Book Review: Chiefs by Stuart Woods
The story is a complex, multi-generational tale of 3 police chiefs in the town of Delano, Georgia from 1920 through 1962. In 1920, Delano is a new planned town, in the heart of the old south, where the cotton industry has been decimated by the boll-weevil and slavery is not so long past. In this small town, race is always a puddle of gasoline waiting for a lit match. Each of the Chiefs, from fair-minded Will Henry Lee, to Klan backed Sonny Butts, to Tucker Watts – a man with a secret of his own – has their own challenges, including a murder committed on Will Henry’s watch that pulls them all in and threatens to destroy the town.
I first read this book back in the early 1980s, when I was 12 or 13. I also watched the mini-series as it aired back in 1983. I saw the book on the shelves at the local grocery store a few months ago, and couldn’t help but to pick it up. The climax of this book is one I have never been able to get out of my head.
Re-reading this thick tome (574 pages) was a very enjoyable experience. I liken the writing style to John Grisham… except that this book was written 8 years before Grisham wrote A Time To Kill. The characters are memorable and well-constructed. The story flows through three parts, and just keeps moving. If there is one thing I judge more harshly all these years later, is that the climax isn’t quite as good as I remembered it and is over far too quickly, but perhaps my memory had set the bar impossibly high.
I’ve had the Chiefs min-series on my Netflix queue for months, but as far as I know, it doesn’t yet exist on DVD. Hopefully someone in Hollywood rectifies this soon, and allows a whole new generation to get pulled into this amazing story.