Courtesy of French Lick Resort
In 1902, the dome that lay atop West Baden Springs Hotel was thought to be the largest in the world.
So Cold The River
By Michael KorytaHardcover, 528 pagesLittle, Brown and CompanyList price: $24.99
Read An Excerpt
Read An Excerpt
June 15, 2010
When crime novelist Michael Koryta was 8 years old, his father took him to visit the ruins of the nearby West Baden Springs Hotel in Indiana — a hotel that was once so magnificent it was called the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was a visit he wouldn't soon forget.
"It stands out as a very vivid memory because even in that state of disrepair, you could sense the grandeur that had been there," Koryta tells NPR's Michele Norris. "With that arose this question of why had it ever been here, and then why did it disappear? From that point on, I was very interested in the history."
The former reporter and private detective was so interested that he took his time finding the right way to write about it.
"I'd tried for a while to work that setting and that history into a traditional crime novel plot, and it just never worked," he says. "Everything was always returning to a casino heist novel — which I did not want to write."
It wasn't until he decided to go in a completely new — and supernatural — direction that a novel began to take shape.
That novel, So Cold the River, follows filmmaker Eric Shaw as he's hired to uncover and record the history of a dying man who has left precious little information about his roots, save for the name of his hometown — West Baden Springs — and a bottle of Pluto Water — a substance manufactured in nearby French Lick, Ind., around the turn of the century that claimed to cure any affliction known to man.
Shaw's search takes him to a newly restored West Baden Springs Hotel and the mysterious Lost River — an evil force that flows around and under the hotel — to confront the ghosts of his client's past.