“Swimming to Catalina” by Stuart Woods

Woods,Stuart. Swimming to Catalina (1998)  
HarperCollins, 311 pages, $25.00 hardcover  
ISBN 0 06 018369 1

In his latest adventure Stone Barrington travels to Hollywood at the request of the country’s hottest movie star, Vance Calder. Vance is now married to writer Arrington Carter, Stone’s former lover. When Vance tells Stone that Arrington is missing and asks for his help in finding her, it’s a request that Stone can’t refuse. Once Stone arrives in Hollywood he finds that he likes the expensive cars, the fancy restaurants, the glamorous people, even the opportunity to act in a movie—until he realizes that all the activity is distracting him from doing what he’s there for.

Stone Barrington continues to think with the least intellectual part of his male anatomy. I keep hoping he’ll learn a lesson from his behavior. I’m talking practicality here, not necessarily morality. All anyone who wants to search Stone’s hotel room has to do is arrange for a beautiful woman to meet him for a drink in the hotel bar. Stone will gladly follow her home and stay for as long as she’ll have him.

The plot of Swimming to Catalina is particularly thin and uninspired, and Stone Barrington’s superhuman feats stretch credulity beyond the breaking point. Also, the ending appears to be an attempt to graft some depth of character onto our one-dimensional hero. But Stone’s reaction to circumstances at the end of this novel doesn’t jibe with his earlier character; I don’t buy it for a New York minute.

Although not as bad as Dirt, Swimming to Catalina is a squarely mediocre novel. What I find so disappointing about Stuart Woods’s recent fixation on Stone Barrington is that Woods has demonstrated his ability to create more complex characters and more interesting plots than the Stone Barrington novels reveal. Fortunately, I still have several more of Woods’s earlier works yet to read.

(In addition to Swimming to Catalina, Stone Barrington has appeared in three earlier novels: New York Dead [1991], Dirt [1996], and Dead in the Water [1997]. The best of these four works is Dead in the Water, in which a strong plot makes the lack of character development less noticeable.)

© 1998 by Mary Daniels Brown

Discover more from Notes in the Margin

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top