Tag Archives: Stuart Woods

The Character Keeps Me Reading Stuart Woods

One of my favorite non-fiction authors is Stuart Woods.  I guess I have read all of his novels over the past 15 years.  I just finished Sex, Lies & Serious Money (Putnam, 2016), and am reading Below the Belt coverhis newest, Below the Belt (Putnam, 2017).

One reason I like the books so much is that many of them feature Stone Barrington as the primary character.  Barrington is a former New York City policeman, who was injured on the job, and who now serves as counsel to a law firm in the region.  He inherited a lot of money from his mother, who was a famous painter, and from an ex-wife who was murdered.  Barrington owns four homes, including one in England, and he drives cars we only dream of, and is an established pilot with two of his own planes.  Oh, and in case you wonder, he is single, and seems to always have a woman in tow, bouncing around his own and different beds.  Some are recurring regulars, but others are just brief encounters.  He is a very smart guy, who cannot stay out of trouble – in fact, trouble seems to find him.  But, he can rest with comfort, because is best friend, Dino, is the commissioner of the police department in New York City.

I guess everyone has a character who we wish we could be like.  Barrington’s life is too dangerous for me, but since I don’t have to live it, I will just enjoy reading it.

Stuart Woods Photo 2Stuart Woods is 79 years old, and according to Bookbrowse.com, is the author of more than sixty novels, including the New York Times–bestselling Stone Barrington series. He is a native of Georgia and began his writing career in the advertising industry. Chiefs, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. An avid sailor and pilot, Woods lives in New Mexico, Florida, and Maine.

If you need some advice on where to start with his books, just contact me, and I will give you some ideas.

Stuart Woods’ Latest Gem in a Political Context

I have read Stuart Woods‘ novels for many years.  He publishes three new books a year, rotating major characters and themes.  Thirty-nine of his books have made the New York Times fiction best-seller list.

His last few, however, have focused upon Stone Barrington.  Barrington is a former cop, and an attorney of counsel in a New York firm, who is also wealthy and a playboy.  One lesson from his adventures is that money Cut and Thrust Coversometimes winds you up in some pretty difficult places.

Woods is a great writer, and his strength is dialogue among characters.  In most cases,  you feel as  if you are standing with them, observing, reacting, and taking it all in.  Rarely do the sexual escapades reach the level of what you would call salacious, but they do present just enough to pique your interest.  Surprisingly, only two of the books have been made into television mini-series.

The newest book is called Cut and Thrust (New York:  Putnam, 2014).   This is a book set in the context of a political convention in Los Angeles, with most of the action at Barrington’s hotel, The Arrington, named after his ex-wife who was murdered in a previous book.  In addition to Barrington, the other major characters are the outgoing U.S. President, Will Lee, and his wife, Katharine Lee, who is running for President.  Barrington is dating her deputy campaign manager, Ann Keaton.

Frankly, I would love to fly on the airplanes that Barrington flies and travels on, and also, stay at The Arrington.  I would not love to see the room service bill for all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners, late night buffets, and bar orders.  My favorite book of  his was called L.A. Dead, which you would have to find in garage sales.

If you have never heard of Stuart Woods, here is his biography from his web site (www.stuartwoods.com):

Stuart Woods was born in the small southern town of Manchester, Georgia and attended the local public schools, then graduated from the University of Georgia, with a BA in sociology. He doesn’t remember why.

Stuart Woods PhotoAfter college, he spent a year in Atlanta and two months in basic training for what he calls “the draft-dodger program” of the Air National Guard. Then, in the autumn of 1960, he moved to New York, in search of a writing job. The magazines and newspapers weren’t hiring, so he got a job in a training program at an advertising agency, earning seventy dollars a week. “It is a measure of my value to the company,” he says, “that my secretary was earning eighty dollars a week.” He spent the whole of the nineteen-sixties in New York, with the exception of ten months, which he spent in Mannheim, Germany, at the request of John F. Kennedy. The Soviets had built the Berlin Wall, and Woods, along with a lot of other national guardsmen, was sent to Germany, “. . . to do God knows what,” as he puts it. What he did, he says, was ” . . . fly a two-and-a-half-ton truck up and down the autobahn.” He notes that the truck was all he ever flew in the Air Force.

At the end of the sixties, he moved to London and worked there for three years in various advertising agencies. In early 1973, he decided that the time had come for him to write the novel he had been thinking about since the age of ten. He moved to Ireland, where some friends found him a small flat in the stableyard of a castle in south County Galway, and he supported himself by working two days a week for a Dublin ad agency, while he worked on the novel. Then, about a hundred pages into the book, he discovered sailing, and “. . . everything went to hell. All I did was sail.”

After a couple of years of this his grandfather died, leaving him, “. . . just enough money to get into debt for a boat,” and he decided to compete in the 1976 Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race (OSTAR). Since his previous sailing experience consisted of, “. . . racing a ten-foot plywood dinghy on Sunday afternoons against small children, losing regularly,” he spent eighteen months learning more about sailing and celestial navigation while his new 30-foot yacht, a Ron Holland design called Golden Harp, was being built at a yard in Cork. He moved to a nearby gamekeeper’s cottage on a big estate, on the Owenboy River, above Cork Harbor, to be near the boatyard.

The race began at Plymouth England in June of ’76. He completed his passage to Newport, Rhode Island in forty-five days, finishing in the middle of the fleet, which was not bad since his boat was one of the smallest. How did he manage being entirely alone for six weeks at sea? “The company was good,” he says.

The next couple of years were spent in Georgia, writing two non-fiction books: Blue Water, Green Skipper was an account of his Irish experience and the transatlantic race, and A Romantic’s Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland, which was a travel book, done on a whim. He also did some more sailing. In August of 1979 he competed, on a friend’s yacht, in the tragic Fastnet Race of 1979, which was struck by a huge storm. Fifteen competitors and four observers lost their lives, but Stuart and his host crew finished in good order, with little damage. (The story of the ’79 Fastnet Race was told in the book, Fastnet Force 10, written by a fellow crewmember of Stuart, John Rousmaniere.) That October and November, he spent skippering his friend’s yacht back across the Atlantic, with a crew of six, calling at the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands and finishing at Antigua, in the Caribbean.

In the meantime, the British publisher of Blue Water, Green Skipper, had sold the American rights to W.W. Norton, a New York publishing house, who also contracted to publish his novel, on the basis of two hundred pages and an outline, for an advance of $7500. “I was out of excuses to not finish it, and I had taken their money, so I finally had to get to work.” He finished the book and it was published in March of 1981, eight years after he had begun it. The novel was called Chiefs.

Though only 20,000 copies were printed in hardback, the book achieved a large paperback sale and was made into a six-hour television drama for CBS-TV, starring Charlton Heston, at the head of an all-star cast that included Danny Glover, Billy Dee Williams and John Goodman. The 25th anniversary of Chiefs came in March, 2006, and W.W. Norton published a special commemorative replica edition of the hardcover first edition, which can still be ordered from any bookstore.

Chiefs established Woods as a novelist. The book won the Edgar Allan Poe prize from the Mystery Writers of America, and he was later nominated again for Palindrome. More recently he was awarded France’s Prix de Literature Policiere, for Imperfect Strangers. He has since been prolific, having published his fiftieth novel, Severe Clear in September 2012.   Next summer, at a date to be determined, Paris Match will be released.

After publishing fifteen novels before appearing on the New York Times bestseller list, he has since had thirty-nine straight bestsellers on the the Times hardcover list.

He is a licensed, instrument-rated private pilot, with 3,400 hours total time, and he currently flies a Cessna Citation Mustang jet (see photo below,) and in September, 2013, moved up to the new Citation M-2, and his wife, Jeanmarie, who has recently earned her private pilot, instrument and multi-engine ratings, will train for the copilot’s seat in the new jet.  Stuart sails on other peoples’ boats, owns a Hinckley T38 power boat (hinckleyyachts.com) and is a partner in a 85-foot 1935 Trumpy motor yacht,Enticer, (which can be seen atwww.woodenyachts.com and on the cover ofLoitering With Intent). The yacht has been recently restored to like-new condition.

Stuart Woods is no longer a born-again bachelor, having married the former Jeanmarie Cooper of Key West in January, 2013 and they live with a Labrador Retriever named Fred in Key West, Florida, on Mount Desert Island, in Maine, and, occasionally,  in a New York City pied a terre. (Of a warm nature, he says he’s always looking for 70 degrees Fahrenheit.)

If this post inspires you to read Stuart Woods’ books, go back as far as you can, and just start reading.  Many of the titles are available in paperback, and through secondary sellers available from Amazon.com.


McCullough Goes Outside the Western Hemisphere for a Gem of a Book

Obviously, I read a lot of business books, but I also enjoy other types as well.  I read novels from Stuart Woods, Catherine Coulter, Harlen Cohen, John Sanford, and I really miss Robert B. Parker, who passed away last year.

I like non-fiction also.  A great best-seller that is now available is by David McCullough, The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris (Simon and Schuster, 2011).   McCullough is the authorized biographer for Harry Truman, and that book was cryptically called Truman.  He also wrote 1776, featuring great stories of our country’s founders.  His books have obviously focused on events in the Western Hemisphere, so this one is a departure from what we are familiar with from his writing.

The Greater Journey is about Americans who traveled to Paris between 1830 and the early 1900’s.  Obviously, they went by sea, and the book chronicles the fascination that several Americans had with the Parisian arts, dining, and other aspects of its culture.  Among the characters in the book are famous names such as Samuel Morse, Charles Sumner, George Healy, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

One thing to keep in perspective as you read this book is that comparing America to Paris in this time period is like comparing apples and oranges.  As a nation, America was only 54-125 years old.  We were an infant compared to the much longer heritage and history that Paris offered these people.  Of course, almost every aspect of culture and civilization that these Americans experienced was better in Paris.  That is only because Paris had much more time to develop them.

I particularly enjoyed these Americans’ fascination with Parisian food, art, and culture.  Of course, most of these people that McCullough chronicles in the book had the money and resources to go first-class. 

And, you could still do that today if you went to Paris.  If you don’t want to do that, this book is a great way to experience the culture from a previous era.  Remember that many of the items that McCullough includes are still open and active in Paris today – the most famous being the Louvre museum.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it!



Fiction Turns into Reality on the Same Day

I was amazed that the same day that I read about the bombing of the hideout for Osama bin Laden in a novel was the same day that the United States Navy Seals and our intelligence operations actually killed him!

One of my favorite fiction authors is Stuart Woods.  His recent best-seller is entitled Strategic Moves (Putnam, 2011).  The featured character is Stone Barrington, a playboy-type attorney, who is “of counsel” to a large New York City law firm.

In the book, a foreign arms-dealer and fugitive,  Erwin Gelbhardt (Pablo), reveals he knows the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden at the end of a four-day interrogation which the CIA conducted in Barrington’s home office.

The book notes that the area that Pablo identified became the target of heavy and intense bombing from Unites States forces.  However, the book does not provide a conclusion that the attempt killed or captured bin Laden.

Not so on Sunday!  It was 10:00 p.m. and I turned on the news to check on the DFW weather.  The local news was not on, but an ABC network breaking news story was.  And,  you know the end of the real story as well as I do.

How many times have you seen fiction turn into reality the same day?

Let’s talk about it soon!

One More Reason that Kindle Won’t Erase Traditional Books

Much excitement exists about the future of digital books that we will be able to access on devices such as Kindle.  Some traditions, however, have no chance of  being part of that digital framework, and remain as reasons that traditional books will simply not go away.

One of these is an author’s book signing.  Avid readers who are fans of popular authors look forward to the date and time when they can see him or her in person and obtain a personal autograph.  Publishers relish the great publicity that these signings produce.  Many authors post upcoming cities, locations, dates, and times on their web sites.  See, for example, the web site for the popular fiction author, Stuart Woods.  In some cases, readers join lines that are doubled around a building, waiting patiently for the personal reward resulting from this experience.

How a book signing using a device such as Kindle would work is comical.  Can you imagine a reader shoving his or her Kindle in front of the author, and then, obtaining a digital signature with an electronic pen?  Or, maybe the author sends the reader a digital signature in a .jpg file so the reader can insert it.  Or, maybe the reader can purchase the signature for an extra charge at the time he or she purchases and downloads the book.  Such a signature is worth about as much emotionally and intellectually as the fradulent autographs that appear on some sports memorabila. 

What an awakening this item must be to anyone who is ready to bury traditional books.   Along with traditional books come traditional practices, and this one of many factors that I believe will keep traditional books alive.    What do you think?