Wednesday, May 12, 2021


By Stuart Woods
Copyright 1981

Stuart Woods in the last 20 years has been writing what one might call "trash novels" for men. The books focus on a single character, Stone Barrington, who has gone from NYC police detective to multi-millionaire lawyer who dates the president-elect. My husband reads these books (which means I do too, before they're donated to the library). I call them "wet dream" books because Barrington sleeps with nearly every woman he meets without a condom in sight.

Imagine my surprise then, when I went back into the archives of Stuart Woods and picked up Chiefs for my husband. This book won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for fiction and focuses on three separate men over a span of 50 years.

This is not one of the Stuart Woods books I know. This is a book worth reading.

The book is about the police chiefs in the southern town of Delano, Georgia. The story begins with the first man hired, William Lee, who has a murder on his hands not long after he becomes chief, and the murder (and those that follow) remains unsolved for 50 years, so it flows through the hands of several men before there is resolution.

This book stands out for its characterization and its explicit take on race relations. I had no trouble believing in the racism and biases in this book, which dominate much of the narrative, because this attitude continues today. I've heard men talk like the men in this book do.

This book also touches on politics and power. It is a good reflection of the world today even though it was written 40 years ago.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when there are people who want to take us back to the days when it was fine for the white man to call the black man "boy" and expect subservience from both blacks and women (of all colors). While the book shows the passage of time through changing race relations, it is instructional and enlightening to see how very little things have changed, especially in the southern United States.

This is excellent work, with great writing, and a good lesson for all who want to understand the history of where we were - and where we may be headed if we aren't careful.

Apparently in 1983, CBS made a mini-series out of this book. I have not seen this but may have to see if I can find it.

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