Prolific author Stuart Woods is no stranger to the New York Times bestseller lists: he’s had thirty consecutive novels on that list. With about fifty novels published, Woods is a fixture among mystery and thriller writers, the winner of an Edgar and France’s Prix de Literature Policiere. Woods is the author of a number of stand-alone novels, including his 1981 breakthrough work, Chiefs, made into a CBS mini-series.Ongoing series works include those featuring Ed Eagle, Rick Barron, Holly Barker, and Will Lee. But it is perhaps the score of novels in his Stone Barrington series for which Woods is best known.
Barrington, a former NYPD homicide detective who was forced out of the force because he too often butted heads with his superiors. Barrington turns to the legal profession, and over the course of twenty-two books becomes the suave hero whose clients involve him in all sorts of Manhattan mayhem. Bookreporter noted of Woods’ suave protagonist: “Stone is classy, humorous, sarcastic, well dressed, well educated, rich, handsome, single and well heeled. It is a given that Stone will get into deep trouble without asking for it.” When in New York, Stone likes hanging out at Elaine’s, but his duties take him farther afield, as well, from the Caribbean to Key West to Southern Californian and points in between.
Stuart, it’s great to have you with us at Scene of the Crime. We like to focus on setting here, and Stone Barrington seems to get around quite a lot. Could you describe your connection to some of these locales?
I live in three places: Key West (my domicile and legal residence) in the Winter and early spring; Mt. Desert Island, Maine, in the summer and New York City in the spring and autumn, when I’m not touring. Because I’m always looking for 70 degrees farenheit.
What things about these places make them unique and good physical settings in your books?
Key West is artsy and full of people who are there because they have nowhere else to go. (At least, they won’t freeze in winter.) Maine is there when I have to get my characters out of the stifling city and into a pleasant summer. And there’s only one New York.
The former, I think. Stories work better in some locales than in others.
How do you incorporate location in your fiction?
That grows naturally out of the story; I don’t have to think about it.
How do your protagonists interact with their surroundings?
Stone Barrington and Dino Bacchetti are native New Yorkers and foreigners anywhere else, though they do their best to blend in. For instance, when in Key West, they switch from bourbon and scotch to margaritas.
Has there been any local reaction to your works?
Places where I’ve lived, like Georgia and Vero Beach seem to regard me as a native son, not least because I am a native son of Georgia. I use foreign locales because I know them, and without regard to whether I’m published there, though I do get a dozen or fifteen translations per book. I haven’t seen many reviews from abroad, but I did receive something called Le Grand Prix de Literature Policiere from, ostensibly, the French Academy, though I have my doubts.
Have you ever made any goofs in depicting your location or time period? Please share–the more humorous the better (we all have).
I was once asked to speak at a writers conference, and the topic was to be “Literature in the Landscape,” which I took to mean the importance of knowing the place you’re writing about. I had to confess that the book I was then promoting, Heat, was set in Idaho, a place I had never been. I meant to go to Idaho, really I did, but somehow I just never got there. Still, in all the years since, I’ve never had a comment or an email from anyone who said that I got any detail of the state wrong. I take this to mean that either Idaho is exactly as I imagined it, or possibly, that no one in Idaho reads my books.
Of all your novels, do you have a favorite book or scene that focuses on the place?
In Heat, I had my character flee from the bad guys through a tunnel system and arrive in a house built into the side of the mountain, high above the ground. He finds himself locked in, so he runs at a picture window, crashes through it, lands in a treetop and tumbles through the branches into the snow blow. I thought that was a unique escape.
Who are your favorite writers, and do you feel that other writers influenced you in your use of the spirit of place in your novels?
Mark Twain, who influenced me in nearly every possible way.
What’s next for Stone Barrington?
In D.C. Dead, out in December, Stone and Dino are called to Washington by the president and his wife, who want an old homicide reinvestigated, since they believe that the presumed killer, a friend of theirs, was innocent.
Stuart, many thanks for joining us at Scene of the Crime, and good luck with number 22 in the series!
For more information on Stuart Woods, visit his author homepage.