BOOKS & AUTHORS : This Time They're Ready for 'Experience' Rush

When a newspaper story announcing the publication of the first edition of "The Orange County Experience" appeared two years ago, Roger LeRoque was on vacation in Finland.

As publisher and editor of the book that chronicles the colorful history and changing face of Orange County from the Indian days to the present, LeRoque had no idea his office in Temple City would be inundated with letters from people requesting a copy.

LeRoque's wife, Ellen, had to handle all the details for filling the orders for the large-format paperback written by Fullerton College history professor Louis Reichman and Gary Cardinale, who also teaches history part time at the college.

"She had to go to the post office and get all the invoices and send the book out to the people," recalled LeRoque. "It was wonderful, but she didn't expect it."

There's no telling what response the publication of the second edition of "The Orange County Experience" (Pacific Shoreline Press; $26.95) will generate, but this time LeRoque plans to be home.

Judging by the sales of the first edition, the second edition should do quite well.

A first printing of 700 copies of the first edition sold out within six weeks.

"We were guarded and cautious," Reichman said. "We didn't think the book would have that kind of market."

When the second printing of another 700 copies sold out by the fall of 1988, Reichman, Cardinale and LeRoque began production on the second edition of "The Orange County Experience."

This time LeRoque is printing more than 1,000 copies of the book, which is being sold at Little Professor bookstores and through the mail (Pacific Shoreline Press, P.O. Box 217, Temple City, Calif. 91780).

The 240-page new edition, which adds LeRoque as the third co-author, contains the same charm and appeal of the first: a blend of both history and current events told in a highly readable fashion.

The authors take a cross-disciplinary approach to their study of Orange County, covering a broad range of historical, political, economic, educational and cultural subjects.

Reichman said the second edition contains about 25% new material.

There are new sections on water and smog and demographics. They've also updated sections on transportation and growth in the county, and in a chapter profiling Orange County cities, they've added segments on the two newest additions: Mission Viejo and Dana Point.

Three names have been added to a chapter featuring brief profiles of Orange County leaders: Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, Orange County League of Women Voters President Jessica Dean and William Snyder, president of the Anaheim Area Visitor and Convention Bureau.

Like the first edition, the second edition of "The Orange County Experience" is filled with colorful bits of little-known information that will appeal to both newcomers and longtime residents.

Did you know, for example, that Walter Knott was nicknamed "Mr. Re7publican" and that on election day his office at Knott's Berry Farm would receive hundreds of calls from people asking, "How is Mr. Knott going to vote?"

"Personally, I think the appeal of the book is the balance between the scholarly aspects of the book and the informality of it," said LeRoque, who has taught history and other subjects part time at the secondary and college level.

"This is a topical approach to history rather than chronological," he added. "Each section has a chronology, but you can pick up the book and each chapter is independent of the others. The topical arrangement lends itself to people who are interested in history for the enjoyment of history rather than those who just want cold data."

A major part of the book's charm is the extensive use of old postcards--about 250 of them--to illustrate the county's history. The postcards come from LeRoque's personal collection.

Among the more unusual postcards featured in the book are two from the 1920s: one depicting the 1921 Laguna Beach Peace Pipe Pageant Play (Laguna residents in Indian costume), the other a dramatic view of burning Union Oil Co. tanks in Brea in 1926. Like many of the postcards used in the book, the oil fire postcard was made from a photograph taken by a resident.

"You could just take your film to the drugstore and have it developed as a postcard," LeRoque said. "Oftentimes, they're one-of-a-kind prints. That's one of the fun things about the postcards."

LeRoque said they "paid a price" for using postcards as illustrations. By not using photographs, he said, "we had to forfeit a little clarity in some cases, but we felt it was worth the price to pay: to maintain that informality and unique approach to the postcards rather than using standard pictures you can get in the archives."

Because LeRoque wrote the material that accompanies the postcards and the stories behind the postcards were sometimes blended into the actual text of the book, Reichman said it seemed only logical to bring LeRoque in as the third author of the second edition.

LeRoque said he was amazed by the number of library sales of the first edition outside Orange County. The book, he said, sold to at least 500 libraries throughout the United States. He also received a surprising number of requests for the book from people out of state who had heard about it from local residents, he said.

The idea for "The Orange County Experience" grew out of Reichman's Orange County history tour business of the same name. He began the history-laced bus tours of the county in 1981 as a money-making alternative to teaching summer school. He said he's still doing the tours, but had to curtail them when he began working on the book last fall.

In writing the new edition, Reichman said he added several themes to the text, including the idea that California--and Orange County in particular--represent the dream of the good life. That, he said, "created the enormous diversity of the types of people who come here to take part in the dream. That created what I like to call a disconnectedness involving a tearing up of roots, but also involving new opportunities and creativity.

"It's a plus and minus thing. We think this is really what characterizes the state and the county and we think those three themes--dreams, diversity and disconnectedness--permeate the stories we tell, both the history and current events stories of this county."

The publication of the second edition of "The Orange County Experience" appropriately coincides with the Orange County centennial.

"I think this book really celebrates the 100 years of history that Orange County has now," said Cardinale, a Yorba Linda resident. "It (the second edition) reflects the current situation in Orange County, but it maintains the rich history of the past."

Cardinale said he was also surprised at how well the first edition of the book did.

"People enjoy getting in touch with where they live, and this book has done a pretty good job in doing that with people."

Round Table: Singer Peggy Lee will discuss her autobiography, actor Macdonald Carey will discuss his new book of poetry and Laguna Beach author T. Jefferson Parker will discuss "Little Saigon" at the Round Table West luncheon meeting at noon Tuesday at the Balboa Bay Club. Tickets are $25. Call (714) 548-1447.

Saturday book signings: Arthur Lyons will sign his new mystery, "Other People's Money," and David Madsen will sign his suspense-fantasy novel "U.S.S.A." from 1 to 3 p.m. at Book Carnival, 870 N. Tustin Ave., Orange. . . . George Wright and Mike Madigan will sign "The Twisted Badge" from 1 to 5 p.m. at B. Dalton Bookseller in Mission Viejo Mall.

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