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So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

Eric Shaw has visions, visions which ruined his promising film career in Hollywood and has damaged his marriage. Returning to Chicago, he makes documentaries about the lives of the deceased, paid for by their families to be shown at their funerals. His visions help him pick out key details, often surprising those viewing.

At one such viewing, he is recruited by Alyssa Bradford to make a documentary about her wealthy father-in-law, whose unknown history is tied to a small resort town in Indiana, West Baden. She gives him an old bottle of Pluto Water, for unknown reasons a prized possession of Campbell Bradford, the elderly and dying father-in-law. Even in the heat of the summer, the water bottle stays ice cold. As Eric gets to West Baden to research his project, his visions increase; when he takes a swig of the water bottle, his visions become lifelike. The visions are of the Campbell Bradford of the past, powerful and violent ruler of West Baden; to many, he was the embodiment of evil. Eric struggles with his sanity: are the visions real? Is the water causing them? Or is he simply insane?

Author Michael Koryta employs the element of doubt…Eric’s doubt about his sanity, doubt about his work…and changes that doubt into one of growing belief in himself. The supernatural part of the book is intermingled with the story line; is Eric sane, or are these visions just that? The author also adds to Eric’s “normal guy” status (a regular hero wouldn’t doubt himself) by having Eric make mistakes, lose in a fight, and generally act ungrateful to his wife and her family. This makes for a much more believable character.

Also unique about this story is the setting. Really, a spa/mineral springs in rural Indiana (near French Lick, home of Larry Bird!) is usually reserved for stories like Hoosiers and other sports oriented themes, not supernatural thrillers.

The ending (no spoilers here) offers a few surprises, and could have been warped to provide room for a sequel…kudos to the other for tying up the loose ends.


It all started with Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer

The Scholastic Book Club was a huge fetish of mine during later elementary school and middle school. Every six weeks a pulp magazine of their latest offerings would arrive. I’d check off the ones I wanted, then work to persuade my mom and dad to get me some subset of the list.36381

That was how I read about Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers.

In January of 1967, and again in January of 1968, the Packers, champions of the National Football League, defeated first the Kansas City Chiefs and then the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League. Winning those first two Super Bowls made legends out of many of the Packers players and, of course, of their coach Vince Lombardi.

One of those players was Bart Starr, subject of the Scholastic published biography by John Devaney. I devoured that book, and was then handed a copy of Jerry Kramer’s Packer Diary, Instant Replay which I also absorbed. Though I was in Texas, the Packers became my team. Stories of the Ice Bowl and the two Super Bowl wins, of Lombardi and the great Packers of those times, made them instant favorites.covergkq

Shortly after this, the Packers made the playoffs again, in 1972. This would start a pattern of testing Packer fan resolve for a decade, making the playoffs again in 1982, and then again in 1993. There were consistent playoff participants thereafter; but it was a LONG wait for us Packer fans…nearly three decades, until January of 1997, for the Packers to return to prominence and win another Super Bowl with Brett Favre at quarterback. They came close the next year, losing to Elway and the Broncs.

Unless you’ve been living under certain rocks, you’ll know that the Packers under Aaron Rodgers are reining Super Bowl Champs, and are currently undefeated.

I have never seen the Packers play. My wife did win tickets to the Super Bowl in a contest, so we’ve been to Super Bowl 41, in February of 2007, watching her favorite Peyton Manning and the Colts defeat the Bears.

That changes next Sunday, November 20, when, for my 50th birthday (still a few weeks away) my wife takes me to sit in the 5th row of the LeapZone at Lambeau Field when the hopefully-still-undefeated Packers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Stay tuned….

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