Book Review: An Extravagant Life by Stuart Woods


Stuart Woods is one of my favorite authors, and I recently finished listening to his autobiography: An Extravagant Life. Should you listen to it as well? Read on for my review.

Best known for his Stone Barrington novels, which are fun, light-hearted fare, Stuart Woods is an Edgar Award-winning writer with 70 best-selling books to his name. Having interviewed this New York Times best-selling author, I was eager to learn more about him by reading An Extravagant Life.

I picked up both the eBook and audiobook version of An Extravagant Life. While I love it when authors narrate their autobiographies, having Tony Roberts, the delightful voice of the Stone Barrington audiobooks, narrate Stuart Woods’ life story made for a splendid listening experience. Tony’s voice is warm, distinct, and comforting.

An Extravagant Life incorporates Stuart Woods’ first memoir: Blue Water, Green Skipper. In other words, this book is that book, but this one is bookended by new content about the author’s early and later years. While I appreciate this approach, the Blue Water, Green Skipper section drags down the entire book because it’s so heavily focused on boating.

My biggest complaint about Stuart Woods’ autobiography is that it doesn’t get interesting until the last 30 minutes of this more-than-14-hour audiobook. Moreover, the author doesn’t take a deep dive into his creative process or any of the famous characters he created. Want to know how he came up with those fabulous character names? Won’t find it here. How about his thoughts on Stephen King praising his book Under the Lake? Not here. Instead, you’ll get a chapter on Elaine’s, what his typical day is like, his work on political campaigns, and other purely personal information. It’s not that I don’t care about Stuart Woods as a person, but that’s not what he’s famous for.

All great autobiographies must, at some point, focus on what made the person famous and provide the reader with an analysis of that work from the point of view of the artist. Failure to do that makes for a boring and unsatisfying read. I hate to say it, but An Extravagant Life is one of Stuart Woods’ most boring books. You’re better off reading my interview with him followed by one of his Stone Barrington novels. It’s a shame because the fans of a writer as gifted as Stuart Woods deserve much more. Unfortunately, he failed to deliver.

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