Stuart Woods began his career in mystery and detective fiction with the critically acclaimed novel Chiefs in 1981. Woods used stories from his hometown and family history to create a critically acclaimed thriller lauded for its realistic portrayal of a small town’s political dynamics and its critical dissection of a seemingly peaceful American community, themes that Woods has revisited occasionally throughout his career. Chiefs won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America and gave rise to the possibility that Woods could become one of the premier mystery writers of his day. Woods’s novel Palindrome (1991) was nominated for the Edgar Award, and his Imperfect Strangers (1995) was awarded France’s Prix de Littérature Policière. He has written more than thirty-five novels, most of which have become best sellers because he has gained a strong American and international readership.
With a few exceptions, rather than offering a deep analysis of his characters, Woods focuses on the systems in which the characters function. These are typically the bureaucracies of politics, criminal justice, and law. His protagonists are those who willingly accept the consequences of breaking normal protocol to solve a problem for the greater good of the system, community, or nation in which they live and work. His protagonists’ ability to overcome bureaucratic obstacles makes them modern-day heroes and makes their experiences relevant to contemporary American civilization.