Friday, December 13, 2013

Stephen Hunter Hits Hot Springs Hard

Hot Springs
Before Bugsy Siegel could get Las Vegas off the ground, mobsters made Hot Springs, Arkansas, their favorite gambling getaway. The town had it all. Gambling halls lit up the night. The liquor was cheap. The sports book hummed away all day. And girls pretended to swoon at the feet of their marks.

All of it was illegal, but the men who ran the show had that under control. The long arm of corruption reached well past local police and all the way to a few state seats. Nobody could stop it. Hot Springs was red hot and Owney Maddox counted on making sure it stayed that way.

Maddox kept the town lively while making sure none of his New York or Chicago connections got pinched. The only raids that took place on his establishments were arranged weeks in advance — tiny favors for front page news.

But all that changes when one attorney sees his chance. 

Newly elected county prosecuting attorney Fred Becker sees taking down Maddox as a career maker. To do it, he brings in legendary FBI agent D.A. Parker (possibly inspired by D.A. "Jelly" Bryce, given his gift for sharp shooting) to assemble and train an unstoppable dream team.

Parker isn't the kind of man to take any chances. His first recruit is protagonist First Sgt. Earl Swagger, an ex-Marine and Medal of Honor recipient who doesn't know what to do with himself at the end of World War II. So despite Swagger's propensity to go on blackout benders, they want him to make sure their men understand military tactics over police procedures.

Hot Springs by Stephen Hunter
Parker hopes such a strong show of force will quell any resistance as they close down all the casino operations in Hot Springs. To do it, he outfits his Jayhawkers with body armor, custom .45 automatics, Thompson submachine guns, and Browning automatic rifles.

Swagger readily accepts the job, immediately feeling that this will give his life purpose again. His pregnant wife is much less amenable to the idea. After worrying about him every day during the war and now carrying his future son, she is terrified Swagger will get hurt or killed.

While Swagger promises her that he will stay out of the line of fire, it's not in his nature to play it safe. Besides, one of his men is a hot head. Another is investigating his past after he shows uncanny insight into a town he claims to have never visited before. And the prosecuting attorney they work for seems easily shaken by negative headlines.

A few graphs about author Stephen Hunter. 

Stephen Hunter
One of the brightest hard-boiled thriller novelists of his generation, Stephen Hunter originally broke into prose as a journalist. He graduated from Northwestern in 1968 with a degree in journalism and was then drafted by the United States Army. He served for two years.

After, he joined the Baltimore Sun in 1971 where he worked at the copy desk until becoming a film critic in 1982. He then moved to the Washington Post in 1997. It was during the 1980s that he first began writing fiction, but it is his Bob Lee Swagger series that captured real attention. Hot Springs introduced Earl Swagger, who is Bob Lee Swagger's father.

Hot Springs By Stephen Hunter Shoots Up 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

On the surface, Hot Springs and other Earl Swagger novels are adrenaline-driven page turners that cast good guys as good and bad guys as bad. But the best aspect of Hunter's writing is in its well-crafted precision. Hot Springs is a thriller, but it's his well-drawn protagonist with a haunted past  that makes the ride worthwhile.

Although originally published in 2000, Hot Springs has been rereleased and is well worth the read. It can be found on Amazon or ordered from Barnes & Noble. It is also available on iBooks, with the audiobook on iTunes narrated by Eric Dove. Dove does a find job with the read, but Hunter has a writing style that seems to play better on the printed or digital page.
blog comments powered by Disqus