Chiefs : Will Lee

  • by Stuart Woods
  • Narrated by Mark Hammer
  • Series: Will Lee
  • 17 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In 1919, Delano, Georgia, appoints its first chief of police. Honest and hardworking, the new chief is puzzled when young men start to disappear. But his investigation is ended by the fatal blast from a shotgun. Delano's second chief-of-police is no hero, yet he is also disturbed by what he sees in the missing-persons bulletins. In 1969, when Delano's third chief takes over, the unsolved disappearances still haunt the police files.Author Stuart Woods' riveting novel spans three generations while also probing deep into Southern small-town attitudes and behavior. The residents of Delano, with their reluctance to disturb a familiar social order, provide the perfect backdrop for this tale of dark secrets and murder.
Over 40 years ago, Woods found a battered chief-of-police badge in his grandmother's house. It had belonged to his grandfather, who had been shot in the line of duty. The story of the lawman's death inspired Woods to write Chiefs, which won an Edgar Award and was made into a popular TV miniseries.


What the Critics Say

"A riveting story of the Deep South that mixes murder mystery with political intrigue." (Publishers Weekly)
"A fascinating, compelling tale." (The New York Times)
"The homey wisdom of [Hammer's] voice, coupled with Woods's engaging story, makes this audiobook memorable." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


As a black person born and raised in the north, with most of my adult life lived in California, moving to metro Atlanta about 15 years ago was quite a culture shock. Everything that I'd ever read about the south was still alive and kickin' in Georgia. I normally shy away from books about good ole boys, the Klan, and (the lack of) civil rights. But in "Chiefs", the south and the southern way of thinking is captured in a way that I have never come across in my life. Stuart Woods' descriptions of the people and the places puts the reader on Main Street. You feel as if you are an integral part of the community. And if you are African-American, you will find yourself getting pissed off, while looking furtively over your shoulder out of sense of survival because Woods makes you think that the Klan is right outside your "shack"!

It was hard for me as a black person to keep my mind on the story, to keep everything in the proper perspective - that was then and this is now. I kept losing my place because I would get my "black back" up, allowing my intellect and reason to recede in the background. I can't begin to report on how white people take such stories - are they ashamed or do they just believe this is the natural order of life. Who knows? I don't. But if everyone just puts their personal feelings - good or bad - on the shelf, this will be one of the most amazing rides that a reader can take. It is only made better by the amazing vocal talents of narrator Mark Hammer who can be both soothing and menacing but always with the "bless your heart" tone of the true south.

This is about crime and deception and sexual depravity - all of the same things that we experience everyday in 2008. Sit back, get a glass of good bourbon or iced tea (sweet, of course!), and take a trip back to the early 1900s. Nothing has changed in this country. I'm not referring to the state of race relations - I'm talking about good old crime storytelling.
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- Linda Lou "OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!"

Heartfelt, loving, truly dramatic: Woods's best.

You can have your Stone Barrington, thank you very much. Just the name says phony and contrived. I have tried a couple of those, plus the others, Ed Eagle, Hothouse Whatever, etc. This is Woods' first book, and, IMHO, his best. It is worth reading the Wikipedia paragraph about this book. Woods would eventually become one of our generation's most prolific authors, making his publishers and agents quite rich, I am sure. However, much of what he has written since Chiefs is forced, formulaic, and designed to sell like hotcakes. Fine. Chiefs, though, seems clearly autobiographical, to the degree that many of the best writers' early works often do. The multi-generational story of Will Lee and the town of Delano, Georgia grabs you very quickly, and, without the modern tricks of hyped-up violence and scary suspense, Mr. Woods holds you with a tale that is completely genuine and passionate. He loves his characters, and we know it. Will Lee himself is a wonderful protagonist: we are almost immediately on his side, and Mr. Woods develops Will Henry's life (his friends call him Will Henry, out of Southern affection. The only man who calls him "Lee" is the loose cannon Foxy Funderburk, who is insanely jealous that Will was chosen as the first chief of police in Delano rather than him.)
The other characters are also fully drawn: Will's wife and family, the banker Hugh Holmes, who gambled big on the new town and got rich very quickly. One of the first scenes is Will's accidental arrest of two drunk rednecks who have robbed Holmes' bank. They come careening around the bank in a huge old Packard, or something, while Will happens to be holding an old, rusty Colt .45 just given to him by the town doctor and council member Frank Mudter. The whole town (a thousand people) calls Will a hero, and he is off to the races, albeit in a slow, gentlemanly Southern way.
Mr. Woods was born and raised in Georgia, and it shows. He is extremely fond of almost everything about the South. He depicts the racial/slavery issues with deep compassion. He understands the life of people who may live in this country but have little in common, it would seem, with most of us middle-class regular guys and gals (gals? I'm becoming a Southerner!). He also handles the issue of alcohol (Georgia was a dry state at the time of this book) with great skill and delicacy. Basically, every single thing about this book is wonderful. If you want the best of Stuart Woods, start here.
If you want the best of Mark Hammer, you could well start here too. His voice is just so mellow, slow and easy, never pushed or hurried, warmly funny and also very loving towards the characters. He manages a Southern drawl with ease and great skill. You just have to listen to him to truly understand the richness of an audiobook. Reading with the eyes is fine, but a great performer like Mark Hammer adds a unique dimension to the work.
I just plain loved every little thang about this book, and I surely hope that y'all do, too.
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- Richard Delman "I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-29-2006
  • Publisher: Recorded Books