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The Mysteries of West Baden

August 26, 2010 by Reader's Connection

So Cold the River

If you haven´t made it down to the renovated hotel at West Baden Springs, you can visit their website. If you´d like to visit the resort fictionally, Glendale librarian Miriam Guidero has written a review of a much-requested novel set there.

When I first heard about So Cold the River, by Bloomington author Michael Koryta, I admit I was apprehensive. This thriller, because of its supernatural elements, is a departure from his earlier, well-received crime novels, especially his PI series featuring Lincoln Perry. But I needn’t have worried. Koryta’s marvelous story-telling abilities carry the reader through to the nail-biting end.

First, the Plot: Cinematographer Eric Shaw has been reduced to making funeral videos after his budding career in Los Angeles came to a jarring halt. A client asks him to research and make a video recording of the early life of her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, who left French Lick, Indiana, in the Depression and made a fortune in Chicago. However, Bradford has never talked with his family about his background, and is now ill and near death. All the client can give Eric as a lead is a bottle labeled “Pluto Water,” mineral water which came from the area near West Baden Springs and French Lick. Eric, who finds the bottle eerily cold, is fascinated by it. He takes a drink of the water and promptly becomes violently ill. But it is when he arrives at the amazing hotel in West Baden Springs that he begins to have visions—strange experiences in which scenes from the past seem to be happening before his eyes, here in the present. What is the mystery behind Campbell Bradford’s life? Why does a mysterious and sinister man keep appearing in those visions? Where is the spring that the bottle of Pluto Water came from? Why does local Josiah Bradford, supposedly the last local living heir of Campbell Bradford, become slowly but steadily swallowed up in evil? Eric is drawn more and more into the Bradford story, determined to find out the truth behind the man.

Now, the Setting: Location, location, location. Koryta has merged a fictional tale with an actual community in Indiana so well the reader will have trouble discerning where the reality of place slips into the excitement of story. Though Koryta took one liberty with Pluto Water (yes, it was real, but it was sold from the hotel in French Lick; the water from West Baden Springs Hotel was called Sprudel Water), the rest of it seems accurate to the point of village names and landmarks. The book is so “real” that I checked the Internet to find out if Campbell Bradford was an actual person. (There are Campbell Bradfords out there but this one is probably not one of them.) You may want to research West Baden Springs/French Lick as I did, or you may want simply to enjoy the thriller. Either way, So Cold the River is guaranteed to be an enthralling read.

Thanks to Miriam for that review. Koryta visits West Baden Springs, now and then. A few months back his visit was described by Cole Louison in a New Yorker article. Thanks to Tina Connor at Indiana Landmarks for sending the link.

And he’ll be there again, this weekend. If anyone attends, let us know what it was like. 

A Special Event at West Baden Springs

So Cold the River

The West Baden Springs Hotel, home of Michael’s latest novel, So Cold the River, is hosting a special event this Saturday at 7 p.m. Gourmet dining and fine wine at one of the world’s most majestic hotels will highlight the evening, and Michael will discuss So Cold the River and his previous and future works in conversation with Bob Hammel, the nationally renowned sports writer who was Michael’s first writing mentor, and to whom his first novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye, is dedicated. This is a unique event, affording an opportunity to have a wonderful meal, see an incredible hotel, and hear Michael in conversation with one of his own literary heroes. Tickets are available for either the dinner only or for hotel packages, which include dinner tickets for two and a stay at either the West Baden Springs or French Lick Springs Hotel. So Cold the River has garnered widespread praise since its June release from sources such as The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, NPR, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and Parade Magazine, and it was named one of the best novels of the year by Amazon. See Michael’s web site for more information about the book, and visit for information about the event and to make reservations. The basics are below.

West Baden Springs Hotel Presents An Evening with Michael Koryta Hosted by Bob Hammel

Saturday, August 28, 7pm

Join us for an exceptional evening with So Cold the River author Michael Koryta. Enjoy an exquisite four-course dinner while listening to Michael recount his childhood fascination with West Baden and how it became the impetus for his latest novel.

Four-Course Author Dinner with wine
$90 per person (plus tax and gratuity)

Dinner & Hotel Package
Overnight Accommodations at West Baden Springs Hotel or French Lick Springs Hotel
Four-Course Author Dinner for two
Starting at $350 per couple


  1. Beth Webber says:

    Sounds like a book I’ve got to read! Being a Hoosier, and loving mysteries, how could you pass this one up?

  2. Liz Caprari says:

    I just finished this book and loved it. The librarian was incorrect, no liberties were taken; Michael clearly stated that the battle was won by the more majestic hotel in West Baden which produced Sprudel water but that French Lick won the war by producing Pluto water. I had no idea these places truly existed until I read the authors acknowledgments and was so excited to find that my imagination and Michael’s beautifully descriptive writing were almost right on with the true look of the two towns. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially history buffs like myself especially now that it is known to be to be true within this world.

  3. Glenn Halberstadt says:

    Thanks for your comment, Liz. Based on her research, our librarian thought Mr. Koryta took this liberty, but time has passed, and she doesn’t remember the details, now. She’s just delighted that you enjoyed the book.
    Glenn Halberstadt
    Reader’s Connection

  4. ashlee says:

    LIz , i was just there tonight and this hotel , the West Baden Hotel, will take your breath away literally . The the two towns right together are just amazing !!!!! When you walk into the dome of the hotel, you feel so small – there are huge columns , architecture that has you gazing –

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