Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever. “One of the most anticipated [books] of the year—and rightfully so. . . . It’s a must-read.”—Parade. Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva...
Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 1, 2021) Hardcover: 384 pages ISBN-10: 1524798657 ISBN-13: 978-1524798659 Dimensions: 6.43 x 1.2 x 9.53 inches
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Malibu catches fire. It is simply what Malibu does from time to time. Tornadoes take the flatlands of the Midwest. Floods rise in the American South. Hurricanes rage against the Gulf of Mexico.
And California burns.
The land caught fire time and again when it was inhabited by the Chumash in 500 B.C.E. It caught fire in the 1800s when Spanish colonizers claimed the area. It caught fire on December 4, 1903, when Frederick and May Rindge owned the stretch of land now called Malibu. The flames seized thirty miles of coastland and consumed their Victorian beach house.
Malibu caught fire in 1917 and 1929, well after the first movie stars got there. It caught fire in 1956 and 1958, when the longboarders and beach bunnies trickled to its shores. It caught fire in 1970 and 1978, after the hippies settled in its canyons.
It caught fire in 1982, 1985, in 1993, 1996, in 2003, 2007, and 2018. And times in between.
Because it is Malibu’s nature to burn.
• • •
At the city line of Malibu today stands a sign that reads, MALIBU, 27 MILES OF SCENIC BEAUTY . The long, thin township—an area that hugs the slim coast for almost thirty miles—is made up of ocean and mountain, split by a two-lane throughway called the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH.
To the west of PCH is a long series of beaches cradling the crystal blue waves of the Pacific Ocean. In many areas along the coast, beach houses are crammed along the side of the highway, competing for views, narrow and tall. The coastline is jagged and rocky. The waves are brisk and clear. The air smells of fresh brine.
Directly to the east of PCH lie the immense, arid mountains. They dominate the skyline, sage green and umber, composed of desert shrubs and wild trees, brittle underbrush.
This is dry land. A tinderbox. Blessed and cursed with a breeze.
The local Santa Ana winds speed through the mountains and valleys from the inland to the shore, hot and strong. Myth says they are agents of chaos and disorder. But what they really are is an accelerant.
A tiny spark in the dry desert wood can grow to a blaze and run wild, burning bright orange and red. It devours the land and exhales thick black smoke that overtakes the sky, dimming the sun for miles, ash falling like snow.
Habitats—brush and shrubs and trees—and homes—cabins and mansions and bungalows, ranches and vineyards and farms—go up in smoke and leave behind a scorched earth.
But that land is young once again, ready to grow something new.
Destruction. And renewal, rising from the ashes. The story of fire.
• • •
The Malibu fire of 1983 started not in the dry hills but on the coastline. It began at 28150 Cliffside Drive on Saturday, August 27—at the home of Nina Riva—during one of the most notorious parties in Los Angeles history.
The annual party grew wildly out of control sometime around midnight.
By 7:00 a.m. , the coastline of Malibu was engulfed in flames.
Because, just as it is in Malibu’s nature to burn, so was it in one particular person’s nature to set fire and walk away.