Title: Hot Springs
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2000
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: As New
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: First Edition.
Signed by Author 068486360X This hardcover book is square and tight. The boards and spine have no wear with pristine gilt. The pages and endpages are clean, with no markings or folds. The dustjacket is As New. Original Price is intact. Not ex-lib. No remainder mark. Signed by the Author on the title page without inscription. Bookseller Inventory # 002357
Synopsis: In the summer of 1946, the most wide-open town in America is Hot Springs, Arkansas, a city of ancient, legendary corruption. While the pilgrims take the cure in the mineral-rich 142-degree water that bubbles from the earth, the brothels and casinos are the true source of the town's prosperity. It is run by an English-born gangster named Owney Maddox, who represents the New York syndicate and rules his empire like a Saxon lord while sporting an ascot and jodhpurs.
But it is all about to be challenged. A newly elected county prosecutor wants to take on the big boys and save the city's soul (he also wouldn't mind being the next governor). He begins a war on the gambling interests and, knowing the war will be long and bloody, hires an ex-Marine sergeant, Earl Swagger, who won the Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima, to run it. Swagger knows how to fight with guns as well as any man in the world. But he is haunted: the savage fighting he just barely survived and the men he left behind in the Pacific still shadow his mind, leaving a terrible melancholy. There are even darker memories: a murdered father who beat him mercilessly and drove a younger brother to suicide. And he's torn by his own impending fatherhood, as his wife, Junie, nears term. It isn't that Earl Swagger is afraid of dying; more scary still, it's possible that he yearns for it.
The gangsters fight back, setting up a campaign of ambush and counterambush in the brothels, casinos and alleys of the City of the Vapors. Raids erupt into full-out combat amid screaming prostitutes and fleeing johns. The body count mounts. Meanwhile, the politics behind the war are shifting: Will the prosecuting attorney stick with his raiders orsell them out to curry favor with the state's political machine? Will Owney Maddox defeat the raiders but lose a personal battle against a cunning rival from the West who foresees a Hot Springs in the Nevada desert as the future franchise city of organized crime? But most important, will Earl Swagger survive yet another hard war, not merely with his body but also with his soul intact?
Packed with page-turning action, sex, sin and crime, Stephen Hunter's "Hot Springs" is at once a relentlessly violent and deeply touching story.
Review: You can get anything you want in postwar Hot Springs, Arkansas--girls, gambling, drugs, or booze--courtesy of gangster Owney Madden, a picaresque character who affects jodhpurs, ascots, and an English accent to disguise his origins in New York's Hell's Kitchen. A county prosecutor, ambitious for higher office, sees Madden's destruction as the key to his political future, and he thinks Medal of Honor winner Earl Swagger is the right man to break Madden's stranglehold on the corrupt city.
A decent man haunted by his warrior past as well as the memory of his suffering at the hands of an abusive father, Earl yearns for the peace and quiet of domesticity with his wife Junie and the child she carries. But his need for "the hot pounding of the gun, the furious intensity of it all," is even more compelling. Earl's fearlessness in the face of danger is his defense against guilt over having survived both the war and his father's cruelty. Tasked with training a commando cadre to destroy Madden's criminal enterprise, Earl finds a way to channel his violent nature in the service of justice, despite his suspicions about his boss's political agenda, which threatens to compromise his assignment and destroy his team.
A prequel to Stephen Hunter's three well-reviewed suspense thrillers starring Earl's son, former marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Point of Impact, Black Light, Dirty White Boys), Hot Springs is bloody, hard-boiled fiction at its best. Hunter's precise descriptions of combat, hardware, and commando training are rendered in spare, uncluttered prose, and the melodrama around a key subplot--Earl's tangled, love-hate relationship with his murdered father--enhances rather than detracts from the novel's superb pacing and powerful narrative. Another subplot, involving Madden's rivalry with Bugsy Siegel, whose plan to create a rival sin city in Las Vegas threatens his own prominence, is less successful, but that's a minor quibble. While it's the only part of Hot Springs that doesn't fully engage the reader, it highlights Hunter's verisimilitude in depicting the heady post-World War II era. This is a highly readable book that should send grateful fans to Hunter's backlist as soon as they've turned the last page. --Jane Adams
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