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Thomas Baird:


DICK FRANCIS – Odds Against. Harper & Row, US, hardcover, 1966. Michael Joseph, UK, hc, 1965. Reprinted many times. Adapted as the first segment of The Racing Game, a six-episode TV series starring Mike Gwilym as Sid Halley.

   In most of his books, Dick Francis uses an ordinary man (usually connected with the racing world) as his protagonist, caught up in events that are so overwhelming and out of control that he must make heroic efforts to sort them out.

   But in Odds Against, Sid Halley has a job as a detective-the obvious choice for a tough man to right the world’s wrongs. He’s been doing the work for two years, and when he’s shot (on page one of the story), he realizes that a bullet in the guts is his first step to liberation from being of “no use to anyone, least of all himself.”


   He was a champion steeplechase jockey, that’s what makes him tough. A racing accident lost him the use of his hand and self-respect simultaneously.

   The action breaks from the starting gate and blasts over the hurdles of intrigue, menace, and crime. Halley is cadged by his shrewd and loving father-in-law into confronting Howard Kraye, “a full-blown, powerful, dangerous, bigtime crook.”

   On the track he encounters murder, mayhem, plastic bombs, and torture. But he endures, in some part to regain his self respect, and in some part because he believes in racing, the sport, and in putting it right.


   A fascinating chase through an empty racecourse defies the villain. In the end, despite his tragedy, Sid Halley sees himself as a detective and as a man.

   Dick Francis was so taken with the characters in this book that he went on to use them in a television series, The Racing Game (shown on Public Broadcasting). A second Sid Halley novel, Whip Hand, won the British Gold Dagger Award in 1979 and another Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America.

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.