Hot Springs native David Hill’s new book, which recounts a portion of the town’s history of illegal gambling, may also inspire locals and tourists alike to explore the landmarks and sites it mentions, prompting Visit Hot Springs to craft a self-guided tour.
Hill, a Brooklyn-based journalist, released his book “The Vapors — A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America’s Forgotten Capital of Vice” in July.
Following the book’s release, Visit Hot Springs took it upon itself to create a self-guided tour that can be accessed at http://www.thevapors.hscvb.com. The tour includes nine stops featured in the book.
“A juicy page-turner, The Vapors tells the story of Hot Springs’ gambling heyday, focusing on the lives of three main characters: Owney ‘The Killer’ Madden, the notorious crime boss who ‘retired’ to Hot Springs; Dane Harris, the local boy who rises to become ‘Boss Gambler,’ and Hazel Hill, the author’s grandmother, whose lifelong struggles counter the glitz and glamour that surrounded her,” the website reads.
It’s noted that although Hot Springs has since “cleaned up,” it was once known for being a getaway for notorious gangsters, “crooked” politicians and “deep-pocketed” revelers.
“It boasted wide-open gambling (and other illicit activities) for nearly a century, rivaling Las Vegas in its corruption, excess and class,” the website states. “But it came to a screeching halt in the 1960s — the result of local and federal pressure, and a smattering of bombings. Over the years, Hot Springs has reinvented itself as a city of the arts, a modern spa town, and a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, but its past lives on and ‘The Vapors’ puts it right at your fingertips.”
The tour includes The Vapors, located at 315 Park Ave.; The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, located at 239 Central Ave.; The Southern Club, located at 250 Central Ave.; The Ohio Club, located at 336 Central Ave.; Maxine’s Live, located at 700 Central Ave.; Bathhouse Row, located in downtown Hot Springs; Owney Madden’s house, located at 506 W. Grand Ave.; Owney Madden’s grave, located in Greenwood Cemetery; and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, located at 2705 Central Ave.
“David Hill’s book has been favorably reviewed all over America, and we decided that a website featuring a self-guided look at locations Hill mentions would be a valuable resource for readers, visitors and potential visitors alike,” VHS Marketing Director Bill Solleder said in a news release. “The tour gives a capsule description of the nine locations, shows a photo of each site and includes a map on how to find the sites. We believe it will enjoy tremendous popularity for the thousands of people who are enjoying the book.”