Image via WikipediaBreeders:
A Crime Novel
By Barney Rostaing
For readers like me, Breeders may be the only exploration of the fascinating professional world of horse racing/breeding that we will read. What a superb introduction! On the other hand, it was the drama of the crimes and the unique character involvement that forces me to proclaim this a must-read...I cannot state with certainty that Rostaing writes with knowledge and experience, although his background surely has provided the potential. What I can say is that readers will feel the reality and though merged into fiction will know that much of the story is based on true or similar activities in the areas of crime, romance, racing and race, which the back cover notes are included in the novel.
Let me talk first about the race issues. In my opinion, they drive the novel forward even as the action pulls the readers into a fast pace. Len Thomas is hired as, perhaps, the only Black trainer in the world by Pat McGoohey (McGoo), head of a major construction firm who has turned to horse racing in the hope of moving "up" in the world. Through Len we learn that in the past there were much more African-American involvement in racing--until "they" started to win major races. Len is intelligent, self-educated, being well-read, and has a mind that can envision an overall plan of action.
Len is assisted by Paco and Jimmy Broughton, horse whisperer and rider, respectively. The latter two are rarely acknowledged by McGoo, while Len is fairly close as he is grateful for the opportunity McGoo gave him. But during those important meetings when the trainer is normally included, Len is excluded and he knows what "place" he really plays in his boss' mind....
It is Len's love interest in Holly that becomes the underlying theme beyond the horse racing and breeding. My initial thinking was that the book was set back historically, because of the role Holly plays on a major breeding/racing farm--that of personal assistant, and more, to the daughter of the owner. However, we learn that Holly has several degrees and is a financial expert who has gained access to much by befriending the farm's supposed accountant. Time setting of the novel, by the way, is very recent.
It all started when McGoo decides to run one of his horses at Saratoga. Arabiche was fast but had never really showed her potential; but McGoo wanted her to place at least third, and then he would begin looking to find the right sire to breed her. McGoo made it quite clear to Len that he expected that win...
And Len, for his first time ever, did what was necessary to make that happen...
McGoo is somewhat of a sympathetic character for readers even though he is also an arrogant s.o.b. For he has no hope of reaching the social status he craves. So when Arabiche does indeed come in third and McGoo approaches the woman who owns the sire he wants to mate with her, he is not only totally ignored but is demoralized. The owner, Dixie, by the way, also is the "owner" of Holly...
Can't get the match desired for your female? Then steal what is required to inseminate her...
Honestly, this story is much more complicated and in many ways, a lot more fun to read, even though a crime drama. Let's just say that Len's teammates, Paco and Jimmy have their own issues that ensure that Len's plan can and does go haywire... And would you believe, it is Holly who first saves the day for Len?!
For me, there is an underlying moral story that I found both intriguing and compelling. But there is just so must "horseplay" to enjoy that readers will only consider the breadth of ideas and topics after they've smilingly completed the wonderfully satisfying ending! There is much to love about this book!
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