The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America's Forgotten Capital of Vice

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Product Details

$28.00  $26.04
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.3 X 1.3 inches | 1.4 pounds

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About the Author

David Hill is a writer from Hot Springs, Arkansas. His work has appeared regularly in Grantland and The Ringer, and has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, and New York magazine, as well as on This American Life. He lives in Nyack, New York, with his wife and three children, where he serves as the vice president of the National Writers Union. The Vapors is his first book


"[David Hill's] fantastic debut blends true crime and Southern history to chronicle the transformation of Hot Springs, Arkansas, from a spa town into a hotbed of horse racing, prostitution, and illegal gambling . . . Hill tracks this history through the lives of three central figures: Owney Madden, Dane Harris, and Hazel Hill (the author's grandmother) . . . Expertly interweaving family memoir, Arkansas politics, and Mafia lore, Hill packs the story full of colorful characters and hair-raising events. This novelistic history hits the jackpot." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Vapors is a deeply researched work . . . full of organized crime, cons, bootleggers, and all kinds of other seedy characters you hope for in a colorful history book. --Thrillist

"A juicy tale . . . [David Hill] offers up a huge cast of colorful, mostly sleazy characters, but he focuses on three key players . . . Weaving their stories in and out . . . Hill unfolds an engrossing history of corruption at the highest levels . . . Captivating." --Kirkus Reviews

Mobsters and molls, con artists and comedians, healing waters and wily hustlers converge in a vice-happy town in the middle of nowhere--nope, not Las Vegas. This is Hot Springs in the middle of the twentieth century, come alive in a deeply reported, dark but unstoppably fascinating history of David Hill's rowdy clan's heyday. It might be a sin, but just read it. --James McManus, author of Positively Fifth Street

"As I read The Vapors, I had to remind myself that this book is not a novel but a tapestry of meticulous research, spun into an unforgettable story whose characters come alive on the page. I rooted for the good bad guys, and shook my fist at the bad bad guys. David Hill's story is an obvious pick for anyone with an interest in the gambling world, but it's also a delightful trip through a time that too many of us have either forgotten or never learned about. What a treat to read--I was totally hooked. --Christina Binkley, author of Winner Takes All

There are corners of this world defined by crime and sin, full of people and places I assumed I'd never see up close. The Vapors is so vivid and rich that I felt like a fly on the wall in rooms I do not belong in. It made me want to gamble, and do something illegal, and also fall in love. --Chris Gethard, comedian and author of Lose Well

"When it comes to mobbed-up gambling capitals, Las Vegas and Atlantic City seem to dominate the conversation. But as David Hill shows in his terrific book, Hot Springs, Arkansas, deserves a place at this sordid table. Hill uses deep research and family history to deliver a rapid-fire tale bursting with intrigue and pathos, not to mention a heaping helping of good-ole-boy vice. The Vapors is harrowing, thrilling, and steamier than a Hot Springs thermal bath." --Doug J. Swanson, author of Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker

The Vapors mixes social, political, and personal history to tell the story of one the country's last oases of illegal gambling, Hot Springs, Arkansas. Spanning nearly forty years, this book shows how New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Havana intersected--for a moment--in a free-wheeling Bible Belt resort. A fascinating tale. --David Schwartz, author of Grandissimo and Roll the Bones