Wednesday, Jul 22, 2020 7:00 PM
Atlanta History Center on Zoom
The Atlanta History Center welcomes journalist David Hill for a virtual discussion with GBP “On Second Thought” host, Virginia Prescott, on his new book, “The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America's Forgotten Capital of Vice.”
This event is free and open to the public. Join the discussion via the link below on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, at 7:00 PM.
A Cappella Books will have copies of “The Vapors” available after the event. Pre-order via the link below. At checkout, choose between the local delivery, curbside pick-up, or shipping options. For zip codes not listed in the above banner, select curbside pick-up or USPS shipping.
About the Book
Back in the days before Vegas was big, when the Mob was at its peak and neon lights were but a glimmer on the horizon, a little Southern town styled itself as a premier destination for the American leisure class. Hot Springs, Arkansas was home to healing waters, Art Deco splendor, and America’s original national park—as well as horse racing, nearly a dozen illegal casinos, countless backrooms and brothels, and some of the country’s most bald-faced criminals.
Gangsters, gamblers, and gamines: all once flocked to America’s forgotten capital of vice, a place where small-town hustlers and bigtime high-rollers could make their fortunes, and hide from the law. “The Vapors” is the extraordinary story of three individuals—spanning the golden decades of Hot Springs, from the 1930s through the 1960s—and the lavish casino whose spectacular rise and fall would bring them together before blowing them apart.
Hazel Hill was still a young girl when legendary mobster Owney Madden rolled into town in his convertible, fresh off a crime spree in New York. He quickly established himself as the gentleman Godfather of Hot Springs, cutting barroom deals and buying stakes in the clubs at which Hazel made her living—and drank away her sorrows. Owney’s protégé was Dane Harris, the son of a Cherokee bootlegger who rose through the town’s ranks to become Boss Gambler. It was his idea to build The Vapors, a pleasure palace more spectacular than any the town had ever seen, and an establishment to rival anything on the Vegas Strip or Broadway in sophistication and supercharged glamour.
In this riveting work of forgotten history, native Arkansan David Hill plots the trajectory of everything from organized crime to America’s fraught racial past, examining how a town synonymous with white gangsters supported a burgeoning black middle class. He reveals how the louche underbelly of the South was also home to veterans hospitals and baseball’s spring training grounds, giving rise to everyone from Babe Ruth to President Bill Clinton. Infused with the sights and sounds of America’s entertainment heyday—jazz orchestras and auctioneers, slot machines and suited comedians—"The Vapors” is an arresting glimpse into a bygone era of American vice.
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.