Stewart, Mike 1955-
STEWART, Mike 1955-
Born May 15, 1955, in Vredenburgh, AL. Education: Auburn University, bachelor's degree; Cumberland School of Law of Samford University, law degree.
Agent—Sally Hill McMillan & Assoc., 429 East Kingston Ave., Charlotte, NC 28203. E-mail—[email protected].
Writer and attorney. Worked in the timber business, as a cowboy, and as a farm hand. Atlanta Journal, copy editor; corporate litigator; general counsel of a large healthcare company.
Associate editor of Cumberland Law Review; best mystery of the year citation, Publishers Weekly, for A Clean Kill, 2002.
Sins of the Brother, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
Dog Island, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.
A Clean Kill, Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
A stand-alone suspense novel entitled A Perfect Life, Bantam/Random House, 2005.
A long-time practicing attorney based in Alabama, Mike Stewart had always wanted to write. After taking a university-level course in writing and being told that he had talent, Stewart quit his job and wrote his first mystery, Sins of the Brother, in eight months. Several agents told him that his book was extremely well written but said that it would not sell to a publisher. Stewart told Louise Jones in an interview for Publishers Weekly, "Finally I called one, who said since Grisham every lawyer in America has written a legal thriller," which Stewart thought strange since his novels are traditional mysteries and not legal thrillers. Through a friend, Stewart found an agent who cared more about the writing than whether he was another lawyer-turned-writer. His agent sent the manuscript to five of the largest publishers in New York, and three wanted to publish it. Stewart said, "I always tell this story to beignning writers. It's tough sometimes to get past people who think they know the 'business' of publishing. But, in the end, it's the quality of the work that counts."
Sins of the Brother was published in 2000 and is the first book in a series featuring successful Mobile, Alabama, attorney Tom McInnes. When his younger brother Hall dies, McInnes, who has resigned from a large law firm with the hopes of starting his own practice, puts his aspirations on hold and travels back to his small-town family home in Cooper's Bend, Alabama, to try and discover who shot his brother. Hall, it turns out, was a drug smuggler and dealer. As the hard-nosed McInnes begins to investigate Hall's shady associates, he becomes their prime target, surviving several attempts on his life. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio thought that Stewart committed "some writing clunkers" that, she noted, "undermine Stewart's otherwise smart debut." By contrast, Rex E. Klett, writing in Library Journal, praised Sins of the Brother and noted that the author "has developed a solid sense of both place and character." Several reviewers also praised the novel's tone and setting. A Kirkus Reviews contributor remarked, "An atmospheric setting, evocative family background, Chinese box of a plot, and a hero tough and clever enough to surprise you as much as the bad guys—it all makes for the most accomplished debut of the season."
In Stewart's second mystery, Dog Island, McInnes—who has evolved into a combination of an attorney and a detective—is asked to look into the case of a young runaway girl who is trying to escape from her abusive father and, in the process, witnesses a murder on an isolated beach in Florida's Panhandle. As McInnes investigates, he encounters the wide range of social groups present in the Panhandle, including mill workers, fishers, entrepreneurs, and Latino activists. Realizing that he is somewhat out of his element when he discovers that the local sheriff is working with the local "Redneck Mafia," McInnes gets help from a private detective named Joey who was once a navy intelligence agent. Writing in Booklist, reviewer George Needham praised Stewart for his character development and noted, "Tom's strong arm, Joey, is more than just muscle; he has texture and complexity, as evidenced in his choice of lady friends, an exstripper with a heart of steel name Loutie." A contributor to Publishers Weekly remarked, "This is a good, fast read, but not for the squeamish."
The third McInnes mystery, A Clean Kill, has many of the elements of a legal thriller. When a female juror serving on a multimillion-dollar civil-suit case mysteriously dies from food poisoning, McInnes soon finds himself investigating a prestigious law firm. He discovers that, in many of the firm's cases, mysterious instances of illnesses have hampered the cases against their clients. However, unlike other legal thrillers, A Clean Kill focuses more on the characteristics of greed and politics behind jury tampering and avoids the standard courtroom scenes. Although a reviewer writing in Kirkus Reviews remarked that the basic plot elements have already been used in many other novels, the reviewer added, "But stylish Tom, who's smarter than most humans, is enough to keep you turning the pages." Klett, writing in Library Journal, commented that the mystery had a "tense, nerve-wracking narrative, nonstop action, and a tightly mortared plot." Booklist contributor David Pitt remarked, "For fans of character-driven legal thrillers—such as those written by Phillip Margolin, John Lescroart, and Scott Turow—this one's a definite keeper." Publishers Weekly named A Clean Kill one of its "best mysteries of the year," for 2002.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1999, George Needham, review of Sins of the Brother, p. 74; December 1, 2000, George Needham, review of Dog Island, p. 58; November 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of A Clean Kill, p. 558.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1999, review of Sins of the Brother, p. 1351; November 15, 2001, review of A Clean Kill, p. 1586.
Kliatt, May, 2002, Barbara Jo McKee, review of Dog Island, p. 22.
Library Journal, October 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Sins of the Brother, p. 138; March 15, 2000, Margaret Hanes, review of Sins of the Brother, p. 156; January, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of A Clean Kill, p. 157.
New York Times Book Review, October 17, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Sins of the Brother, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, August 23, 1999, review of Sins of the Brother, p. 50; December 18, 2000, review of Dog Island, p. 58; November 26, 2001, review of A Clean Kill, p. 41; November 26, 2001, Louise Jones, "PW Talks with Mike Steward," p. 41.
Mike Stewart's Home Page,http://www.mike-stewart.com/ (November 12, 2003).