Los Angeles Times

Virgen: Foley evokes emotion in 'West Newport Blues'

The past five years for Steve Foley has included darkness, depression, yet victory and happiness, resolve that led to writing a book about Newport Beach.

At times, Foley admitted, the words flowed, and faded, came back and surpassed more than what was needed. But in the end, Foley completed a tale definitely worth the read – "West Newport Blues" – especially for those who live in Newport Beach.

Foley, a former Newport Harbor High football and track and field standout, says the book is for those from any town. But those in Newport Beach can draw a deeper connection, as many of the places and characters are well-known to the Newport community.

Even, the Daily Pilot newspaper is referenced in the book.

West Newport Blues is about two best friends, Bobby Rowels and Scotty Curtis, who grow up in a trailer park in West Newport Beach.

The book is about love and friendship, as well as a coming of age for Scotty, a character loosely based on Foley. "West Newport Blues" is also about surfing, and teenagers "running amok," in Newport Beach in the 1970s.

"The story kept evolving," Foley said of the process to write "West Newport Blues." "My mother died and I felt like I lost a year there. I went into depression after she died."

I met with Foley, 55, five months ago for breakfast at Cappy's Café, where he used to work as a teenager growing up in Newport Beach.

I asked Foley what it took to get out of depression.

"When I went back to the pen," he said. "Writing helped me get out of it."

The fictional book contains plenty of emotions, and Foley experienced a great deal of them during the past five years.

The Bobby character was written in honor of a friend he met at Orange Coast College who died of cancer. The Bobby character plays football at Newport Harbor High, where the coach is dating Bobby's mother.

"When I wrote the book I was writing about Bobby and thinking about Bobby," Foley said. "And suddenly all of the ghosts that lived around me in Newport, Bucko Shaw, Steve Richardson and Vinnie Mulroy, and others, I felt like they were speaking to me."

Foley wrote several people he grew up with into the book as characters, including the late Bob Hailey, the former NHHS track and field coach.

Mulroy, who died in 2009 and that death also greatly affected Foley within the past five years, also plays a role for the sales of the book.

Foley says he doesn't write for the money. He writes for the love of writing.

He has dedicated a big batch of first edition books to the Vince Mulroy Scholarship and John Gust Scholarship funds.

John Gust, who was also a football standout at Newport Harbor, died in a car accident before he had an opportunity to play football at Washington State.

Foley is selling the first edition books, which are signed by him, for $125 and splitting that money to go to each scholarship fund.

He says he also made an effort to send a book to a family member of each of the people he wrote into the book as characters.

Foley writes mostly for the love of writing, but like most writers he writes to be read. He wants his voice to be heard. And there was plenty to say in "West Newport Blues." At one point the book was up to 50,000 words and he had to cut it down.

Throughout his story he wanted to tell, I felt he wanted to display his love and appreciation for Newport Beach.

Foley's father, John, was a police officer who lived in Eagle Rock, where Foley grew up. John bought a modest beach house when Steve was 7 and the family would always visit Newport Beach, until the family moved there.

That set the stage for Steve to excel in football at Newport Harbor, and then on to OCC, where he played for the great coach, Dick Tucker.

After OCC, Steve Foley played as a defensive back for Stanford, where Hall of Famer Bill Walsh was the coach. George Seifert was Foley's defensive backs coach.

Foley eventually moved from Newport Beach to Sedona County. He said it wasn't until he truly got away from Newport Beach that he learned to appreciate the "beautiful city by the sea."

"It just doesn't seem like reality," he said of Newport Beach.

Foley said he felt fortunate to have spent a great deal of his adolescence in Newport Beach, but he admits that he took it for granted many times during high school.

The Scotty character realizes what is really important at the end of Foley's story.

"It is autobiographical to a certain extent but not really," Foley says of "West Newport Blues." "This is not my story. It's based on people I know, the places, the things I love about Newport. It's a homage to Newport."

During my interview with Foley, he reminded me of one of his premises for writing that I also think about. He says everyone has a story to tell. He asked me about my daughter, who was just about to turn 9. The past five months have been an adventure for us.

Plenty has happened for the Foleys in the past five years.

Foley says he has had a wonderful experience as a father. He has two daughters, Storm, 21, who is studying chemistry at Stanford and Rowan, 18, who is entering her senior year at Savannah School of Art and Design.

As they've gotten older, he tends to write for an older audience, as his first book, "Riding Godzilla," was geared for a younger age and was written for his daughters.

"I love being a Dad," Foley says. "It's been a real great experience for me."

Foley frequently visits Newport Beach. His real work is real estate and he manages apartments near Cappy's. He says he writes for fun, and because he loves it. And "West Newport Blues" was fun.

It's about Newport Beach. What's there not to love?

Foley's book, authored under the name P.S. Foley, can be ordered on Amazon, and those interested in the special first edition copies can email him at ksfoley@me.com. The book was published by Foley's printing company, Whispering Oaks.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times