Stewart, Fred Mustard 1936–
Stewart, Fred Mustard 1936–
PERSONAL: Born September 17, 1936, in Anderson, IN; son of Simeon (a banker) and Janet (Mustard) Stewart; married Joan Richardson (a theatrical agent), March 18, 1968. Education: Princeton University, B.A., 1954.
CAREER: Novelist. Military service: U.S. Coast Guard, 1955–58; became lieutenant junior grade.
The Mephisto Waltz (horror novel), Coward (New York, NY), 1969.
The Methuselah Enzyme (horror novel), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1970.
Lady Darlington (novel), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1971.
The Mannings (novel), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1973.
Star Child (horror novel), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1974.
Six Weeks (novel), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1976.
A Rage against Heaven (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1978.
Century (novel), Morrow (New York, NY), 1981.
Ellis Island (novel; also see below), Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.
(With Christopher Newman) Ellis Island (television miniseries; based on the novel by Stewart), Columbia Broadcasting System, 1984.
The Titan (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1985.
The Glitter and the Gold (novel), New American Library (New York, NY), 1989.
Pomp and Circumstance (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.
The Magnificent Savages (novel), Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
The Young Savages (novel), Forge (New York, NY), 1998.
The Naked Savages (novel), Forge (New York, NY), 1999.
The Savages in Love and War (novel), Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
Also author of screenplay The Debutante.
ADAPTATIONS: The Mephisto Waltz was adapted for film and released by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1971; The Norliss Tapes, based on a story by Stewart, was broadcast by NBC-TV on February 21, 1973; Six Weeks was adapted for film and released by Universal in 1982.
SIDELIGHTS: Fred Mustard Stewart is a prolific author of historical-action-adventure novels that typically follow a pair of sundered lovers or a generation of an unusual family through numerous plot turns involving danger, revenge, and passion. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the author's customary storytelling, as revealed in such bestsellers as Ellis Island and The Magnificent Savages, "revels in melodramatic excess but bolsters it with lots of sturdy—and colorful—period detail."
Stewart received widespread recognition as a talented writer with his first novel, The Mephisto Waltz. It is the story of a young writer, Myles Clarkson, whose life becomes intertwined with that of an elderly concert pianist, Duncan Ely, and his beautiful daughter. As the story unfolds, the friendly father and daughter become more and more sinister—particularly after the old man's death. Allen J. Hubin, reviewing The Mephisto Waltz for the New York Times Book Review, called the novel "a must for every addict of the Satanic and the supernatural," with an "eerie plot, which [Stewart] weaves, with diabolical skill, to the last page." In the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, Chris Morgan declared The Mephisto Waltz "a sparkling piece of writing which is totally credible and promises great things…. Many aspects of the novel are finely written."
Though he produced two more horror novels (The Methuselah Enzyme and Star Child), Stewart has since concentrated on historical sagas that tell of the trials and triumphs of families through several generations. His successful novels Century and Ellis Island belong to this genre. Because of the tremendous breadth—and length—necessitated by this type of writing, certain pitfalls inevitably accompany family sagas. Stewart, however, has consistently negotiated these challenges, claim critics. As James K. Glassman stated in the Washington Post: "Stewart has a talent for writing sparely, for jamming in facts and feelings without giving readers the impression that he's skipping along from one melodrama to another—which, of course, is exactly what he's doing." A reviewer for the West Coast Review of Books, though, was less tolerant of such shortcomings. In a review of the 1985 novel The Titan, the critic proclaimed that "the problem with Stewart's novel is its clumsy writing, shallow characters, and inept contrivances…. For a potboiler, The Titan barely simmers." However, New York Times Book Review writer Jodi Daynard defended Stewart, saying that "in the course of any 500-page saga … there are bound to be snags, and the best thing to be said about The Titan is that it has just enough momentum to surmount them." Glassman concluded: "Stewart … is a craftsman. He has the family saga down pat."
Stewart's more recent novels have focused on an extraordinary man, Justin Savage, and his equally-spirited children, John and Julie. The Magnificent Savages tells Justin's story. As the illegitimate son of a shipping magnate, he is sent to sea at age twelve, narrowly missing being murdered by his jealous half-brother. Justin falls in love with a missionary's daughter, but fate intervenes and he marries first a beautiful Chinese pirate queen and then an Italian countess. In Booklist, Kathleen Hughes praised The Magnificent Savages as an "epic saga of doomed love, sibling rivalry, and swashbuckling on the high seas," concluding that the story "will please fans of [Stewart's] earlier work."
The Young Savages takes up the family history when Justin's two children have reached the rebellious years of young adulthood. Stung by her rejection in New York upper-class social circles, Julie decides to embrace her Chinese heritage. Meanwhile, half-Italian Johnny finds adventure exploring the Dakotas with his college friend, Theodore Roosevelt, and Justin loses his wife to an Italian lover. Library Journal contributor Maria A. Perez-Stable maintained that The Young Savages "paints a colorful picture of the lives of the rich and famous in late-19th-century American and Britain, and even if [Stewart's] characters sometimes seem larger than life, his tale is certainly entertaining." A Kirkus Reviews critic deemed the novel a "free-wheeling yarn in which historical figures are airily rung in like wind chimes … a gossipy, meandering tale, lightweight and as smooth as butter in the telling."
The Naked Savages and The Savages in Love and War take the family through the years of the Spanish-American War to the brink of World War II. In the former title, Johnny Savage has found wealth as a banker after being shot and losing a leg in Cuba. Trouble, however, comes from his nasty stepson, Cesare, who is a bootlegger and tries to blackmail his family, and from Johnny's poor judgment in backing a rising Hollywood starlet. Most of the action occurs during the Roaring Twenties as Johnny struggles to save his family's empire. Although a Publishers Weekly reviewer complained that the story was too much like a "soap opera," the critic conceded that it was an entertainingly "racy drama, not to mention a painless way to learn some American history." Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan added that she enjoyed this "hugely entertaining family saga steeped in history and set against a glittering international backdrop." The Savages in Love and War sees Johnny in his declining years as young Nick Savage tries to save the family fortunes during the Great Depression, and the Savage clan becomes entwined in international intrigue. Nick becomes an ambassador to Germany, while Brook Savage joins her husband in the French Resistance. Flanagan, writing in another Booklist review, concluded that The Savages in Love and War "is another satisfying installment in a juicy dynastic saga."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
America, May 3, 1969, p. 539.
Booklist, June 1, 1996, p. 1677; February 1, 1998; August, 1999, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Naked Savages, p. 2030; August, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Savages in Love and War, p. 2092.
Book World, March 29, 1970, p. 13.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1991; March 1, 1996; January 1, 1998.
Library Journal, January, 1998, p. 145.
Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1985.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 26, 1981, p. 21; March 13, 1983, p. 8; October 15, 1989, p. 14; September 23, 1990, p. 14.
New York Times, March 14, 1969, p. 39; December 1, 1973, p. 31.
New York Times Book Review, April 6, 1969, p. 27; June 8, 1969, p. 28; August 30, 1970, p. 34; January 9, 1972, p. 32; October 28, 1973, p. 48; October 3, 1976, p. 39; March 6, 1983, p. 28; January 29, 1984, p. 30; April 7, 1985, p. 14; November 5, 1989, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, April 1, 1996, p. 58; December 1, 1997, p. 46; July 5, 1999, review of The Naked Savages, p. 60.
Saturday Review, April 19, 1969, p. 42.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), November 19, 1989, p. 9.
Wall Street Journal, October 30, 1973, p. 18; September 11, 1978, p. 24; April 9, 1985, p. 28.
Washington Post, April 3, 1981, p. C8.
Washington Post Book World, July 2, 1972, p. 13; February 6, 1983, p. 6.
West Coast Review of Books, March, 1983, p. 34; May, 1985, p. 33; Volume 15, number 2, 1989, p. 42.