The Best of the Book Nook: Remembering Stuart Woods 'Blood Orchid' by Stuart Woods
Vick Mickunas shares fond memories from a interview he did with author Stuart Woods in 2002.
(Original recording made in 2002)
The month of July was winding down. Peter Hayes, the man who records all our programs, edits them, and digitizes archival material for re-broadcast, was dialing the phone so that we could connect with an author in California to record a new show. The line rang and rang. Nobody answered. We called back. Still no response. After ten minutes of fruitless efforts to connect with our guest we finally gave up. It happens. Over the many years that I have been calling writers to do interviews by phone we have had many failures to connect. In recent years as almost all of our interviews are being conducted by phone that failure rate has surged. People forget to turn on the ringer. We were given the wrong number to call. They got stuck in traffic trying to rush home to take our calls. They spaced it out, confusing the disparity in time zones. We have heard every possible excuse. You do get used to it.
At that point I turned to our archive of interviews and pulled out one by a best-selling author to air in place of the program we were unable to complete. Stuart Woods made one appearance on the show back in 2002. He was coming through Dayton on book tour and he came out to Yellow Springs to do a live program. It was during a membership campaign.
As we put together this archival show we edited out the spots where I mentioned his book signing that night. We didn't want people showing up 20 years too late at a book store which no longer exists. We edited out the parts where I asked listeners to call our number right now to pledge and pick up a signed copy of Stuart's new book. I did an on-line search to verify some details; first of all, was he still alive? According to Wikipedia he was and at 84 years old he was cranking out a mind boggling number of books, about a dozen over the last few years. Incredible.
We put together our Best of the Book Nook show with Stuart Woods. I talked about how prolific he was. During the original interview I mentioned that whenever I passed through airports I had noticed his books were always available at the airport bookstores, a sure sign that a writer had made it to the top of the publishing world. My comment was meant as a compliment, as in, "Gee' willikers Mr. Woods, you are hot stuff!" He performed a weird deflection. He claimed that he would not know about that because he doesn't ever pass through airport concourses like an ordinary traveler because he pilots his own private plane wherever he goes! Well, of course he knew his books were selling at airports. If they had not been I'm sure he would have been doing something about that. That was odd.
He did another surprising thing. About five minutes into the interview he stated that if there were listeners who were unable to attend his signing that night in Dayton that he would be signing extra copies while he was there and if they called the bookstore they could reserve one. Then he gave out the bookstore's phone number! I was astonished since he was doing my job, shilling his book, and I had rarely had an author be so ambitious about promoting himself. At that point I stepped in to say that oh, by the way, I have a stack of Stuart's books right here and if you want one just call WYSO right now and pledge and I'm sure Stuart will be delighted to inscribe them to you personally and autograph copies just for you! Stuart Woods was glaring at me after I said this. He looked like he had just bitten in to a super sour lemon.
Let is also be noted that I have done dozens of live interviews with authors during pledge drives. They often would get right into the spirit of things and help out by giving out the phone number, talking about how much they loved public radio, etc. When I interviewed the Anglican cleric Terry Waite he got so enthused that he announced we would conduct a drawing from among the pledges we had gotten during that interview and a lucky listener would be selected to have lunch with Terry Waite at his home in England. Of course they would have to arrange to get there but hey, that was impressive. It was very cool to have a guest do that. They don't even have public radio over there! I wonder if that lunch ever happened? Probably not.
Stuart Woods was having none of it. He didn't make any effort to participate. He acted like it wasn't happening. Thankfully, he did sign the books we were offering for pledges. But that was it. Listening back to the interview it was pleasant enough and informative but the main impressions I had of him were his failure to play along and of course that scowl he gave me.
As we put together the new show I alluded to his intransigent demeanor that day. It was all done in good fun. I know he has a a lot of readers and fans and I respect that. We finished producing the show on a Wednesday and planned to air it that Saturday. Late on Thursday night I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw a tweet about how Stuart Woods was dead. I could not believe it! He had died that previous week but the news had not been made public until a week later. I told Peter we had to go back and make a different program because it would have been in really poor taste to run the one we had already completed in light of recent events. So we did. That's the one thing I don't miss about doing live radio; the scrambling. Here it is.