The Trojan Colt by Mike Resnick
Being old, I’m allowed to ramble. It’s considered one of my more endearing qualities and, out of respect for my advanced years, you will smile benignly during this opening salvo on Will F Jenkins (who was also known to write under the name Murray Leinster). During my completist days, I used to collect his work for fun. There were just so many books to aim for, it was years before I got anywhere near a complete set, but it was so satisfying when I almost made it. It was the early Westerns that defeated me. I managed all the science fiction and mysteries. . . My point is that when I was young, authors wrote and we bought — those of us who came late to individual races, struggled to catch up. Today, years can go between books in a series. Back in the good old days, a different publisher could be bringing out a new title under a pseudonym by an author we were collecting every four to six months. If you were enjoying an author, you didn’t have to wait long for the next thrilling instalment. That’s one of the things I like about Mike Resnick. He’s old school both in years and in his approach to publishing. If there’s someone out there ready to publish something he’s written, he publishes it and is writing the next one. If you have a look at his Wikipedia page, you get an idea of just how busy he’s been and note this has not represented any loss of quality — he‘s been nominated for Hugo Awards thirty-six times. Never let anyone tell you quantity does not equal quality. If you can write, you can write. Mike Resnick can write, and then some.
Anyway, way back in 1995, our heroic author launched himself into an Eli Paxton Mystery called Dog in the Manger. This was not just any missing pooch. This was the Weimaraner (don’t ask) that won best in show and then went missing. Such a classy case for a man who hardly brings quality to the ranks of PIs in Cincinnati, was a way for our author to cash in on his own hobby of dog breeding and established our PI as the standard less-than-successful businessman with the problem-solving skills of a Sherlock — I’ve never been clear why such crime solving exploits don’t translate into more business than the hero knows what to do with. You would think he would have clients lining up three deep at the door for an appointment. But that would break the mould which finds our hero wondering where the next dollar is coming from at the start of this new book in the series, The Trojan Colt (Seventh Street, 2013). After my opening paragraph, note the irony in that our heroic author has followed the modern pattern of allowing eighteen years between the first and second in the series.
This time our PI is to guard a young horse. Not just any horse, you understand. This colt has the breeding to suggest it might be the next Secretariat or Man o’ War, i.e. to be able to run faster than your average Dobbin. Our hero takes up residence with the horse, Tyrone, and his groom, Tony Sanders, at the Keeneland Summer Sale in Lexington, Kentucky. This time, everything is going well until the day of the sale. Fortunately for the owner, it’s not the animal that disappears, it’s the groom. With the colt sold to an Arab billionaire for more than $3 million (just small change), our hero is employed by the young man’s parents to find out what happened to their son. The result is a fascinating ride through the world of horse breeding (which is not the same as horse racing).
Like any specialised world, an outsider never knows what’s going on and, assuming the author has done his research properly, this is a fascinating insight into the mechanics of money-making applied to the breeding of horse flesh. In practical terms, it’s about as exciting as horse racing. All you have to do is lay down your money to buy a yearling based on its parentage and then sit back to race it when it has grown strong enough. If you get the bet right at the auction, you end up with a winning stallion or mare you can breed for more champions. So millions of dollars are at stake both in the auctions, then the training of the yearlings and the races where the quality of the beasts is finally proved. That means the tightest security must be in place. There must be no doubt which horse is which. Fortunately, there’s no problem of identification with this horse. It has a very distinctive scar on its neck. That’s what makes the disappearance of the groom all the more puzzling. The horse was sold at a record-breaking price. What would make the groom suddenly walk away? More importantly, why should someone take pot shots at our hero when he starts to ask questions? He has no idea what he’s supposed to know that might make him a threat. When the answer finally emerges, it’s all rather elegant. As you would expect from Mike Resnick, the ultimate professional when it comes to writing more or less anything. The Trojan Colt comes up on the rail and, in the final furlong, flashes into the lead — another winner from his pen.
For reviews of other books by Mike Resnick, see:
The Cassandra Project with Jack McDevitt
Cat on a Cold Tin Roof
Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks
The Incarceration of Captain Nebula and Other Lost Futures
Stalking the Vampire
A copy of this book was sent to me for review.