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Hot Springs (Earl Swagger #1)

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  3,801 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
The undisputed master of the tough thriller, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Hunter delivers a masterpiece of crime fiction set in 1940s Arkansas, where law and corruption ricochet like slugs from a .45 automatic.

Earl Swagger is tough as hell. But even tough guys have their secrets. Plagued by the memory of his abusive father, apprehensive about his own impendin

Mass Market Paperback, 576 pages
Published July 26th 2011 by Pocket Star (first published June 27th 2000)
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May 01, 2016 Nate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As far as I’m concerned Stephen Hunter is one of the very top-tier candidates of Thriller King. Even when he’s writing about shit that I don’t have a lot of interest in (most obviously the focus on sniping and all kinds of long rifle technologies and tactics from the Bob Lee books) I still find myself getting sucked in, enjoying the over-indulgent details on gun shit and whatnot and reading every book obsessively until it’s finished. Dude just knows how to write a gripping book and it’s so obvio ...more
Rex Fuller
Feb 18, 2017 Rex Fuller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hunter is a knife-man with words. He cuts to the bone wherever he wants the words to go.

Earl Swagger is just back from the war in the Pacific. He sees Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1946, in all its reptilian life: “The club was dark and jammed. Gambling was king here on the upstairs floor, and the odor of the cigarettes and blue density of the smoke in the air were palpable and impenetrable. It smelled like the sulfur in the air at Iwo and the place had a sort of frenzy to it like a beach zeroed by the
A very well written novel. The character and plot development have many sophisticated layers and even though the ending is a bit predictable, the story development isn't. I also really appreciate the way that Stephen Hunter incorporates real life figures into many of his stories.

I will note that I like the Earl Swagger novels far better than the Bobby Lee Swagger novels. I feel that Stephen Hunter spends more time caring about Earl's character. The Bobby Lee novels have the serial writer feel w
Jane Stewart
3 stars. A lot of good action and suspense. But audiobook narrator’s BREATHS hurt the book.

Neat characters. I loved the Earl Swagger tough-guy-soldier fighting mobsters. He uses automatic guns and rifles. Great use of land around him during fights. I had some problems with it, but I still enjoyed it.

One part made me mad. I kind of don’t want to trust this author. Becker the prosecuting attorney hires a dozen soldiers headed by Earl and D.A. Becker wants them to raid gambling casinos owned by th
Nov 27, 2008 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Noir, crime fans.
While I like Hunter's books most of the time, I loved this one. While it's perhaps a little over dramatized, it is well written and suspenseful.

Earl Swagger, a returning WW II vet and Medal of Honor winner, joins a group taking on Mafia member Owney Meany and his crew who run Hot Springs, Arkansas and its gambling, prostitution and other illegal activities. The story has lots of action as Earl and ex-FBI agent D.A. Parker train and lead a group of young police officers to put Meany out of busine
Nov 03, 2009 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
We bought this book when published in 2000. My husband read it and I always planned to but it was shoved in a closet [good thing I get around to cleaning at least once a decade!:] I found it most enjoyable but I'm not sure it would appeal to others as well since I live outside Hot Springs and have become interested in the history.
The setting is right after World War II and Hunter has used many real characters in a real setting with a mostly fictional tale. The city was full of corruption with ga
Loretta Gibson
Sep 29, 2016 Loretta Gibson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Hunter writes like he was born and raised in the south. Earl Swagger is back from WWII a decorated hero. He doesn't cotton to all the attention he gets because of his war record. Earl has a whole new life ahead of him, new wife, a new job and a baby on the way that he's none to excited about. He is plagued by demons from the war as well as his childhood. To add insult to injury he seeks to drown it all in alcohol. I find myself rooting for Earl, wanting him to pull himself tog ...more
Feb 23, 2009 Pragmatic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was my first Stephen Hunter novel, and i LOVED it! i'm usually not fond of 500+ page books, but i could not put this one down! it is written in a style that is descriptive and engaging. when you couple that with a good plot, action and great characters, you've got yourself a page turner.

the plot was reminiscent of movies like The Dirty Dozen and Seven Samurai. you've got a team of elite soldiers led by a badass ex-Marine that raid casinos in circa 1946 Arkansas to take down the local mobste
This is an outstanding book, with a multi-textured plot, great action between cops and gangsters in the 1940s, well-written characters, and a perfect conclusion. Frenchy Short comes from my home town of Williamsport, PA. I'm not sure why Hunter emphasized that in the book, but it's okay with me. Short also appears on Havana. I hope he appears on other Hunter books, too. He's a nice/nasty character.
Sep 27, 2011 Larry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend lent me “Pale Horse Running”, the second book in the series. It was great! I’m so glad that I went back and read the first Earl Swagger book. (Mitch Rapp would look up to Earl Swagger!)

I enjoyed how the author adds vignettes using real life characters of the 40’s i.e. Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Rooney, Burt Lancaster, etc. Also, in a small way, the book helped me to understand what a Medal of Honor recipient feels.

(I wonder if this book was the geneses of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”.)

May 06, 2013 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I enjoy the Earl Swagger character as much as his son Bob Lee!
This story reminds me a lot of movies like Gangster Squad & the Untouchables. Terrific 40's gangster story
And being familiar with NW Arkansas area it is neat to read a story set there. Thats one of the reasons why I rwally like Stephen Hunters novels, they are set in my area.
Weston Ochse
Sep 08, 2011 Weston Ochse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW. I picked this book up at the airport because it looked like the best one on the shelf to keep my attention and boy did it an more. I have to tell you, this southern detective noir reminded me of everything I loved about noir fiction. I've since bought the next two Earl Swagger books.

Thanks Stephen!
Aug 05, 2007 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crimefiction
This one's crazy. It's a good read, but won't stick with you. It's no classic, but it'll keep you glued to it. I love books like this for long plane rides. I was taken out of my uncomfortable seat on my flight to Bangalore to a corrupt and broken Arkansas and didn't leave it until the wheels hit the runway.
This is about Bob Lee Swagger's dad & answers some questions about the first few books that I was dying to know. I didn't like it quite as much as "Point of Impact" & "Black Light", but that could be because I identified more with Bob Lee than his dad.
Jan 16, 2017 msleighm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, mystery-thriller
Part 1940s post-WWII, part alternative reality; inspired by true crime but written into a smart, well crafted suspense with deeply complicated characters. I believe this is first in a series, if I could I'd get all the rest of them immediately.
Jan 27, 2016 AndyS rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the story. Started a bit slow and then the story sucked me in until I was obsessed to finish the book....

I got clued into this series by author Stan R. Mitchell who reference this series in his book "Sold Out"....
Bill Patton
Jan 20, 2013 Bill Patton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually prefer Earl to his son Bob Lee. Must be the fact that I love anything within an historical context. I wish that Hunter would produce a guideline for his readers with regard to what order the books should be read in.
Matt Hudak
Jun 26, 2008 Matt Hudak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even cooler than "Pale Horse." Mobsters, a really hacked-off Marine, an old-school gunslinger, a gambling and whoring Mickey Rooney...this book has everything.
Sep 20, 2012 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Starting off brilliantly. Written in 2000
Milt Jacobs
Apr 22, 2016 Milt Jacobs rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This author has great action. Never boring.
Leon Aldrich
I'm torn between 4/5 stars. But this novel catapults Hunter into "my must read" list. Part WEB Griffin, part Michael Connelly. I can't hardly wait for the next in this series.

Apr 22, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Earl Swagger is awesome.
More great 'redneck' noir--deep and dark and filled with bullets and fedoras.
May 31, 2017 Dav rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some superb writing.

" Hot Springs is a novel telling about gangsters and gambling in U.S. city Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is the first novel in the series featuring Hunter's character Earl Swagger... summer 1946 and Earl Swagger, former Marine and recipient of the Medal of Honor, feels he is an angry man with nowhere to go in the post-war peace. But then he joins a new war, the one against organized crime, and in this hellish crucible rediscovers his courageous true self."

We get some info on Ear
Jim Thomas
Jun 25, 2017 Jim Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
The Earl Swagger series is in some ways better for me than the Bob Lee novels mostly for the simple fact that author Stephen Hunter lays out interesting characters from past history. Mixing fictional and real people in a good historical fiction that has plenty of action and mystery makes for some fun reading with perhaps a bit more depth in the characters. Maybe it's because we have both Harry Truman and Bugsy Siegal in addition to others along with the overall milieu of the south immediately fo ...more
Jun 12, 2017 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Hunter says in the afterword that the story he wrote of Hot Springs is a bit over done but that's allowed in a novel's sense. Thank goodness since 'things' kind of get out of hand here, but make for a never let up action read.
JT Duncan
Stephen Hunter is my favorite author. I usually read his stories with in two or three days of getting the book. Point of Impact is his best story with Hot Springs a close second.
Jun 20, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hot Springs is Stephen Hunter's first novel devoted entirely to his character Earl Swagger, the father of Bob Lee Swagger, the former Marine gunnery sergeant and sniper who served in Vietnam, and whose exploits were previously detailed in Time to Hunt , Point of Impact , and Black Light. Earl Swagger was introduced in Black Light, which had parallel narratives, one about Bob Lee in the present day and the other about Earl in the '50s. I liked Earl as a character in Black Light. He seemed simul ...more
It's the summer of 1946 and crime boss, Owney Madden, is bringing gambling and prostitution to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the reigning capital of corruption. He's assisted by the Grumley's, a psychopathic hillbilly family. When the district attorney vows to bring down the mob, Earl Swagger, is recruited to run the show. Haunted by memories of his experiences in World War II and of his abusive father, the medal of honor winner, and tortured soul believes himself almost beyond redemption. He only know ...more
May 15, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-thriller
For background to Stephen Hunter's books, see my review of "Point of Impact."

Stephen Hunter’s hero Bob Lee Swagger had a heroic father, Earl Swagger--Marine First Sergeant, Medal of Honor Winner, survivor of five Pacific island invasions in WWII, and Arkansas State trooper murdered in 1955. Several of the Bob Lee Swagger series involve Dad, and Hunter has written a three-volume Earl Swagger series: Hot Springs, Pale Horse Coming, and Havana.

In this, the first in the series, Earl is awarded his
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
Stephen Hunter is the author of fourteen novels, and a chief film critic at The Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
More about Stephen Hunter...

Other Books in the Series

Earl Swagger (3 books)
  • Pale Horse Coming (Earl Swagger, #2)
  • Havana (Earl Swagger, #3)

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