Friday, February 24, 2006
It's a symbol of pride for a city that is better known for sunshine and sports than for its celebrities in literature and the arts.
Writers of all kinds have chosen to live and work in San Diego. Max Miller, Raymond Chandler, Jonas Salk, the list goes on. There may now be as many as 2,000 published authors within this county, depending, of course, on how we define a book.
Can any city claim a higher per capita rate of authorship? Not even skilled library researchers care to risk a guess, and the statistic is evasive. But well-known authors and artists have brightened the image of this region for a century.
I met my first San Diego author when I was a Navy kid at Camp Kearny during World War II. I'd read Max Miller's I Cover the Waterfront in college.
One morning I read in the paper that his rubber raft had been stolen from the ocean cliff where he had built a grand home with his royalties from the Waterfront book. He was bereft. He used the raft each day to paddle out and pry abalone off shallow rocks.
It so happened that I worked with the emergency life rafts that accompanied Navy crews ferrying Convair PBY42 bombers across the Pacific. Sometimes we were required to scrap used rubber boats.
My lieutenant picked one out and we loaded it in a Jeep. I looked up Max's address in the phonebook. We took it to him. I'd never seen a happier person than Max as he unrolled his boat on his lawn. I told him it was a gift from the United States Navy. We pumped it up, dragged it down his cliff into the surf, and it served Max for years.
It was Max who encouraged me not to return to North Carolina when that war ended. Instead, he helped me get a reporter's job at the old Daily Journal.
It's that kind of break, the authors agreed at the Public Library, that every writer is looking for every day.
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