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

THE VAPORS

A SOUTHERN FAMILY, THE NEW YORK MOB, AND THE RISE AND FALL OF HOT SPRINGS, AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN CAPITAL OF VICE

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...

NIGHT

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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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

WILLIE NELSON'S LETTERS TO AMERICA

An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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