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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Republican Chris Stewart, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District, and his wife, Evie, volunteer in the concession booth at a Viewmont High School football game in Bountiful on a recent Friday night.
Chris Stewart’s next big challenge — Congress

The novelist, former pilot says he feels compelled to run for U.S. House seat.

First Published Sep 18 2012 01:32 pm • Last Updated Jul 17 2014 07:27 am

Deep into writing his first novel, Chris Stewart became increasingly aware of an unsettling problem: The villain in his novel just wasn’t working out as the bad guy.

But Stewart’s editors at the publishing house didn’t care. They wanted a draft of the techno-thriller and deadline was approaching fast. The whole story seemed to be in jeopardy because Stewart’s gut told him the antagonist he had worked so long to craft was, in fact, shaping up to be the novel’s hero instead.

At a glance

The Chris Stewart file

Age » 52

Born » Logan

Family » Married with six children

Occupation » Author, businessman

Education » Utah State University, economics degree

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"He just didn’t seem capable of doing the things a villain needed to do," Stewart said. "Yet I knew by changing that, I’d have to go back to the first chapter and begin rewriting the whole thing."

So he did. And the 432-page novel, Shattered Bone, was released in 2000 with Richard Ammon now cast as the double-agent Air Force pilot hero who thwarts a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

By his own admission, Stewart doesn’t hold the effort in particularly high regard ("plot-driven and poor character development"). Reader reviews on Amazon ranged from glowing ("An amazingly good first novel. May he write many, many more!") to scathing ("I wouldn’t be interested in seeing this guy’s other writing even if the books were edible and I was starving to death").

The experience, however, revealed two key things about Stewart. First, he realized he loved writing and has penned 15 books to date. The other was his willingness to change course in the face of an unpleasant task.

Which is perhaps not at all surprising for a 52-year-old economics major who joined the U.S. Air Force as a pilot and ended up writing books while running a consulting business and now is running to represent Utah’s 2nd District in Congress — a political entity that can’t seem to accomplish much and that struggles to have an approval rating in the teens.

"I never thought I’d run for office," he said. "But I just felt I had to do something."

First things first » Born in Logan — with a brief detour in Southern California while his dad was stationed there — Stewart spent his formative years working on a dairy farm.

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Rich Stewart, his older brother by 12 years, said the younger Stewart "had more responsibility than most kids" when he had to get up to stir about 75 cows and milk them — a two-hour task done each day before school. Before opening presents on Christmas. Before doing anything, for that matter.

But Rich Stewart, who works on a farm in Idaho, said he also remembers his younger brother’s early startup business as a teenager.

"There was the time he and a friend tried to start up a fence-post business and another time they started a Christmas tree business," Steward recalled. "None of them were terribly fruitful."

Chris Stewart said while in high school, he thought he wanted to be a lawyer or a pilot. But one thing never occurred to him — joining the military.

Five of his six brothers served in the military and his father had suggested when he was 16 that Stewart might want to consider doing so as well — not necessarily as a career but as a chance to serve.

"I thought it was a dumb idea," Stewart said.

The seed was planted, though, and after serving an LDS Church mission in Texas and studying economics at Utah State University, he enlisted in the Air Force to fly helicopters and said, "Maybe my dad was right after all."

The helicopter piloting lasted for a few years before he decided he wanted to fly airplanes instead. That decision — which sent him back to flight school — ultimately put him on a path to setting an around-the-world flight record on a B-1 bomber.

‘Supersonic Saints’ » Maj. Chris "Stew Babe" Stewart was part of an eight-man crew that in 1995 won the Mackay Trophy for flying a B-1 Lancer over three bombing ranges on three continents in two hemispheres in just over 36 hours. It was highlighted in a book entitled Supersonic Saints: Thrilling Stories from LDS Pilots.

Capt. Kevin Clotfelter, now an educator in California, said the flight was fairly uneventful — a few lightning storms and deviating around a storm — but what did stand out for him was when Stewart quietly revealed a secret to him.

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