Book Review: Chiefs by Stuart Woods

ChiefsI usually don’t review books I read that I have read before, so this isn’t so much of a review as a gushing recommendation. If you haven’t read Stuart Woods’ book Chiefs, you really, really should.

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.

3 Comments on “Book Review: Chiefs by Stuart Woods

  1. Joe: It was the first Woods book I read and I have both the book and the movie. Have read most of his books. Mom

  2. I’ve listened to “Chiefs” on cassette in my car — twice, several years apart. I think it is one of my very favorite books. I’ve read other books by this author but none is as detailed and wide-ranging as this one. Every single character is memorable, and, set against real events, makes you feel like you’re living part of the history of our country. No matter what genre you favor, I would highly recommend “Chiefs.” If my local branch library runs out of mysteries on tape before I get a newer car, I will probably listen to “Chiefs” again!

  3. Well, I don’t have a new car yet, but just had a new radio/CD player installed, since our libraries are rapidly phasing out audiobooks on cassette. I wonder if “Chiefs” is available on CD; if not, I may have to actually read the print book next time I get “Chiefs” withdrawal symptoms!

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