So Cold the River

By Michael Koryta
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company, (6/9/2010)

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It started with a beautiful woman and a challenge. As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old billionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man's past--just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he's kept his entire life.

In Bradford's hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary history--a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled, and hot springs whose miraculous mineral water cured everything from insomnia to malaria. Neglected for years, the resort has been restored to its former grandeur just in time for Eric's stay.

Just hours after his arrival, Eric experiences a frighteningly vivid vision. As the days pass, the frequency and intensity of his hallucinations increase and draw Eric deeper into the town's dark history. He discovers that something besides the hotel has been restored--a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to regain its lost glory. Brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, So Cold the River is a tale of irresistible suspense with a racing, unstoppable current.
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"So Cold the River"
By Michael Koryta

Average Rating:

This book has not been rated

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 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.

1. So Cold the River begins with the line “You looked for the artifacts of their ambition.” What are some examples of such artifacts in the book? Discuss what they reveal about the characters. Do you think that ambition manifests itself differently than other drives? How and why?

2. The first time that Eric Shaw sees the dome of the West Baden Hotel, he is filled with wonder. Have you ever had a similar reaction to a building or place? What was it about the sight that most strongly affected you?

3. On page 134, Anne McKinney thinks to herself, “Rare was the storyteller who got trapped by reality.” Do you think that writers have a responsibility to faithfully represent events as they actually happened? Why or why not? Do you hold writers of fiction to a different standard than you do writers of nonfiction?

4. Discuss Josiah Bradford. Do you think he is in control of his fate, or is he stuck on a predetermined path? Why or why not? Have there been times in your own life when you have felt like you have no control? When?

5. How does ego drive each of the characters? What are the differences between Eric’s, Campbell’s, and Josiah’s vanity?

6. Eric begins to have trouble distinguishing his visions from reality. Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid, you were certain that it was real? Why do you think it affected you so strongly?

7. How do you feel about Eric’s relationship with Claire? Why do you believe their marriage fell apart? What do you think will happen in the future?

8. As one of the oldest people in the two towns, Anne McKinney is a repository of historical information. As a self-taught meteorologist, she also looks toward the future. Can you reconcile these two different outlooks? How does history inform her predictions? What is her role in the story?

9. What do you think about Josiah and Danny’s relationship? Why do you think they are friends? Have you ever had an unequal friendship? Did you do anything to balance it?10. Discuss the confrontation of perception and objective reality in the novel. When does the line between the two become unclear? Which do you think is more reliable: what one personally experiences or what is recorded or observed by the world?

11. What are the differences in the ways that Josiah and Eric experience their visions? Why do you think these visions occur?

12. Do you think that So Cold the River has a message about revenge or ambition? If so, what do you think it is? If not, why?

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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this explosive thriller from Koryta (Envy the Night), failed filmmaker Eric Shaw is eking out a living making family home videos when a client offers him big bucks to travel to the resort town of West Baden, Ind., the childhood home of her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, to shoot a video history of his life. Almost immediately, things go weird. Eric uncovers evidence of another Campbell Bradford, a petty tyrant who lived a generation before the other and terrorized the locals. The older Campbell begins appearing in horrific visions to Eric after he sips the peculiar mineral water that made West Baden famous. Koryta spins a spellbinding tale of an unholy lust for power that reaches from beyond the grave and suspends disbelief through the believable interactions of fully developed characters. A cataclysmic finale will put readers in mind of some of the best recent works of supernatural horror, among which this book ranks. 6-city author tour. (June) 
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"So Cold the River is a great story, but what held me was the lean, clean prose and the sharp presentation of scenes and dialogue. Michael Koryta is a good story teller and a wonderful stylist." (Joe R. Lansdale )

"Kortya's SO COLD THE RIVER is an example of the good-writing equals good-reading equation that makes fright-inducing fiction worthy of our time, attention, and real enjoyment." (author of The Terror and Drood Dan Simmons )

"This book builds like a summer storm. Beautiful to watch until it shakes the house and knocks out the lights, leaving you alone in the dark. Another masterful work from Michael Koryta, SO COLD THE RIVERis guaranteed to put the cold finger down your spine." (Michael Connelly )

"An icy, terrifying winner. So Cold the River puts an October chill in your blood by the end of the first chapter. It's not much longer before you've turned on all the lights and rechecked all the window locks. Few novelists warrant mention alongside Stephen King or Peter Straub. Michael Koryta, however, earns comparison to both." (Dennis Lehane )

"Michael Koryta is a gifted storyteller. His writing reminded me of the great Ruth Rendell--eerie, suspenseful, and pleasantly wicked. If you're looking for a dose of Midwestern Gothic at its best, SO COLD THE RIVER will be just the thing for you." (author of A Simple Planand The Ruins Scott Smith )

"Fast-paced and action-packed, So Cold the River is good, unclean fun. Like Joe Hill, Michael Koryta is infusing the old-school supernatural horror novel with new blood. Drink up!" (Stewart O'Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying )

"Koryta spins a spellbinding tale of an unholy lust for power that reaches from beyond the grave." (Publishers Weekly )

"[Koryta's] tight, clear prose makes West Baden as creepy as Transylvania, and Eric is a compellingly flawed protagonist. Legions of King and Peter Straub devotees will be delighted." (Booklist Thomas Gaughan )
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Michael Koryta is the author of five previous novels, including Envy the Night, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for best mystery/thriller, and the Lincoln Perry series, which has earned nominations for the Edgar, Shamus, and Quill awards and won the Great Lakes Book Award. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. A former private investigator and newspaper reporter, Koryta lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida.

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