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by Stuart Woods

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In the winter of I 1920, the first body is found in Delano, Georgia-the naked, brutalized corpse of a young boy. It Is a crime too horrific to be ignored; the first of many that will span four decades, embroiling three separate police chiefs in a remarkable manhunt that will expose the hatreds, fears, dark secrets and festering wounds beneath the surface of their


In the winter of I 1920, the first body is found in Delano, Georgia-the naked, brutalized corpse of a young boy. It Is a crime too horrific to be ignored; the first of many that will span four decades, embroiling three separate police chiefs in a remarkable manhunt that will expose the hatreds, fears, dark secrets and festering wounds beneath the surface of their sleepy God-fearing community.

Author Biography: Stuart Woods was born in Manchester, Georgia, a small town in the American South. He was educated in the local schools and at the University of Georgia, where he graduated with a BA degree in 1959. He served in the United States Air Force, in which he says he "...flew a truck," as an enlisted man during the Berlin Wall crisis of 1961-62.

He devoted his early adult years to a career in advertising , as an award-winning writer for agencies in New York and London. It was while living in London in 1973 that he decided to pursue an ambition held since childhood, to write fiction. he moved to a flat in the stable yard of a castle in south County Galway, Ireland, and while working two days a week for a Dublin ad agency to support himself, began work on a novel. Shortly after beginning, he discovered sailing and , as he puts it, "Everything went to hell." The novel was put temporarily aside while he spent all his time, " an eleven foot plywood dinghy against small children, losing regularly."

In the autumn of 1974, a friend invited him to help ferry a small yacht up the west coast of Ireland, and the bug bit even harder. Shortly thereafter, his grandfather died, leaving him "...just enough money to get into debt for a boat," and he immediately decided togo to the 1976 Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR). He moved to a gamekeeper's cottage on a river above Cork Harbour and had a boat built at a nearby boatyard. He studied navigation and sailed on other people's boats every chance he got, then, after completing a 1300-mile qualifying voyage from the Azores to Ireland, he persuaded the Race Committee to accept him as an Irish entry.

He completed the race in good form, taking forty-five days, and in 1977 his memoir of the Irish period, Blue Water, Green Skipper was published in London and New York. While sporadically working on the novel, he completed another book, A Romantic's Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland, published in 1979.

Chiefs, Woods' long-awaited novel, was published in 1981 to wide critical and popular acclaim, garnering excellent reviews and winning the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Chiefs was filmed for television as a six-hour drama starring Charlton Heston. Following his success with that novel, Woods published a string of fiction that established him as one of the most popular writers in the world.

Orchid Beach is Stuart Woods' eighteenth novel. His previous books, Run Before the Wind (1983), Deep Lie (1986), Under the Lake (1987), White Cargo (1988), Grass Roots (1989), Palindrome and New York Dead (1989), Santa Fe Rules (1991), L.A. Times (1992), Dead Eyes (1993), Heat (1994), Imperfect Strangers and Choke (1995), Dirt (1996), Dead in the Water (1997) and Swimming to Catalina (1998) have been translated into Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Japanese, and Hebrew and there are millions of copies of his books in print around the world. Several of Stuart Woods' novels have been optioned for feature films and television movies.

Stuart Woods lives on the the Treasure Coast of Florida and Litchfield County, Connectict. He still flies his own plane, and sails.

Editorial Reviews

Roanoke Times and World News
New York Times
A fascinating, compelling tale.
Pat Conroy
Wonderful. . . Stuart Woods has written a classic! .

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.32(w) x 6.94(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Book One: Will Henry Lee

HUGH HOLMES, president of the Bank of Delano and chairman of the Delano City Council, was a man who, more than most, thought about the present in terms of the future. It was one of his great strengths, both as a banker and as a politician, but on a cold morning in December of 1919, this facuIty failed him. It would be many years before he would have some grasp of how that morning changed his future, changed everything.

Holmes prided himself on being able to took at a man as he entered the bank and predict what the man would want, On this morning he watched through the sliding window in the wall be tween his office and the main room of the bank as Will Henry Lee entered, and Holmes indulged himself in a bit of his usual prognostication. Will Henry Lee was a cotton farmer; his standing mortgage was due the first of the year, and he would want it renewed. It took Holmes only seconds to review the circumstances: Will Henry's debt amounted to about thirty-five percent of the value of his farm, in reasonably good times. That was a lower level of debt than was borne by most farmers, and Will Henry had paid his interest on time and made two payments against principal. But Holmes knew, the boll weevil situation being what it was, that Will Henry might fail with his next crop. Still, he respected the man, liked him, wen; he decided to renew. He leaned forward at his desk and pretended to read a letter, confident that he had anticipated the content of their approaching discussion and had worked out an appropriate response. Will Henry knocked at the open door, sat down, exchanged pleasantries, and askedHolmes for the job of chief of police.

Holmes was stupefied, partly by the completely unexpected request, and partly by the total collapse of his early-warning system. His mind was not accustomed to such surprises, and it lurched about through a long moment of silence as it struggled to assimilate this outrageous input and get it into an orderly framework of thought. The effort was a failure. To give himself more time, he clambered onto familiar ground. "Well, now, Will Henry, you're not overextended on your farm. We could probably see you through another crop, even with things the way they are with cotton." To his credit, Holmes maintained his banker's face throughout the exchange.

"Hugh, if I extended I'd have to have more capital, which means getting deeper in debt to the bank. If I did that for another crop things wouldn't get any better; they'd just get worse. Better farmers than me are going under. I think you'd be doing the best thing for the bank if you took the farm now and sold it. I might get something after the note was paid. To tell you the truth, Hoss Spence offered me nearly about exactly what I owe for the place just last week, but I think I'd rather let the bank take it than let a man buy me out for a third of what the place is worth. Hoss's peaches and cattle are going to be on a lot of land where cotton used to grow, and I'd just as soon my land didn't get included in that." He stopped talking, looked at Holmes, and waited.

Holmes's brain was beginning to thrash through the gears now. Item one: Will Henry was right about the bank's position; taking the farm now would give a better chance of coming through the transaction profitably; things could truly be a whole lot worse next year. Item two: Delano had long been big enough for a chief, but the town wasn't big enough to attract an experienced officer from another force. Holmes, as chairman of the city council, had been looking hard for months for a suitable man. The chief at La Grange had put it to him bluntly. "Mr. Holmes, I'll tell you the truth; right now Delano couldn't even attract a decent patrolman from a larger town, let alone a sergeant. My advice to you would be to find a local man that people respect, and give him the job. In a town like Delano he can do about ninety-nine percent of what he's got to do with just plain old respect."

Holmes looked across the desk at Will Henry. He respected the min, and he was a harsher judge than most. Will Henry was well known in the community, even though he and his father before him had been country men. Maybe his always having lived in the country would mix a little distance with familiarity and give respect a sharper edge. Holmes resisted an urge to pump Will Henry's hand and pin a badge on him right on the spot. He had to preserve a reputation for caution, and, anyway, he couldn't make the decision entirely on his own.

"Well, I'll have to bring this up at the next council meeting." He paused. "Have you talked to Carrie about this, Will Henry?"

"No, I wanted to talk to you first. Carrie's all ready to worry us through another crop, but I think it'd be a kind of relief to her to have done with the farm. We'd have to find a house in town, and I think she'd like fixing that up. She's really always been a town girl at heart, I think. What's your opinion of my chances for this job, Hugh?"

Holmes cleared his throat. "Well, I guess you could say les within the maim of possibility. I'll see that the council gives the proposal serious consideration." The two men rose and shook hands. "I might be able to help you with finding a house in town, too." He already...

Meet the Author

Stuart Woods is the author of more than sixty novels. 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 Florida, Maine, and New Mexico.

Brief Biography

Key West, Florida; Mt. Desert, Maine; New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1938
Place of Birth:
Manchester, Georgia
B.A., University of Georgia, 1959

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Chiefs (Will Lee Series #1) 4.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 52 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader, and I will have to say this is the best written book I have ever read. So true to what happened in my beloved South in that era
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a classic story of rural Georgia written by a well known native. It was a gift to someone who recently moved to the writer's home town. It was a hit.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I too love the original, I still have the paperback that I fell in love with. I do not recall how many times I have read it. I also have a very worn copy of the movie of Mr. Woods book. I read all of Mr. Woods books, but I will not buy the anniversary edition, it can't be improved on so why another copy. Thanks for all your books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT. Think of great reads such as 'The Godfather', 'Gone With The Wind' and 'Roots'...'Chiefs' is THAT GOOD!! I finally found a copy in large print and although it was almost 700 pages long, I couldn't put it down until I turned the last page. The emotional rollercoaster hasn't stopped yet. READ THIS won't regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book! Buy this book, tell your friends but don't loan it out, you'll never get it back!
SuzieQB More than 1 year ago
Really a great story that keeps you wondering "who is going to be next"? Lots of surprizes thru out the book. Ending will really surprize you too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This tail is a history of a small southern town and the police chiefs that served there from the 1920s to the 1960s. It is a pretty accurate depiction of the wretched state of race relations and politics during that period and how progressive elements slowly inched their community in the direction of justice. Woven through this history are the unsolved crimes of a serial killer that take place over the administrations of these chiefs. I found these histories a little frustrating because each story seemed incomplete and left issues unresolved; however, if you can hang on until the end, it comes to a satisfying conclusion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're a Stone Barrington fan first this book gives you great insight into Will Lee who's been mentioned in a few of the early novels. Awesome story keeps you glued to the book. Highly recommend for any Stuart Woods fans!
sherrb1158 More than 1 year ago
Hello Fellow Readers …. You might have found an Outstanding book! I found this book to be a totally unexpected treasure trove of character development, well researched or experienced historical scenery, combined with the writing encompassing the entertaining aspects of surprise, suspense and plot development. I would rate this as a first class novel. The historical aspects of this blew me away, as being in my early 50's I felt as if I had either known many of the people in these stories; or had their stories told to me and brought to life by my grandparents or great Aunts; or lived through the remainder of the time-line through the news or through my own experience, first-hand. Now, let me ask you .... is that not one of the primary objectives of a writer? .... to convey those experiences to the reader? I never expected this to be one of my favorite novels when I purchased this on a bit of a whim and a listing suggestion from my Nook shopping list. WOW! This is an absolutely outstanding novel. I don't know that I would put this up there with Thomas Wolfe, ("You Can't Go Home Again"; "The Web and the Rock"; etc.), but this is a seriously good read. It really makes one wish there were more books that would go into a parallel lifetime story of some of the wonderfully developed characters in this book. At first I found the generation-to-generation segmentation of the book to be frustrating, but they flowed so well into each other that I actually loved that aspect of the book as I progressed through the story line. This is a gem of a book that should have, in my humble opinion, warranted much more exposure since the time that it was published, but that seems to be consistently the case with really good books. I truly was sorry to come to the last page. I also hear from reading reviews of Stuart Wood's more recent books that he has gone the road of liberal proselytizing. That is all well and good, and I encourage his continued works, I just tend more to the conservative side. So, I will try some of his newer works and see what I think. I will do my best to keep an open mind and I will report my thoughts if anyone is interested in my input. Take care, and Great Reading folks!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading the reviews, I decided, whst the heck OMG! This is by far one of the BEST books that I've read. I literally hsd to make myself put it down. It seemed to start out slow, but I later realized that the beginning was fundamental to the entire storyline. Get this book, you won't rrgret it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wood's first and BEST. It really got me hooked on Woods. I like all I've read, but none compares to "Chiefs" It gets you from the get-go and carries you excitingly through 3 generations. It's the start for Will Lee novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A superb thriller. Belongs with Grishom, Deavers, Archer, etc. The mini series is worth watching. Too bad Woods later books don't measure up. His stone barrington series borders on trash with soft porn.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CBS released a three part mini-series in 1983 which so marvelously depicts the characters of this wonderful story that the reader can truly see them. Brad Davts and Billy Dee Williams are magnificent as the second and thitd chiefs. But, in my opinion, the true acting skills are displayed by David Carridine whose perfotmance are truly outstanding. I think youtube has made the series available.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy reading Stuart Woods books but I have to say this was the best one of all. I will continue reading the entire 'Chiefs' series.
Corn_Fed More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy Stuart Woods' books you must read this one. I consider this to be Woods' best. Great characters and compelling story.
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