Stuart Woods

1938 -

Stuart Woods has led an unusual life, in part because he did not marry until the age of 47, and partly because his work is portable, giving him an unusual amount of freedom. He 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 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."

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 stable yard 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 dingy on Sunday afternoons against small children, losing regularly," he spent eighteen months learning more about sailing and celestial navigation while his boat was being built at a yard in Cork. He moved to a nearby gamekeeper's cottage on a big estate 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 in the fleet. 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, 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. That October and November, he spent skippering his friend's yacht back across the Atlantic, calling at the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands, 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, and they had also contracted to publish the 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 novel and it was published in 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 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.

Chiefs established Woods as a novelist. The book won the Edgar Allan Poe award 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, writing twenty-eight novels.  The latest, Capital Crimes, will be published October 15, 2003, and Reckless Abandon, will be published in the spring of 2004. 

He is a licensed private pilot, and currently flies a Jetprop, which is a Piper Malibu Mirage (a six-passenger, pressurized single-engine airplane) on which the piston engine has been replaced by a turboprop (a jet engine turning a propeller). He sails on other peoples' boats, owns a 28-foot power boat, and is a partner in a 77-foot antique motor yacht (Belle, which can be seen at, built in 1929 and recently restored to like-new condition.

He is a born-again bachelor and lives on the Treasure Coast of Florida, on an island in Maine, and in New York City.


Chiefs (1981)

Run Before the Wind (1983)

Deep Lie (1986)
Under the Lake (1987)
White Cargo (1988)

Grass Roots (1989)

New York Dead (1991)
Palindrome (1991)
Santa Fe Rules (1992)
Dead Eyes (1993)

 L.A. Times (1993)

Sante Fe Rules (1993)

Heat (1994)

Dead in the Water (1994)

Imperfect Strangers (1995)

Small Shadow on the Earth (1995)

Choke (1995)

Dirt (1996)

Swimming to Catalina (1998)

Orchid Beach (1998)

Worst Fears Realized (1999)

The Run (2000)

L.A. Dead (2000)

Cold Paradise (2001)

Orchid Blues (2001)

The Short Forever (2002)

Blood Orchid (2002)

Capital Crimes (2003)

Dirty Work (2003)

Reckless Abandon (2004)