Written by AP McCoy — In the world of horseracing, AP McCoy certainly wouldn’t qualify as ‘new talent’. He’s ridden over 2,000 winners and has been the UK’s champion jockey 18 times. He’s the Mancheter United of horsemen. However, as a crime author he’s a rookie and Taking the Fall is his debut, so we’re featuring it here in New Talent November. For many, the book will be galloping against the novels of the late Dick Francis who was not only a champion jockey himself, but wrote over 40 bestsellers set in the world of racing.
Taking The Fall is the story of young jockey Duncan Claymore. Duncan is from a racing family, and we soon discover that his father was making his name as a successful trainer when he was falsely accused of doping one of his horses. But the mud stuck, and the scandal signalled the end for Charlie Claymore, who is now in a care home, suffering from bouts of dementia.
Duncan has managed to uncover the identities of the people behind Charlie’s downfall and now he’s out to get them, in a very convoluted fashion, while at the same time trying to claw his way to the top in the racing business. It’s the old man’s failing health that seems to spur him on, alongside his ambition.
AP McCoy’s inexperience as a writer shows, and the crime thriller aspects of this book may fall at the first hurdle. However, as you’d expect, in the descriptions of racing Taking the Fall proves a clear winner. Lovers of the turf will definitely relate to the well-drawn pictures of dramatic races held on some of Britain’s most famous courses, and readers are treated to tantalising glimpses behind the scenes. The characters may well seem familiar to those in the know (as a once-a-year punter on the Grand National, I am definitely not one of them) so I won’t attempt to speculate upon their identities.
Dick Francis was famous for novels that provided readers with plenty of intrigue, but no sex. His books were even dubbed ‘crime novels for gentlefolk’. Taking the Fall has lot of sex, and some if it is very racy, but little in the way of intrigue. The racing scenes gallop along nicely, with the thriller aspect bringing up the rear.
As well as being a champion jockey, McCoy has an OBE to his name and was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010. It’s early days yet, but perhaps he’ll win a CWA Dagger sometime in the future. Not with Taking The Fall, though. It is a creditable debut but unlikely to knock any of the favourites off their stride. Although it is set firmly in the 1970s, this book will appeal to a modern audience. With the Christmas present buying season just around the corner, it is bound to sell well to racing fans everywhere.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars