The Hot Spot
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The Hot Spot

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  415 ratings  ·  27 reviews
A dark, brooding masterpiece of guilt, greed, and lust in a town ripe for felony.

Madox wasn't all bad.He was just half-bad.But trap a man like Madox in a dead-end job in a stultifying small town, introduce him to a femme fatale like the Harshaw woman, and give him a shot at a fast fifteen thousand dollars--in a bank just begging to be knocked over--and his better nature do...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published October 10th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1953)
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Best Noir
108th out of 444 books — 498 voters
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Best of the Pulp Magazine Authors and Literature
143rd out of 311 books — 136 voters

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Community Reviews

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Dan Schwent
Madox is new to town when he hatches a scheme to rob the bank. At the same time, he's having an affair with his boss's wife and has the hots for the loan officer at the used car lot where he works. The robbery goes as smoothly as it can but Madox's life goes spiraling out of control in a web of sex, murder, and blackmail.

I'm going to have to track down more Charles Williams books. The writing was slick and the book had so many "Oh shit!" plot twists that I lost count. While Mrs. Harshaw was pure...more
I prefer the original title "Hell Hath No Fury" , but "The Hot Spot" works too. Mother Nature conspired to put me in the mood for this, by bringing 42 Celsius in the shade (108 F) heat wave upon my humble town. I really feel the pain of Harry Madox, trapped in a stifling motel room, drenched in sweat and contemplating his bleak future in a dead end job. Standing there looking around at the evidence of boredom was like watching a burning fuse. He's only 30 years old, but his voice in the...more
With his fourth novel, Charles Williams hits his stride. In Hell Hath No Fury, an Average Joe moves to a small town to work at a used car lot, and he happens to notice how easy it would be to rob the local bank. Women and noir ensue. This is a classic novel of its type, in which a sympathetic protagonist does rather unsympathetic things, but we root for him all the same as events spiral out of his control. In order to enjoy books of this sort, readers must grant writers a bit of latitude in the...more
Gerard Cappa
Classic 50's pulp fiction. Harry Madox is a drifter, and drifts right into a maelstrom of opportunity and temptation; a bank begging to be robbed, a beautiful young girl with troubles, his boss' bored wife who is trouble.

"I was still sweltering when I went back to the room. I couldn't sleep. In the next room an old man was reading aloud to his wife from the Bible, laboring slowly through the Book of Genesis, a begat at a time, and pronouncing it with the accent on the first syllable. I lay there...more
Otto Penzler
The Hot Spot is a novel with the perfect mixture of greed, guilt, lust, revenge, and violence that exemplifies 50's noir. Harry Modox, a drifter, wanders into town one day and finds a job at a used car lot. Soon, he’s talked into robbing a bank and, before he knows it, he’s tangled up in murder, an affair with his boss’ wife, and a beautiful girl not entirely what she seems. Small town America is intimately felt, William’s characters are colorful and sleazy, and the plot is fast-paced and exitin...more
Oct 19, 2013 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sex fiends
Shelves: pulp-fiction
Pretty inspired sleaze from the unheralded king of erotic noir, Charles Williams. If you haven't seen the steamy Dennis Hopper movie starring Don Johnson, then check out the novel about the used car dealer who knocks off a bank while knocking around the local Madonna and the local whore, all within the same 190 pages. The pages will make your fingers burn and so will your pants!
Nov 18, 2013 Lars rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: crime
A classic of hardboiled crime fiction. Don't read this book if you like perfectly sketched characters who always act logical and reasonable. Don't read this novel if you expect a story to develop slowly over hundreds of pages. Don't read this book if you have problems with the one-sided perception of woman. But read this book if you like it when a story starts right in the middle. Read this novel if you like page-turners with a fast, but not too simple diction. And read this book, if you take pl...more
I read this some time ago, and for some reason I thought this was a book by Charles Wileford (?). Anyway, this author did a wonderful job of concentrating on just what you needed for the story and no more. The setting, with its one-horse town and the one family in town with some money, will stick with you. The bored wife who could chop your nuts off if you do the wrong thing seemed like a real person in an era of bullshit femme fatales. The writing reminded me of Highsmith with a little Jim Thom...more
I really enjoyed this novel, it establishes a real sense of place and atmosphere. You can feel the small town, the heat, the claustrophobic room the main character lives in and his restlessness.

This novel follows Harry Madox who moves into a sleepy small town and gets a dead-end job in a used car lot. His first day in town there's a fire at a diner, and when he walks into the bank he realizes everyone's left to help at the fire. Harry sees how easy it would be to create another diversion and jus...more
João  Cardeira Jorge
Jun 03, 2014 João Cardeira Jorge rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any noir fan!
Recommended to João by: Dennis Hopper!
“The Hot Spot” is a great noir book, period. Its all here. The “femme fatale”, the protagonist, that has no morals and gets over his head and the “good girl” who will redeem him. A hellish heat and a small town are used almost as characters, giving the perfect mood to the tale and the plot is full of twists and plans that go wrong and a “not so happy” ending. The book has no flaws. The writing is crisp, the characters all jump out of the page and the pace is absolutely perfect. There´s a sense o...more
Allan Nail
Surprisingly good thriller if you like hardboiled fiction. I admit, I was attracted by the cover-- I looked so tawdry, so trashy, I couldn't resist. I love the hardboiled detective genre, so I thought I'd give this a go. It's a short read, made longer by new-fatherhood, but it was one I looked forward to each night no matter how tired.

This is the first book I've read by Williams, but I have more and will read more. In this volume, anyway, he has as a main character an antihero not unlike a lot...more
(A Goodreads recommendation that I'd already read.) The original title of this book, I think, is Hell Hath No Fury. I'm a big fan of Williams's hardboiled stuff and his nautical thrillers. Hot Spot is a good place to start.
Having seen the movie 5 or 6 times I was curious about the book, but was sort of expecting it not to live up to the excellence of the movie. The book and the movie aren't much different from each other, both are great.
Tom Bim
See...another book that proves the "the book was better" axiom. Pulpy, noiry, and femme fataley. Crisp and clean like a green apple.
Douglas P
I really wanted to like this novel more. Throughout it, I was on the precipice waiting for some nasty revelation, some slap-in-the-face twist, some sleaze that crept off the pulpy page, but what I got was an expectation unfulfilled. The novel is cleanly written, paced well enough, and the setting of small town USA feels real and tangible - however Williams seems to play it easy, as though he's playing to the reader's sensibilities - unlike Goodis or Thompson who went quite the opposite, and toye...more
Franken Stan
excellent book.
fast but not deep, there is some pleasure in anticipating where the story is going in genre fiction: satisfaction when the story takes an unanticipated but correct twist. does not happen here. linear and too predictable. this makes me think of postman always rings twice death row confession, though the author is not dead. he is condemned to be free. i think i wanted a conclusive, cathartic, probably violent resolution.
Jerry Peace
It doesn't get any better than this: "She was as crazy as frozen dynamite." and "But, as always, when I gathered her up and threw her out of my mind there was a little of her left over, the way there is in a room a girl has just walked through."
The original title to this was "Hell hath no fury" and thats what happens,but not till the last chapter. It starts with Maddox, a drifter who comes into a small town and sees some opportunities, then his luck turns from good to bad. My rating 3.8
Count Duckula
'This is the way it looks at thirty, I thought; anybody want to stay for forty?' How come noir gets truer every day? Why slog through volumes of turgid existentialist philosophy when its all here in a nutshell?
A great example of 50's pulp crime, told from the "bad guy's" perspective. The plot starts to go a little off the rails in the third act, but the great ending redeems it.
Originally "Hell Hath No Fury"; apparently, the new name comes from the movie made in 1990. In any case, this is classic hard-boiled noir. I have to read it again.
William Thomas
this book rivals most of the jim thompson novels i've read. last thing i needed, another noir writer to fall in love with. absolutely cinematic and gorgeous dialogue.
oh man, pure sweetness, i mean in a relative sense, warped and screwed - worth checking out the film, even though it has Don Johnson in it.
Everything you want and expect from a classic '50s noir tale.
Dec 02, 2007 martha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: noir lovers
great story - good twists, written in the noir/mystery of old
Adria marked it as to-read
Jul 08, 2014
Alan Livingston
Alan Livingston marked it as to-read
Jul 08, 2014
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Charles Williams (1909–1975) was one of the preeminent authors of American crime fiction. Born in Texas, he dropped out of high school to enlist in the US Merchant Marine, serving for ten years before leaving to work in the electronics industry. At the end of World War II, Williams began writing fiction while living in San Francisco. The success of his backwoods noir Hill Girl (1951) allowed him t...more
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“What’s the matter with you, Madox? You got a grudge against the world?” 0 likes
“Her mouth was soft and moist, and she came to me like a dachshund jumping into your lap.” 0 likes
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