In the summer of 1946, the most wide-open town in America is Hot Springs, Arkansas, a city of ancient, legendary corruption. While the pilgrims take the cure in the mineral-rich 142-degree water that bubbles from the earth, the brothels and casinos are the true source of the town's prosperity. It is run by an English-born gangster named Owney Maddox, who represents the New York syndicate and rules his empire like a Saxon lord while sporting an ascot and jodhpurs.
But it is all about to be challenged. A newly elected county prosecutor wants to save the city's soul (he also wouldn't mind being the next governor). He begins a war on the gambling interests and, knowing it will be a long and bloody battle, hires an ex-Marine sergeant, Earl Swagger, who won the Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima, to run it. Swagger knows how to fight with guns as well as any man in the world. But he is haunted: the savage fighting he just barely survived and the men he left behind in the Pacific still shadow his mind, leaving a terrible melancholy. There are even darker memories: a murdered father who beat him mercilessly and drove a younger brother to suicide. He's also torn by his own impending fatherhood, as his wife, Junie, nears term. It isn't that Earl Swagger is afraid of dying; more scary still, it's possible that he yearns for it.
The gangsters fight back, setting up a campaign of ambush and counterambush in the brothels, casinos and alleys of the City of the Vapors. Raids erupt into all-out combat amid screaming prostitutes and fleeing johns. Meanwhile, the body count mounts....Continua