A captivating, shady story about massive, brazen corruption hiding in plain sight.



The history of a small town in Arkansas that once rivaled Las Vegas in gambling, booze, and prostitution.

For most Americans, Hot Springs, Arkansas, doesn’t raise an eyebrow, but folks who lived in the state from the 1930s to the ’60s knew the place as “the most sinful little city in the world.” In his first book, Hill, a Brooklyn-based journalist from Hot Springs, tells a juicy tale of how such a place was born and stayed in business for so long as the “sin city of the Bible Belt.” Due to the Vapors, therapeutic, thermal springs offering relief to those in pain, the area “was the first park to be managed by the federal government.” The author offers up a huge cast of colorful, mostly sleazy characters, but he focuses on three key players: Hazel Hill, the author’s grandmother; gangster Dane Harris, boss gambler and the “most powerful man in Hot Springs”; and Owney “The Killer” Madden, who was sent to the town in 1931 by Meyer Lansky to be the “mob’s ambassador.” Weaving their stories in and out, from 1931 to 1968, Hill unfolds an engrossing history of corruption at the highest levels. During World War II, Hot Springs and its excellent hospital became a refuge for soldiers seeking much-needed R&R, enjoying the illegal booze, and gambling. Madden consolidated power, teaming up with Harris. Struggling to raise her family of three sons, including Jimmy, the author’s father, Hazel moved from Ohio back to Hot Springs in 1951 and got a job as a barmaid and, later, a “shill player” at a casino, gambling with the house’s money. In highly detailed, novelistic prose, Hill chronicles the rise of the power brokers and their ballot-stuffing control of local and state elections. In 1965, J. Edgar Hoover and Attorney General Robert Kennedy finally shut it all down.

A captivating, shady story about massive, brazen corruption hiding in plain sight. (8 pages of b/w illustrations)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-08611-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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