A Bomb  Built in Hell: Wesley's Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

A Bomb Built in Hell: Wesley's Story

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  277 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Before Burke, before Cross, Andrew Vachss created Wesley: a ruthless assassin who would stop at nothing to take out his targets. A BombBuilt in Hell is Wesley's story.

While doing extended time for killing a fellow prisoner, Wesley meets Carmine Trentoni in a New York state prison. Carmine's life sentence hasn't cut him off from his outside sources, and he sees great pote...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Vintage (first published 2000)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 432)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Dec 07, 2012 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Kevin at Open Books
Shelves: signed-by-author
"Andrew Vachss makes other crime novels/shows look like Teletubbies." ~ Kevin Elliot introducing Andrew Vachss at Open Books

Ok, so for two weeks leading up to Andrew Vachss' arrival at Open Books back in November, Kevin Elliot the book store guru at Open Books, kept saying how much he enjoyed this author and was so happy to have him come back to Chicago to do a reading at Open Books again.

I had not ever read a book by him, nor had I met him, so I figured I would be a book store volunteer that ni...more
Amy Lignor
Written in 1973, this is one of those novels that’s both intriguing and hard-to-take at times due to some of the in-depth and bloody descriptions. This is not a slam, by the way, this is a real ‘shout-out’ to the writing ability of this author.

Wesley is our main character and is not new to Vachss’ readers. After spending many years in prison, Wesley is now a fabulous hit man. (If you can use that adjective when describing this occupation.) Going back in time, Wesley was a juvenile delinquent who...more
Tim Niland
Before Burke there was Wesley (an omnipresent character alive or dead in the subsequent Burke series) and this book, originally written in 1973 and rejected by every publisher Vachss brought it to, was Wesley's story. Finally made available in digital format, it's a dark and brutal tale that shows Vachss' style already finely honed. Parentless child Wesley moves through a series of foster homes before being sent to Korea in the US Army as a plea deal to avoid jail. During the Korean War Wesley b...more
Neil McCrea
"I know this: it's gonna be right here -- no more of this overseas stuff. Right here, right in our own country."
"It's not our country."
"Then whose is it? If we can't have it, maybe nobody should have it."
"Nobody can blow up America, Wesley."
"Right. But I can sure as hell make them think somebody can."

Here we finally have the legendary/infamous lost Vacchs novel, and it's everything I've ever loved about his writing without all of the baggage that comes with long running series. The novel was wri...more
Diane S.
I think this is actually the first book Vachss wrote but could not get it published. I think Wesley is probably one of the uniquest characters in fiction and in this book we find out how he was trained, in prison, and what he did when he got out. Plenty of action, much violence which is to be expected and a good thriller as he takes on the mob and finds his place.
Michael Fredette
A Bomb Built in Hell is Vachss's first novel, written in 1972 and not published until forty years later. It was apparently rejected by numerous publishers for being 'unrealistic' which is ironic because it proved to be a very prescient novel. It tells the story of Wesley, a street kid coerced by the courts into joining the army and serving in Korea where he learns to survive by killing even men ostensibly on 'his side' (including an American sergeant leading them to death). Wesley is given a dis...more
Anthony Annucci
As another review said, this book should be read with the understanding that it was Mr. Vachss first novel and that many of it's elements were refined and included in the long-running and brutally hard-hitting and educational Burke Novels.
The truly terrifying thing about this novel is how prophetic it was. The novel was written in the 1970s; long before Columbine and the many similar horrors that have occurred since. It is like Mr. Vachss always says; We make our own monsters.
Unfortunately, ou...more
Andrew Vachss writes about the least among us and his main creation, Burke, is a warrior for children-wronged. I have only read a few books about Burke (and too many years ago) so maybe I have it wrong. Vachss wrote this book before "Flood" and all that came after. It wasn't published because it was too 'dire', or at least so it's reported. After reading this book I don't buy that. This is Wesley's story. To call him an anti-hero is to cut him way too much slack. He is a sick, twisted madman who...more
This author is a lawyer who has specialized in child abusive situations for years. He has only represented children only for some time. He wrote a series revolving around Burke, a survivor who never knew his own family and grew up in the state system. The author has a real flair for portraying the natural spunk of kids making do and making things work for themselves in impossible situations. Burke and other some other survivors rather developed their own "family" with strong affections and loyal...more
Evangeline Jennings
I see some readers criticising Andrew Vachss' writing style. I don't understand that at all. His prose is as tight and brutal as the world he is describing. It's completely at one with the rhythms of the story.

The problems with A Bomb Built In Hell have nothing to do with Vachss' technique. They come in two plot flavours.

First, Wesley is a recurring character in and touchpoint for Vachss' landmark Burke series. Yet this story - originally written before the first Burke - does not sync with the c...more
Dark and violent, which is pretty much what I expect from a Vachss novel. It doesn't have the same sharp, clipped style I have come to love from the Burke series, but the story was an interesting look at Wesley's character development. Very disturbing read, as we are watching the shaping of a murderer, which is not quite the view I have of him in the Burke series. Assassin, yes; but this disregard for human life is not what is the most gut wrenching. The most disturbing thing is the apparent lac...more
Carolyn Booker
This was a stretch for me since the topic was so dark. I enjoyed his characters and writing, but I'm not sure what the point of all the violence was.
Leider fand ich die Charaktere nicht spannend. Einfach nicht meine bevorzugte Lektüre
The book of Wesley, and the pre-cursor to the Burke books, it is best understood as an experiment which led to the refinement of the Burke series. Although I enjoyed it, I would suggest that is really for completionists. I had already finished the first dozen or so Burke books and Vachss' short fiction when I read it, and the ragged edges of a first novel showed, but it was instructive to see how the characterization and themes had evolved. Definitely not the first Vachss book for anyone to star...more
A release of an old Vachss novel, "A Bomb Built in Hell" is the story of Wesley, the ice man ghost killer from the Burke series. I'd been wanting to read this book for years since I first heard Vachss talk about it at a Barnes and Noble book signing in 2003. Man, do I ever miss Burke, the Prof, Max the Silent, Michelle, The Mole, Terry, and Clarence. They aren't in this novel, but it clearly sets the stage for the Burke books. The ending of the novel will cause some wincing in light of current e...more
Terrible. I have never read anything by this author before but apparently this was his first novel written in the 70s but not published until recently. The prose is written on a grade school level. Took about 3hrs to finish the entire "book." Considering the content and the current political climate regarding mass shootings and children the library should probably ban it. Some kid might get the wrong idea and attempt to follow the blueprint for a Columbine-esque mass shooting laid out at the con...more
Matt Bucaro
This is a great hit man novel. The writing is rough, cold and distant. This was probably ahead of its time when written which was why it wasnt published until much later.
Well I'm not done yet, but I must say I'm not disappointed. I read "Shella" a while back and was utterly enthralled and disturbed at the same time. Vachss has this uncanny way of describing the most brutal of human actions with such nonchalance that I've had to go back and reread several passages just to convince myself that Wesley, the cold-blooded antihero, really just did that. Not for the faint of heart. At all.
Thomas Pluck
For die hard Burke fans this tells the story of Wesley, and much of it was incorporated into the Burke series. It was still a great read, and speaks unpolished truth. Wesley is gripping and terrifying character and his origins here are worth exploring. For new readers, I'd read the Burke books first before going back to this one, to see the roots laid bare.
Craig Parker
Vachss is just amazing here, telling us the story of Wesley, one of the scariest characters every put on paper. Written in a simplistic, cold-blooded style, with an ending ripped straight out of today's headlines -not bad, considering it was written over thirty years ago- ABBIH is proof that Vachss' Burke had every right to be scared of Wesley.
Vachss intensity is clear and bright here. He, and his characters, understand people and themselves in ways that you wish they didn't. You'd sleep better if you didn't know, anyway.

I'm trying to figure out how Wesley's story fits in with the Burke books. I probably shouldn't try.

I've got some ideas.

What was the Kid's name, anyway?
I was intrigued by the description of the book when I was searching for any other Vachss on Kindle and was not disappointed in it. I rather like its stark text and bleakness, the ideas presented of a near perfect criminal and his code and can clearly see how Flood was developed from this. Well worth a read if you like his other novels.
Erika Van
So good... not for beginners though... incredible that this was his first novel, not surprising that no one would publish it in the early 70s.
I love Andrew Vachss, the Burke series in one of my favourites, so good in fact that I have not read the last 2 books because I don't want it to end! Just a bit crazy ;)

Gilbert Wilcox
A book about loyalty in a violent world, filled with characters seeking revenge who end up carrying it to extremes in a very cold, methodical way until their time is up. The ending is abrupt but well planned, the loyalty ensured to continue, as the next generation watches in awe, ready to continue the work.
May 05, 2008 Jared rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Andrew Vachss, crime/noir fans
This is amazing, amazing stuff and is available online as a free download. Written in 1973, it was never published, failing to attract enough interest (and accused of being "science fiction"). This novel tells the story of an ice-hearted hitman living in 1970's New York. Utterly brutal and relentless.
Brad Wojak
Mr. Vachss' long awaited first book finally sees a traditional release. This novel explores the life of Wesley, the shadowy figure from the Burke series. This novel is self-contained and no knowledge of the series would be required to enjoy this fine book.
David Ward
A Bomb Built in Hell: Wesley's Story by Andrew Vachss (Vintage Books 2012) (Fiction: Mystery) is the back story of Vachss' greatest criminal creation, or how the only man who Burke fears came to be. My rating: 6/10, finished 8/31/13.
Tom Hicks
An excellent author but a very violent book that you have to be careful reading. I covers alot of things, bombings, killings, cop killing etc. Loved the faithful protective dog of course. Good book but didn't like the ending. Cheers.
A sociopath with no connections to society is taught to be an assassin and given a mission of revenge. At loose ends after he has accomplished his task, he turns to terrorism to give his life meaning.
A good read, but lacking the heart that make the Burke novels so compelling. However, a good 'prequel' to his later works, but the 'Wesley' in this novel is different than the Burke books.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 14 15 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Pursuit
  • Doc: The Rape of the Town of Lovell
  • L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories
  • Leather Maiden
  • Gun Monkeys
  • The First Quarry (Hard Case Crime #48)
  • A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined as Grotesque Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations
  • Australia
  • Final Witness
  • Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire
  • Transmetropolitan: Filth of the City
  • The Confessions of Arsène Lupin (Arsène Lupin, #6)
  • The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, Red Harvest
  • The Bloomsday Dead (Michael Forsythe #3)
  • The Adding Machine: Selected Essays
  • True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society
  • Once Were Cops
Andrew Vachss has been a federal investigator in sexually transmitted diseases, a social-services caseworker, a labor organizer, and has directed a maximum-security prison for “aggressive-violent” youth. Now a lawyer in private practice, he represents children and youths exclusively. He is the author of numerous novels, including the Burke series, two collections of short stories, and a wide varie...more
More about Andrew Vachss...
Flood (Burke, #1) Strega (Burke, #2) Blue Belle (Burke, #3) Hard Candy (Burke, #4) Shella

Share This Book

“Stealing to eat ain’t criminal—stealing to be rich is.” 49 likes
“It isn’t much use writing slogans on a wall if you plan to total the building.” 5 likes
More quotes…