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Great Quotations by Dick Francis

Updated on July 3, 2011

Collectors of great quotations can find all kinds of interesting sources for them. One of my favorite sources of great quotes is the late best-selling author and former jockey Dick Francis. Besides having utterly believable characters, fascinating plot lines, and a wealth of information about professions and elements of society that are unfamiliar to many of us, Francis had an amazing knack for writing great quotes – right in the middle of his suspense novels.

What makes for a great quotation – a "quotable quote"? In general, a great quotation should be pithy, or concise; that is, it should use few words to say a great deal. A great quote should offer some special insight: into the human condition, knowledge and wisdom, universal matters like love and hate, life and death, or other matters of long-term appeal and significance. The great quote may state a familiar truth, using vivid language or an elegant turn of phrase. Or the great quote may offer a slant that illuminates a new truth. The great quote should trigger a reaction from the reader or listener, an Ah! or Aha!, a chuckle or a chortle.

And a great quotation should be memorable in some way – either being immediately memorable or causing the listener to wish to remember it. But even for the person of good intentions who may not be able to memorize the quotable quote, it should be a saying that readers or listeners will want to pass around to friends and family: "Look at what this writer said! Did you hear this?"

Quotations may be used in greeting cards, as bumper stickers, on inspirational calendars, or as messages between friends and lovers or between family and/or like-minded cohorts. They may become life slogans or pointed reminders on those days when we need a lift in spirits or merely a laugh of some kind.


Two notes on the quotations:

Brackets are used here to indicate (a) that a now-capitalized letter was lowercase in the original or (b) that a specific name in the original has been replaced by a pronoun.

In some cases where the narrator's perspective used past tense verbs, the quote could justifiably be restated using present tense in order to make it truly enduring and universal. In this collection though, I have left the verbs just as they were originally.

Can't Get Enough of Dick Francis?

Quotations from Trial Run

So, here is my collection of wonderful sayings from Dick Francis on the subjects of socialism, tyranny, revolution, terrorism, personality, obsession, vigor, and mystery, taken from his novels Trial Run and Hot Money.

  • Tyrants come and go; tyranny is constant.
  • Some things are best said in the open air.
  • People don't actually like being purged of their lazy and libertine old ways.
  • Revolutionaries everywhere are by nature aggressive, oppressive, and repressive. All for your own good, of course.
  • The eyes … burned with a hunger for a harvest yet to come: sixty years younger than the blank, dull look of a people for whom everything was provided.
  • Repression is always the outcome of revolution.
  • [I]n a perfect socialist state … there was no need for crime. The state supplied all needs, and gave to the people whatever it was good for them to have.
  • Not to believe what one believes one should believe is a spiritual torment as old as doctrine.
  • There was something about a moving background that triggered shifts of mind, and left new ideas standing sharp and clear where they hadn't existed before.
  • [T]he cumulative effect was a powerful pervading melancholoy, a sadness for so great a city entangled in such suffocating bureaucracy, such denial of liberty, such a need to look over its shoulder before it spoke.
  • It is easier to smash than to build.
  • One could spurn the affluent society and seek the simple life if one wanted to; the luxury lay in being able to choose.

Not all quotations are created equal. Photo adapted by Aficionada
Not all quotations are created equal. Photo adapted by Aficionada | Source

Quotations from Hot Money

  • Personality is mysterious, but it's born in you, not made.
  • Sons grew from little boys into their own adult selves; fathers tended not to see the change clearly.
  • He ought to be laughing, talking, roaring through life.
  • [S]uccess was part of his character, like generosity, like headlong rashness.
  • Bodily vanity, like intellectual arrogance, is a sickness of the soul.
  • [T]he frugality she had for so long embraced had begun to seem less worthy and less worth it, if she were losing the inner sustaining comfort of creative inspiration.
  • [O]ut there one came starkly face to face with oneself, which I found more exhilarating than frightening. So far, anyway.
  • Imperfect, quarrelsome, ramshackle as it was, the family was origins and framework, the geography of living.
  • [T]here would be no healing, no reforming, no telephone network for information, no contact, just a lot of severed galaxies moving inexorably apart.
  • [L]ife was uncertain, and that was its seduction.
  • [She was] an essential part of my life, a comfort to the body, a contentment in the mind, a bulwark against loneliness.
  • For a brilliant man, …you're as thick as two planks.
  • Was there anyone at all … who went through life feeling happy?
  • Odd how some women flower in love affairs and wither in marriage.
  • All obsessions matter because of their results.
  • How destructive it is to yearn for the unobtainable, to be unsatisfied by anything else.
  • [O]bsessions don't go away, they get worse.
  • Murder has nothing to do with sense. It has to do with obsession. With compulsion, irresistible impulse, morbid drive. An act beyond reason.
  • [S]he called him an evil wicked vindictive tyrant, and that's not the best way in the world to persuade [him] to be generous.

Steeplechase, adapted by Aficionada
Steeplechase, adapted by Aficionada | Source

Something Extra

Even though great quotes are normally pithy and concise, there are occasional streams of speech that are worth preserving for the possibility of quoting. Here, also selected from Trial Run and Hot Money, are several longer portions that are quote-worthy in their own way.

Loss of a Childhood Playground:

The trees had been friends, playground, climbing frames, deepest purple imaginary rain forest: and afterward there was too much daylight and the dead bodies being sawn up for firewood and burned on bonfires. The stream hadn't looked the same when open to bright sunshine; rather ordinary, not running through dappled mysterious shade.

Sad Marriages:

There must be thousands, hundreds of thousands of sad marriages like that, … where the unhappiness came from inside. Probably one could more easily withstand disasters that came from without, survive wars, poverty, illness, grief. Much harder to find any good way forward when personality disintegrated.

Physical Training:

In the morning, I rode out on the windy Downs, grateful for the simplicity of horses and for the physical pleasure of using one's muscles in the way they were trained for. Vigor seemed to flow of its own accord in my arms and legs, and I thought that maybe it was the same for a pianist sitting down after a few days to play, there was no need to work out what to do with one's fingers, it was easy, it was embedded in one's brain, the music came without thought.

International Terrorism:

[T]he naked hate-filled faces of international terrorism, … alienation and the destructive steps which led there: The intensifying to anger of the natural scorn of youth for the mess their elders had made of the world. The desire to punish violently the objects of scorn. The death of love for parents. The permanent sneer for all forms of authority. The frustration of not being able to scourge the despised majority. And after that, the deeper, malignant distortions…. The self-delusion that one's feelings of inadequacy were the fault of society, and that it was necessary to destroy society in order to feel adequate. The infliction of pain and fear, to feed the hungry ego. The total surrender of reason to raw emotion, in the illusion of being moved by a sort of divine rage. The choice of an unattainable end, so that the violent means could go on and on. The addictive orgasm of the act of laying waste.


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    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Barbsbitsnpieces, thanks for reading and commenting. I love Dick Francis's writing style, and I will definitely check out your Hub. I'm sorry that I haven't done so before now!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 6 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Aficionada...This is very good. I just did a first Hub on Francis's use of adverbs and bang bang beginnings which will continue as a series. He was the greatest with his fascinating philosophies, descriptions, and, yes, meaningful quotations.

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I heartily agree, Jaye!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Although the Dick Francis novels are in some manner connected to the world of horse racing, they are very character-driven as well as plot-driven. The author definitely had amazing insight into human psychology.

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      LOL! It's fun to find out the explanation for "Honey" - I knew there was one, and I understood that it meant Hot Money. My un-technological guess was that you had highlighted parts of words in order to make some change or correction and then accidentally deleted letters without noticing.

      Hot Money is a great read for insight into the world of people who make tons of money and how that affects them and their families, the problems it creates. That third one refers to one of the sons, now 16 years old, who was permanently institutionalized after severe traumatic brain injuries from a car wreck. To me it's so sad, but vividly expressed - he ought to be "roaring through life," but instead he had essentially no life.

    • hotwebideas profile image

      Bruce Chamoff 6 years ago from New York

      Aficionada, you made the right choice regardless. I just realized that my iPhone's spell checker corrected Hot Money as Honey, so Honey means Hot Money in this section and I think the Hot Money quotations are weird. LOL

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 6 years ago from Indiana, USA

      HWI, I was undecided whether to include anything about the plot, the characters who spoke these words, or the circumstances surrounding them. I decided that they wouldn't qualify as great quotes, if I had to explain them; but I know that there are a few that really do make much more sense in context, or maybe knowing that the speaker was cynical or bitter.

      Jaye, it's good to meet a fellow Dick Francis enthusiast! I remember once when I was reading one of his novels, it just hit me between the eyes that he had absolutely amazing insight into character, motivation, and all the complexities of humans. Then I began to notice how a sentence here and there popped out in a special way, just chockful of meaning and beautifully stated. So now, I've got rows of paperbacks full of checkmarks and underlining!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I've been a Dick Francis fan for decades and read all of his books, yet I would never have thought of him as the source of good quotes. Thanks for an unusual, but informative, hub.


    • hotwebideas profile image

      Bruce Chamoff 6 years ago from New York

      Whoa. Some of the Honey quotations are off the wall, but I like Dick Francis' quote "it is easier to smash than build". That's a good one and so true.

      Voted up!


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