If you are a fan of Stone Barrington, Ed Eagle, or Rick Barron, you probably know a little about the legendary author behind the novels. Having authored more than 92 fiction titles in his lifetime, Stuart Woods cemented his name as one of the all-time greats in pan-genre fiction. His works span the legal, thriller, crime, and adventure genres.
The man leads an interesting life, and some of his fiction work is inspired by family stories. You will find out more about Mr. Woods’ path to publishing, his various interests, and little-known trivia about the man behind multiple successful series.
And, of course, we will go over the complete list of Stuart Woods books in order. But let’s start with his top three books to read.
Our best Stuart Woods Books at a glance:
- New York Dead
- Orchid Beach
- L.A. Dead
- Dirty Work
- Dark Harbor
- Dead In The Water
- Two Dollar Bill
- Reckless Abandon
Who Was Stuart Woods?
Stuart Woods was an American novelist who wrote more than 90 novels across seven-plus fiction series spanning genres like crime, mystery, adventure, psychological fiction, and even political fiction.
His works consistently use questions and clues as hooks to pique readers’ curiosity. A breadcrumb trail, along with a few red herrings, makes Woods’ work quite interesting to read.
He is greatly appreciated by writers for “having the guts” to produce multiple series featuring characters independent of his previous hits. Woods seemed to prefer novelty and shunned prolonged formulaic series, bringing his total of three to six titles. However, that doesn’t mean that Woods didn’t give fans what they wanted.
One of his series is a clear exception to the rest: the Stone Barrington Novels series. It has the elements that are present in his other works: the clues, the law, a breadcrumb trail that the audience can follow, and a smart protagonist, but it is a series that includes over 60 titles.
While that seems like a large catalog, one must remember that Woods penned his books in four decades. His debut novel came out in 1981 and won the Edgar Award for best first novel. Woods continued writing until 2022, when he died.
His final books are set to come out posthumously. Brett Battles (author of The Cleaner) is credited with helping finish these books.
Before we get into Mr. Woods’s bibliography, let’s explore the origins of his professional writing career. He was a commercial and advertising writer long before he penned his first novel.
After moving to England, he continued working in advertising up until the next major shift in his life. More than a geographic shift, this was a shift in interest horizons. In 1966, he had a sailing experience with his friends in Castine, Maine.
After settling in Ireland in 1973, Woods found himself close enough to the water to get serious about his sailing hobby. That’s when he joined the Galway Bay Sailing Club and learned to sail. Instead of becoming trivia in his life, this became a pivotal part as it would introduce him to the world of publishing.
Stuart Woods’ debut book wasn’t a novel but an account of solo sailing the Atlantic Ocean. The book, Green Skipper, introduced him to the world of publishing, which he would go on to change forever by showing what’s possible in both volume and quantity from a single author.
Before Woods, very few writers had penned as expansive and deep a body of work in detective and thriller fiction.
Stuart Woods Books In Order
Will Lee Novels In Order Of Publication
- Chiefs (1981)
- Run Before the Wind (1983)
- Deep Lie (1986)
- Grass Roots (1989)
- The Run (2000)
- Capital Crimes (2003)
- Mounting Fears (2009)
Stone Barrington Series In Order Of Publication
- New York Dead (1991)
- Dirt (1996)
- Dead in the Water (1997)
- Swimming to Catalina (1998)
- Worst Fears Realized (1999)
- L.A. Dead (2000)
- Cold Paradise (2001)
- The Short Forever (2002)
- Dirty Work (2003)
- Reckless Abandon (2004)
- Two Dollar Bill (2005)
- Dark Harbor (2006)
- Fresh Disasters (2007)
- Shoot Him If He Runs (2007)
- Hot Mahogany (2008)
- Loitering With Intent (2009)
- Kisser (2010)
- Lucid Intervals (2010)
- Strategic Moves (2011)
- Bel-Air Dead (2011)
- Son of Stone (2011)
- D.C. Dead (2011)
- Unnatural Acts (2012)
- Severe Clear (2012)
- Collateral Damage (2013)
- Unintended Consequences (2013)
- Doing Hard Time (2013)
- Standup Guy (2014)
- Carnal Curiosity (2014)
- Cut and Thrust (2014)
- Paris Match (2014)
- Insatiable Appetites (2015)
- Hot Pursuit (2015)
- Naked Greed (2015)
- Foreign Affairs (2015)
- Scandalous Behavior (2016)
- Family Jewels (2016)
- Dishonorable Intentions (2016)
- Sex, Lies, and Serious Money (2016)
- Below the Belt (2017)
- Fast and Loose (2017)
- Indecent Exposure (2017)
- Quick & Dirty (2017)
- Unbound (2018)
- Shoot First (Think Later) (2018)
- Turbulence (2018)
- Desperate Measures (2018)
- A Delicate Touch (2018)
- Wild Card (2019)
- Contraband (2019)
- Stealth (2019)
- Treason (2020)
- Hit List (2020)
- Choppy Water (2020)
- Shakeup (2020)
- Hush-Hush (2020)
- Double Jeopardy (2021)
- Class Act (2021)
- Foul Play (2021)
- Criminal Mischief (2021)
- A Safe House (2022)
- Black Dog (2022)
- Distant Thunder (October 11, 2022)
- Near Miss (with Brett Battles) ( June 6, 2023)
Holly Barker Series In Order Of Publication
- Orchid Beach (1998)
- Orchid Blues (2001)
- Blood Orchid (2002)
- Iron Orchid (2005)
- Hothouse Orchid (2009)
Teddy Fay Series In Order Of Publication
- Smooth Operator (2016)
- The Money Shot (2018)
- Skin Game (2019)
- Bombshell (2020)
- Jackpot (2021)
- Obsession (July 25, 2023)
Ed Eagle Series In Order Of Publication
Rick Barron Series In Order Of Publication
Herbie Fisher Series In Order Of Publication
Stand-Alone Novels In Order Of Publication
- Under the Lake (1987)
- White Cargo (1988)
- Palindrome (1991)
- L.A. Times (1993)
- Dead Eyes (1994)
- Heat (1994)
- Imperfect Strangers (1995)
- Choke (1995)
Non-Fiction Books In Order Of Publication
- Blue Water, Green Skipper: A Memoir of Sailing Alone Across the Atlantic (1977 / 2012)
- A Romantic’s Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland (1979)
- An Extravagant Life (June 7, 2022)
Best Stuart Woods Books
New York Dead
Aside from having a captivating title, this book has a captivating story that has propelled it into one of the most popular Stone Barrington novels. And that’s quite a feat, given that the book has more than 60 titles to compete with.
This book follows Barrington as he gets caught up by accident in the case of an up-and-coming media anchor who seems to vanish under mysterious circumstances.
It is important because it is one of the first character-driven novels written by Stuart Woods and is the one that catapulted Stone Barrington into the series lead role that he embraced for over 60 books.
The book is best for anyone who wants to sample Woods’s writing or wants to get into the Stone Barrington series. Either way, it is a solid read.
This book is the debut Holly Barker title and establishes her as an unapologetically feminist, courageous, and heroic woman who is smart, attractive, and morally admirable. Barker’s military career takes a downward turn as she takes a stand against her superior’s attempt at sexually harassing her.
She takes her forced retirement standing up and pivots to a career in law enforcement in Florida. The title is named after a real location in Florida and ties into the first case taken up by Holly Barker.
You should read this book if you’re interested in strong female leads and are drawn into stories that involve crime and detective narratives.
Second, in the Stone Barrington series, Dirt follows the private investigator and lawyer after he is contracted to find out who has been faxing dirt on gossip columnist Amanda Dart. With the recipients of the faxes being a diverse bunch, it seems like the person who has the dirt could be anyone.
At the same time, it doesn’t seem like any specific person could be the obvious sender. As the leaked information increases in value and consequences along with its salaciousness and seriousness, Dart is desperate for it to stop.
The question is, will Barrington be in time to stop it? It has all the likable elements of a Stone Barrington mystery and is a great follow-up to The New York Dead. You don’t need to have read the first book to understand or enjoy this one.
While Dirt is a chronological follow-up to The New York Dead, L.A. Dead is a thematic follow-up with a title reminiscent of the Barrington debut. Stone Barrington is pulled in by an ex he once wanted to marry as she finds herself adjacent to a celebrity murder that has L.A. in an uproar.
In this book, Barrington is quite mature and appropriately nostalgic. Despite being in a profession most people cannot relate to, he goes through the same cycle of emotions that any man would have.
L.A. Dead has Barrington digging deep into the world of old Hollywood’s glamour and glitz to find the murderer before his former flame is ripped from him by a court trial. It is a good book to read for any fan of detective fiction.
Yet another Stone Barrington book, Dirty Work, takes the #5 spot on the leaderboard of the best Stuart Woods books. This book’s premise could easily earn it the top spot in the bibliographies of many authors, but with a writer as prolific as Stuart Woods, the competition is tough. Dirty Work follows Barrington on an assignment where he has to prove infidelity in an heiress’s marriage.
But things take an interesting turn when the husband is found dead and the other woman is nowhere to be found.
It is a must-read if you like Holly Barker and Stone Barrington books, as it is the first time Barrington seems to be writing for male and female readers. Otherwise, his books seem to appeal to one gender at a time.
While Woods’s characters have interacted with each other before, they have rarely teamed up. Dark Harbor is one of the few titles where Barrington works with Holly Barker. This is a Stone Barrington title, still, though Barker is a major supporting character. This novel contains elements of national government conspiracies as well as classic mysteries.
Barrington has to find the facts behind the death of his cousin, who was an ex-CIA operative. He is the executor of his cousin’s will, and the cousin’s family is watching his steps. Barrington suspects that one of the family members is the killer.
Will he unmask the criminal, or will the murderer get to him first? Any murder mystery fan will enjoy this book, but Holly Barker fans will get a different type of thrill watching the two team up.
This is the first novel by Stuart Woods and has a special place in the prolific writer’s bibliography. It established the writer in the detective and crime fiction genres. It follows three police chiefs as they attempt to catch a serial killer. It has elements of a sequential crime as well as cop drama.
You should read this to get a firm understanding of Stuart Woods’s approach to fiction, if for nothing else.
Dead In The Water
This book is the third in the Stone Barrington series and follows the lawyer-cum-investigator who gets pulled into a case while on vacation at St. Martin’s. It has elements of the exotic and draws from Woods’s travel account writing forte.
That doesn’t mean it lacks the thriller and mystery aspects that Stuart Woods’ titles in general and Stone Barrington novels in particular are famous for. After all, Barrington has to prove that Allison Manning, who seems to be the murderer, is not the actual murderer. You should read this book if you are a fan of whodunnit-style fiction.
Two Dollar Bill
Considered Stuart Woods’ 9th best-rated book, this title is still above 50 others in his bibliography. Once again, it is a Stone Barrington novel. This time, the ex-detective turned private investigator/lawyer is stuck between a beautiful federal prosecutor and a conman, with a murder trial on the cards.
Barrington has to get involved and find out the real killer before someone he once fancied gets punished for it. If you enjoy will-they-won’t-they romance and narratives with lots of twists, you should read this book.
This is the tenth most popular Stuart Woods book and falls into both the Stone Barrington and the Holly Barker series. It is the 10th Barrington title and the 4th Holly Barker one. Woods balances both strong characters very well, ensuring that no one takes too much or too little of the spotlight.
In this book, the primary driver is a Holly Barker series character, Trini Rodriguez, who was presumably stabbed to death in an earlier adventure. However, she is in New York, so Barker follows her and teams up with none other than Stone Barrington in the process.
Read this book if you’re a fan of one or both of the characters. It isn’t a recommended read for anyone who isn’t thoroughly invested in the Stuart Woods bibliography.
Stuart Woods FAQs
When Did Stuart Woods Start Writing?
Stuart Woods started writing in the 1970s, with his first book being published in 1977. Woods became a fiction writer in 1981 with his debut novel, Chiefs.
Even before writing his 1977 travelog/sailing account, Woods was a writer. However, he used to write for television and newspaper commercials back then.
Where Is Stuart Woods From?
Stuart Woods was born in Manchester, a town in Georgia, USA. He immigrated to England and then moved to Ireland, but he was known as an American author throughout his career.
When Was Stuart Woods Born?
Stuart Woods was born on January 9, 1938. He died at the age of 84.
When Did Stuart Woods Die?
Stuart Woods died on July 22, 2022. His death was due to natural causes, and he is said to have lived a full life.
Wrapping It Up
Stuart Woods was one of the most prolific fiction writers and left a legacy of a rich fictional universe featuring multiple detectives, crime solvers, and fascinating criminal minds. His debut novel set the pace for his writing career, which leaned heavily into whodunnit and mystery themes.
But Woods didn’t let the genre of his earlier fiction shoehorn him into repetitive storytelling. From Dirt to Shoot Him If He Runs to Dead In The Water, he kept bringing fresh ideas into a familiar world that he built with his fiction series.