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During the bitter winter of 1920, the naked body of an unidentified teenaged boy is discovered in a wooded area of a small Georgia town. There is no direct evidence of murder, but the body bears marks of what seems to be a ritual beating. The investigation falls into the inexperienced hands of the newly appointed chief of police. His intelligent, obsessive hunt for the boy's tormentor begins a story that ultimately weaves through decades of deceit, hatred, perversion, and political drama that inexorably envelops the lives of two other chiefs -- one himself a murderer, the other hiding a secret that, if revealed, might destroy not only himself but also the promising career of a rising political figure.
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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, "...racing 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 to go 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.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
THE BOY ran for his life.
He poured forth an effort born of fear and a wild sense of freedom regained. At first he ran entirely unconscious of his injuries, then, tearing recklessly through the dark woods, he struck a tree and went down. He lay stunned for a time he could not account for, and when he was finally able to struggle to his feet, the full force of the pain and the winter air swept over him and made him stagger.
He heard the dog and the man crashing through the brush, and he ran again, wildly, blindly, the undergrowth tearing at his naked body. Abruptly, he broke through onto a road, hesitated, decided against it, and threw himself across the open area into the brush on the other side. He was momentarily in thick, thorny blackberry bushes, then found himself on a narrow path.
He was failing now, sucking in air with a loud, rasping noise, his muscles aching, legs wobbling. He heard the man fighting through the blackberry bushes, cursing, and he flung himself forward with his remaining strength. He knew he would rather run until he died than go back to that house. He willed his heart to burst, God to take him, hut his exhausted body still carried him unsteadily forward.
The path turned sharply to the right, but he lunged ahead into thick brush again, hoping for safety. Then he saw stars ahead through the bushes and thought he might break through into a field, while his tormentor followed the path. He gathered his last strength and plunged forward and down, hoping to lie on the ground undetected.
There was no ground; the earth fell away beneath him. He believed himself to be falling into a ditch, but his ditch had no bottom. He fell, twisting in the air, trying desperately to get his feet under him, while the hard earth waited far below him.
Copyright 1981 by Stuart Woods
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