Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods was the American author of more than 90 novels, many featuring the character of lawyer-investigator Stone Barrington. He is best known for his first fiction novel, Chiefs (1981), about three generations of lawmakers and the murder of a teenager in a small southern town. The book was adapted into a CBS miniseries starring Charlton Heston, Danny Glover, Billy Dee Williams, and John Goodman.

Stuart Woods (born Stuart Chevalier Lee) was born in the small Southern town of Manchester, Georgia. He attended the local public schools, then graduated from the University of Georgia with a BA in sociology.

After college, he spent a year in Atlanta and two months in basic training for the Air National Guard. Then, in the autumn of 1960, he moved to New York to pursue a career in journalism. He ended up instead with a career in advertising and eventually moved to London and then to Galway, Ireland, where he discovered sailing.

In London, he worked for three years in various advertising agencies. In early 1973, Woods decided that the time had come for him to write the novel he had been thinking about since the age of ten. About a hundred pages into the book, he discovered sailing, and “everything went to hell. All I did was sail.”

His grandfather left him “just enough money to get into debt for a boat,” and Stuart Woods decided to compete in the 1976 Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR).

His first book, Blue Water, Green Skipper, was a non-fiction account of his 1976 adventure competing in the Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race, which began in Plymouth, England, and ended in Newport, Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, the British publisher of Blue Water, Green Skipper, sold the American rights to W.W. Norton, a New York publishing house, who agreed to publish the novel based on a 200-page outline for an advance payment of $7,500.

After receiving the money, Stuart Woods was motivated to complete a novel titled Chiefs.

The book came out in March 1981 after eight years of writing. Despite a limited initial hardback printing of only 20,000 copies, the book became a bestseller in paperback and was adapted into a six-hour television drama.

Chiefs was a critical success, winning the Edgar Allan Poe prize and establishing Woods as a novelist. That was the tipping point. He began a prolific career as a novelist and wrote five books per year for G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

In addition to his writing, Woods enjoyed flying planes and sailing on boats, including owning a Hinckley T38 power boat and partnering in the restoration of an 85-foot 1935 Trumpy motor yacht called Enticer.

Stuart Woods died in his sleep at his home in Litchfield County, Connecticut, at age 84.

Photo credit: stuartwoods.com
years of life: 9 January 1938 22 July 2022
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