Hot Springs Eternal
John M. Daniel
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Hope Hot Springs, high on a forested mountainside in Southern California’s coastal Matilija Range, was once the home of millionaire Joel Hope and his silent- picture-star wife Clara Bianca. They threw wild weekend parties back in the 1920s for the libertine Hollywood royalty, who cavorted naked in the hot mineral waters and in the hotel where the bedroom doors were never locked
Now, 60 years later, Hope Springs is the home of Karen and Nellie Hope, Joel’s constantly squabbling twin daughters. They share the former resort with a commune of hippies, and they plan to reopen Hope Springs as a weekend hotel, for a new generation of Hollywood stars. They’ve hired a piano player named Casey to direct the staff and be the hotel manager, as well as the host and entertainment for the guests, once the hotel is open for business. They have an excellent vegetarian chef named Diana.
This all promises to be a successful venture, but the powers that be want it to fail: SoCal Development, in collaboration with Anacapa County and Pacific Power, is scheming to claim the entire mountainside under the doctrine of eminent domain. SoCal’s plan is to displace the Hope sisters and their community, clear-cut their forest, and build California’s first geothermal bedroom community. All Karen and Nellie have going for them is good intentions, a loyal staff, and Nqong, an Australian aborigine sage who has lived like a hermit in the Matilija mountains most of his life, tending to the healing waters and caring for a yearly swarm of exotic yellow beetles, who might just save the day.
John M. Daniel is the author of more than a dozen published books, including five mystery novels, two of which, The Poet’s Funeral and Hooperman, received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. He has also worked as a bookseller, a free-lance editor, and a teacher of creative writing. He and his wife, Susan, live in Humboldt County, California, where they are small-press book publishers..