A. Can you peel a grape?
And, as usual in his conversation and writing, there is one Q & A presumably for those not classified in the "most reading people" group:
Q. Are you the same Norman Ford who wrote that scandalous novel attacking West Point—The Black, The Gray, and The Gold?
But if Ford begins his series as a martinet, he soon turns into a friendly Dutch uncle, mellows further into a Mr. Chips, and finally the whole original posture evaporates into a Normy-and-His-Friends bit. Oh, there is occasional chastisement for students, but most of Ford's censure and sarcasm is reserved for those louts not enrolled in the Force Method. In some instances, as in Book Nine—where he instructs students in how he expects them to behave at the track—he gets downright paternal. He tells them at length how to prepare themselves and be comfortably dressed before leaving home, what modes of transportation are available, not to be ostentatious with winnings and not to associate with strangers. "There are men who will kill for $50 or less. Keep it in mind," he notes.
As his students become a captive audience, more and more of Ford's extracurricular opinions creep in among the race charts. "The teacher is the middle-class servant to the wealthy, and higher learning is an abomination," he declares in Book Nine. But it is a wonderfully engaging prose that Ford distributes, and not until he wrote Book Twenty-One did he forsake the role of headmaster for his first love. By then, obviously, he could no longer contain himself. He had not been away from a novel for so long in 20 years. He had to do a novel. Had to. But he also had to answer the students' demands. So he wrote a horse-racing novel for them. Or at least he started. It was to run in installments, each at the established $3 price, and it was called Grandma Was a Horseplayer. And it was a bomb. "I guess the students just weren't ready for it," Ford says. "They started writing in like crazy: 'Give us the racing!' " So, by Book Twenty-three, which would have been the third installment, Grandma was all but phased out. She was doing a lot more handicapping than gallivanting. To further soothe the students, Ford here introduced Uniscore, after thinking about it at least since Book Eleven (Weight-Performance). "If I didn't have something new for you all the time, I'd quit writing the books," he assured students in a succinct policy statement.
Ford teaches beautifully. He will explain a new point carefully and then, for illustration, will analyze an actual past race, culled from his stacks of Telegraphs. "Here's a claiming race that won Force Method players a great deal of money," a typical account begins in Book Five (Dictionary of Races). "It happened at Rockingham Park on 14 August 1962 in the 2nd race. Nine horses, and you're going to be amazed at how easy this selection was.
"Three are not up to the claiming price of $2,500, so out they go.
"Two are carrying too much weight.
"One is exhausted from his last race.