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It's in the book

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It’s not often that a discussion of fine woodworking crops up in popular fiction. It’s rare when the major character in a work of fiction happens to be a woodworker. It’s rarer still when the portrayal is accurate.

As with any profession, real-life practitioners look at their fictional counterparts with a critical eye. I suspect that genuine surgeons watch an episode of “E.R.” or “House” with more interest than do you and I. Probably the same thing when a real trial lawyer reads a Perry Mason novel, or a real detective watches “Law and Order.”

So when my wife encouraged me to read a mystery novel called “Longshot” by Dick Francis, one of her favorite authors, she enticed me be telling me that a key character in the book is a woodworker.

Dick Francis is a former jockey, one of the most famous in England. His novels are remarkably diverse, even though each one somehow has horseracing as a key plot element. It’s how he manages to weave racing into the narrative, while still making each book a standout mystery for non-racing fans, which has made Francis so popular.

As a woodworker, I was impressed with how accurately Francis portrayed not only the woodworker, but his shop and tools. In fact, not only is the woodworker a major character, but his shop skills are a major plot point. I wasn’t disappointed with the portrayal at all.

“Longshot” is the story of a writer, John Kendall, who’s working on the biography of a famous British racehorse trainer. As he spends time with the trainer and this family – including the aforementioned woodworker, who is one of the trainer’s sons – John’s research on the book takes some unexpected turns as he begins to learn of more than a few skeletons in the wealthy family’s collective closets. The more he learns, the more he and other characters are in danger. Without giving away too much, I will say that there are murders, there are shady dealings, there are arrows fired at unsuspecting people. 

Oh, yeah; and there’s a very, very sharp chisel…

Till next time,


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