Friday, June 17, 2011

Read Alike: Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods

Fans of fast-paced cinematic Thrillers appreciate the broad appeal of Stuart Woods' best selling titles. Whether in his multiple series titles or his earlier non-series books, Woods’ writes fast-paced, provocative stories that feature an investigation, often political or legal.

Pacing is the key to Woods' success. From the first page, readers are drawn into the stories, and despite the complexity of plot lines, we read quickly, driven to discover what will happen next. Dialogue dominates in these books, and that, combined with numerous action sequences and short chapters, moves readers quickly through the pages. Frame also plays an important role. Books are primarily set in Woods' native South, and the stories often feature boats and boating, another area with which Woods is personally familiar. But more important than the physical setting are the trappings of the rich and famous life style that fill these pages. Food, wine, brand name clothes, and cars all contribute to the background of the stories and set the stage for the adventures.

Woods' earlier novels were more provocative, while his more recent titles seem more commercial, and his story lines, as he turns to series rather than stand-alone titles, have become increasingly character-driven. He currently writes three different series. The most complex features the Lee family, from the Edgar-award-winning Chiefs to recent titles, in which hero Will Henry Lee IV is President of the U.S. These present more serious issues and often political skullduggery. One of his newer series stars Holly Barker (Orchid Blues), ex-military police and chief of police for Orchid Beach, Florida, and offers a more serious focus, from murder investigations to threats from right-wing military groups. The long-running Stone Barrington series (New York Dead), which follows the ex-NYPD officer and sometimes lawyer/investigator, have evolved from serious crime stories to lighter, often politically incorrect amorous adventures. International intrigue; sex, sometimes explicit; rich and famous backgrounds; and less intense investigations make these lighter reads. Woods characters also include Ed Eagle (Santa Fe Rules) a criminal defense lawyer living in Santa Fe and Rick Barron (The Prince of Beverly Hills) who solves crimes during the 1930's Golden Age of Hollywood.


Lawrence Sanders may be dead, but his popular McNally series lives on, now written by Vincent Lardo. Like Woods, Sanders wrote a range of titles, from the serious to the more commercial. Intricate plots, filled with twists and betrayals, series and non-series characters, and provocative story lines generally characterized his writing. Although the McNally titles are narrated in the first person, and humor plays more of a role, these Florida-based investigative adventures, set amongst the moneyed class, might appeal especially to fans of the Stone Barrington series. To read about Archy McNally, playboy sleuth, try McNally's Trial.

Jeffrey Archer, who also has written a diverse range of Thrillers from the serious to the commercial, might be another possibility, as, like Woods, he is a storyteller who relates fascinating tales, peopled with likable characters, who come to a satisfying end. International intrigue and double-dealing fill his page-turning novels, but he also includes a glimpse of the rich and powerful, as does Woods. In the classic Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, Archer explores a personal experience with wit and style, as his hero seeks revenge for having been defrauded of more than half a million dollars.

Another author of intricate, page turning, international Thrillers is Sidney Sheldon, who also filled his adventures with beautiful people placed in difficult situations. Revenge figures prominently, and it is not always achieved by legal means, another characteristic shared by Woods' novels. Try The Other Side of Midnight to sample his timeless popularity.

Screenwriter Stephen J. Cannell's novels possess a similar cinematic appeal, fast pacing, characters who could be on the screen, action scenes, and revenge. While the plots may be more complex than those of Woods, the characters, particularly series character LA police detective Shane Scully , will certainly appeal. Try The Tin Collectors, the first featuring Scully.

Not all of James Patterson's titles are obvious matches for a Woods fan, unless the reader does not mind more graphic violence and sex. However, a recent series, begun with 1st to Die, offers several appeal similarities: fast-pacing, details of wealthy lifestyles, series characters, and complicated plots. These stories generally feature fewer gory details, and a breezy pace.

The following authors also write fast-paced, plot-driven suspense stories that may be similar in writing style to Stuart Woods:

David Baldacci, William Diehl, Michael Crichton and Stephen Frey

If you enjoy more character-driven fast-paced suspense stories, try one of these authors:

Lawrence Block, John Gilstrap, Michael Connelly and Thomas Cook

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!

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