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2000 – Hot Springs

Hunter’s first book for Simon & Schuster.

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From the hardback dustjacket:

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 counter ambush 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 or sell 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.

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15 Responses to “2000 – Hot Springs”

  1. Steve Says:

    I really enjoyed this book, I can see a little, (very little) of myself in Earl Swagger.

  2. Tom Schwab Says:

    Besides explicit references to real-life characters in this book (e.g., Harry Truman, Mickey Rooney) there are at least two real-life characters that are only hinted at. The first, "Bill" from Mississippi, is a screen-writer accompanying Humphrey Bogart to a Hollywood nightclub. That has to be William Faulkner, before receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. There's also a homosexual poolboy named "Roy", who covertly eyes Ben Siegel's package. That has to be Roy Scherer, Jr. before he became Rock Hudson. Are there any others like these two lurking in this story?

  3. William Says:

    If you think Bob is a mans man read this book. Earl is a mans mans man and then a whole lot more. Probably my favorite Hunter book and I’ve read them all at least twice each. Forget booze Hunter is pure addiction.

  4. Rocky Says:

    This was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I have ever had.
    I just turned 40 so I was not alive when Hot Springs was booming. This book seems to bring all that history to life for me. I hope there is more to come, and what I really wish is that a movie could be made. Thank you so much.

  5. Arky Boy Says:

    This book changed my life. Being very familiar with many parts of Arkansas, this brought history to life for me. It also happened to be my first Stephen Hunter book, a hand-me-down. Needless to say, after completing this fine work, I went down and bought ALL of Mr. Hunter’s available novels, and even watched Shooter (which was actually pretty well done). I’m a Stephen Hunter fan for life now, which says a lot considering I’m not really a fan of the genre by any count. I admire the man’s work, truly.

  6. Imjin138 Says:

    I enjoyed Hot Springs very much, I liked the detail in the book and the plot. A good ole boy taught the gansters a lesson they won’t soon forget. I have read most of his novels and I enjoy them all.

  7. dave Says:

    OK I really liked the book, but why would he leave half the magazines for the BAR in the trunk of the car. That seems to have been done clearly just so he could run out of ammo for the benefit of the plot

  8. My Blog Title Says:

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  9. Mack Says:

    Probably the best of his novels: great character development

  10. nico Says:

    i liked stephen hunter characters in his novels. earl swagger is a tough minded man of honor. i haven’t finished tapestries of spies and havana. and i am really impressed with levitsky and speshnev character respectively. i hoped mr. hunter will make another book about them. like a prequel or something. for sure there are lot of earl swagger in the u.s.m.c today serving their country very well. now. i am a stephen hunter fan. so keep it up mr. hunter. ( i like the movie “the shooter”.., i’ll read the book point of impact )

  11. john pearson Says:

    I live about 20 minutes from Hot Springs and have for most of my life.I became interested in the history of the town a coupla years ago.What a fasinating place! I had done quite a bit of research when a friend of mine presented me with the book. The detail Steven gives about the town is amazing. He surely did alot of research.I’m 47 years old so I wasnt around when it was booming but the old timers have told me some real good stories.I now will go out and purchase all of Mr. Hunters books.

  12. Bill Boyce Says:

    I have read A Time to Hunt and Hot Springs, and greatly enjoyed both. I plan to read others as well. Two points: (1) there are no ex-marines. Once a marine, always a marine, or at least a “former” marine; and (2) I am a Scot-Irish, not a scotch-Irish. Scotch is a drink, a Scot is from Scotland.

  13. Kris Says:

    AHA!! So that’s where Frenchy Short came from!! Loved the book — my father was a US Postal Inspector based in Kansas City during the same era as Hot Springs, and many of his stories of that period are similar to what Earl Swagger experienced. I’d love to see Hunter write more on Frenchy’s adventures following Earl’s experiences in Havana. Hunter tells America’s history far better than any textbook — I’ve recommended both Hot Springs and Havana to my high school-age grandkids. It’s difficult to be a proud American after seeing the political corruption on the evening news, but thanks to Hunter’s books I believe there are more than a few people like Earl and Bob Lee Swagger doing their best for our country.

  14. John Spurrell Says:

    Perhaps because of the detailed research evident on other subjects the glaring errors concerning aviation and boats stand out more than they otherwise would. In Hard Bargain Valley the plane is landing and will then take off in the opposite direction. Both are done in the same direction, into the wind. Imagine the peril if landing aircraft had to dodge departing aircraft.

    On the yacht they will go “Three Sheets,” a term for being extremely drunk. also the time is referred to as either ten or eleven bells (I don’t have the book in front of me); eight bells is the maximum, a bell is rung every half hour in the four hour watches. Ten o-clock would be four bells in the evening watch and eleven six bells.

  15. Deb Says:

    I’ve been listining to books on tape for a year. This is the best one. I really liked it.

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