LONGSHOT, by Dick Francis, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $19.95. Dick Francis has written just about one novel a year since 1962. Most of his works _ Risk, Banker, Proof and Reflex _ have something to do with horse-racing, British style. (Francis for four seasons was the Queen Mother's first jockey). Most of his heroes and villains have been jockeys, trainers, breeders, owners, book-makers or traders. Most of the action has taken place in and around race tracks, stables or horse farms.
In Longshot, Francis' newest thriller, John Kendall knows nothing about horses. He is _ of all things _ a writer, whose specialty has been the production of travel guides to help people get out of desperate situations. The guides are about "Returning Safe" from places like the jungle, the desert, the sea, and the wilderness, and they concern survival techniques that will come in handy if, for example, you happen to be marooned atop a trackless glacier with nothing but a match and a few bits of string in your pocket.
Kendall takes a sort of stopgap job helping a well-known horse trainer, Tremayne Vickers, who is just as impressive as his name, write an autobiography. He has to live at Vickers' establishment, a plush spread that includes luxurious stables for million-dollar horses and a comparable residence for the people. The household includes a daughter and assorted in-laws, relatives and hangers-on who gradually involve themselves in some rather nasty murders. John participates in unraveling the tangled skeins of the plot, using techniques he has written about to rescue himself from the inevitable horrible predicament that he is in when the story climaxes.
Longshot ranks well up among the leaders in Francis' impressive stable of well-wrought yarns.
_ Ed Hirshberg
UNDER SIEGE, by Stephen Coonts, Pocket books, $19.95.