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The Hot Spot

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  922 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
Original title: HELL HATH NO FURY.

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 kn
188 pages
Published January 1st 1991 by Penguin (first published 1953)
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Dan Schwent
Apr 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
What was my batting average so far for staying out of trouble when it was baited with that much tramp? It was an even zero, and I didn't see anything in the situation here that promised I'd improve very much.
All I can do is chuckle whenever I read about people being in such an uproar recently about the ending of the book and movie Gone Girl. I keep thinking that obviously they've never really read true classic noir fiction. Because if they had, then they'd know that an ending like that is tr
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
I’d forgotten just how subversive this 1953 Williams noir was. Unlike some of his other blackmail driven plots - The Big Bite and A Touch of Death - which both feature an everyman protagonist narrator driven to crime by hard luck and the lure of a sexy woman, Harry Madox is a criminal from the get go. In this novel Charles Williams and Jim Thompson are simpatico. The other writer I kept thinking about when casting for comparisons, however, is Cornell Woolrich, because for much of the novel we ha ...more
Joe Valdez
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-crime
Published as Hell Hath No Fury by Gold Medal in 1953 and as The Hot Spot for its trade paperback release by Vintage Crime in 1981, this was my introduction to the pulp fiction of Texas author Charles Williams, a 10th grade dropout from San Angelo who joined the U.S. Merchant Marine at the age of 20. Williams began publishing while earning a living as an electronics inspector and this, his fourth novel, is suspense wired at an precision level and kept me tuned through the end.

The tale is narrated
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
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Otto Penzler
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carla Remy
Torn between a review of four and a review of five ... Went with five, because once the story got going, it had top level suspense and drive. Seems like a typical noir plot, but ends a mythic tale of guilt and consequences.
Allan Nail
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
João  Jorge
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  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. Theres a sense of ...more
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first introduction to the other Charles Williams. The quality of his writing is far better than the obscurity of his name might indicate.

I like noir with a true good guy. And within the first few pages Harry Maddox makes it clear up front that he is not that sort of guy. But by then it is too late. The writing is so good and the dark secret so alluring that I can't stop reading until the end.

Another strength of this novel is that Williams has captured for me better than in just abou
Graham P
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
This wonderful yarn has all the staples of a classic noir. The scheming, two-timing, sleazy romance, and violent episodes make this a suspenseful pleasure to devour.

It is pleasing to watch a somewhat hapless goof fall into an intricate web of lies, danger, and crime. After reading Chandler, Hammmett, and some of the other innovators of the genre, I found the non police/gangster/PI characters to be refreshing. Harry's background as an average drifter with a muddied past was a perfect fit with the
Alan Livingston
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-noir
What a perfect title was "Hell Hath No Fury", but maybe someone feared that would give too much away, I don't know. Regardless, this was my first Charles Williams novel but will not be my last. Classic in its noir beat, making it easy to see how "modern" a novel of this type it was when it came out. Enjoyed the 50's small town, the unpretentious bad but likeable main character, the no-apologies sex without porn. Much of the story you can see coming but it's such a pleasure the way Williams wrote ...more
Jon Ureña
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, hard-boiled
A story about a misanthropic thirty years old guy tired of selling cars in a small town who decides to rob a bank. I enjoyed the contained setting and the contrasting characters. The relationship between the protagonist and the twenty one years old pretty coworker (view spoiler) made the ending particularly harrowing. The prose was lean and precise and did a good job putting you in the scene. Hard-boiled femme fatale stuff.
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
(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.
Oct 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
See...another book that proves the "the book was better" axiom. Pulpy, noiry, and femme fataley. Crisp and clean like a green apple.
Matt Phillips
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A master of suspense...Plot thickens with each chapter and then unravels with utter brilliance. A great book.
the gift
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
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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."
Count Duckula
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'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?
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp-detective
excellent book.
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: calibre, crime
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.
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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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“I got both hands on her throat and there was nothing inside me but the black madness of that desire to kill her, to close my hands until she turned purple and lay still and there’d be an end to her forever. Let them send me to the chair. Let ’em burn me. All they could do was kill me.” 4 likes
“And that was when it really came home to me what I was about to do. I was going to rob a bank, committing the additional crime of arson in the process, and if I got caught I'd go to prison.
Well, I thought, go on selling second-hand jalopies for another forty years and maybe somebody'll give you a testimonial and a forty-dollar watch.”
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