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Hot Springs (Earl Swagger #1)

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,207 Ratings  ·  130 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 ow
ebook, 560 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published June 1st 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Crys Wood
Oct 03, 2011 Crys Wood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a good long Southern tale (which I like a lot, so I'm biased toward his style). Lots of historically accurate details and finely painted scenes.

The story was as long as it needed to be, I feel, but I did get bogged down around page 400...just wanted it to wrap up. The last 100 pages were worth the time it took to read them, but I did skip to the end to see who lived and who didn't...suspense was killing me!

If you're offended by deragatory racial references from the American South in t
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
Aug 08, 2015 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
Aug 15, 2011 Wesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series_favorites
If you like anything that is Bob Lee Swagger, then you will love this and have more understanding as well. Earl Swagger is a one of a kind.

My favorite Stephen Hunter book of all-time but you can't only read this one, you need to read the first 3 or four bob lee swagger books.
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"....
May 18, 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.
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
Mar 29, 2014 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.
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.
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.
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!
May 03, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Earl Swagger is awesome.
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.
Nov 03, 2015 Connie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is #1 in the Earl Swagger Series.

I loved this book about the 1940's in Arkansas. At times Earl was bigger than life itself, but still it was very believable. I could see where this would have been a GREAT movie. There is non stop action and there are a lot of different players in this one. Still, even having so many players you didn't get bogged down in the reading as everyone was distinct.

At times I had a hard time reading because I didn't want anything to happen to Earl. I knew he was in
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.

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.
More great 'redneck' noir--deep and dark and filled with bullets and fedoras.
Oct 06, 2012 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Starting off brilliantly. Written in 2000
Scott Rachui
Jun 01, 2013 Scott Rachui rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ex-marine turned law enforcement agent in Arkansas just after the end of WW2. Earl Swagger is the father of Bob Lee Swagger, also an ex-marine and Vietnam vet who is the focus of several of Hunter's books. Earl starts the series off with this book, and two others (Pale Horse Coming and Havana) before the series shifts to Bob Lee.

These are good books with a strong feel of the southern culture. Don't let that awful movie 'Shooter' (adapted from Hunter's book Point of Impact) discourage you from th
Aug 04, 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
Oct 20, 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
Jul 21, 2015 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read both of the other Earl Swagger novels and wanted to go back and read the first. Kaye and I have also being watching the Making of the Mob, New York. The connection to the gangster activity was very intriguing. The book became one that I could not put down. Stephen Hunter is joining my list of favorite authors.
Quote - "Only this. I learned this one the hard way. The fight is going to be what it wants to be. You got to be ready to go with it, follow it where it goes, and deal with it. R
Sep 16, 2013 Wayne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
Recommended to Wayne by: Jim VanHoose
This is not a book for kids. It is a book for adults. It is about Earl Swagger who is the father of Bob Lee Swagger who was written about in another series of Stephen Hunter Books.. Earl was a decorated Marine who went into law enforcement. Earl and his new friend of the FBI took on a chore to train young men to fight and shoot and clean out the mob that was running the gambling, drugs and houses of ill repute in Hot Springs back in the late 1930s. The writing is colorful. I laughed at the descr ...more
Michael T Bradley
Oct 17, 2015 Michael T Bradley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. I can't understand how the man who wrote Dirty White Boys, still one of the most ridiculously fun OTT crime novels, wrote this. It's been 20 years since I read DWB, though, so maybe *I'm* the one who's changed a ton. Full of "tell, don't show" and other atrocious writing sins, this book just ... did not work for me at all.
Dan Edgar
There is too much Stephen Hunter in my 'I have read this list'.

That said, I can't really recommend any Stephen Hunter book other than Hot Springs.

This is just a good crime story, set in a great period, with a great set of characters, and I can highly recommend it.

The other Hunter books? Not so much.
Neil M
Jun 01, 2014 Neil M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: action-thriller
Awesome book! I'm a big fan of Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger series, and this is just as good, if not better. Earl Swagger is possibly the toughest character I've ever encountered in a fictional story. The book is like Rambo mixed with The Untouchables. Bloody, extremely violent, and just straight tough guy goodness. The 40's setting and the inclusion of actual historical figures from that era, made it even better. Hunter writes the best gunfights, I've ever read. Good stuff!
Jul 22, 2013 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime_fiction, noir
Before there was Las Vegas there was Hot Springs, replete with hookers and gambling operating under the thumb of Bugsy Siegel and the Genovese crime family. The flashy lifestyle drew celebrities like Alan Ladd, Mickey Rooney, Errol Flynn, Bogart and others. Political corruption leading all the way to the governor’s office and beyond made law enforcement a frustrating job before Earl Swagger entered the scene.
The vintage setting (1940s) and quasi-historical storyline reminded me of Max Allen Col
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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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