Novelist gets to the dirt of Laguna


“Lovers and Schemers” by E. M. “Mick” Nathanson may not win the

Nobel Prize for literature, but Laguna Beach readers will have a lot

of fun trying to identify the characters.


No one could miss the dapper, gray-haired police chief who had

made significant drug busts early in his career. Does the name Neil

Purcell ring a bell?

“It is a Laguna Beach/Orange County novel,” Nathanson said. “I’ve


lived and written in South County since 1964; have researched, evoked

and dramatized stories and character far from home in five previously

published novels, but this is the first book I’ve set here.”

Nathanson bought a home in South Laguna with the proceeds from the

sale of the movie rights to his first book, “The Dirty Dozen.”

“I had a little bit of money so I went house hunting then-wife and

son,” Nathanson said. “I wanted to live near the ocean and I vaguely

knew Laguna Beach. My wife fell in love with the first or second


house we looked at and it was inexpensive.”

Remember, this was almost 40 years ago.

“The 5 Freeway wasn’t in; there was no industry and no way to earn

a living here except cleaning up leaves,” Nathanson said.

He bought the house for $35,000 and sold it when he and his wife

split for $60,000.

“The last time I heard, it sold for 10 or 12 times what we paid

for it,” Mick said.


In the meantime he wrote four other books and suffered through

three movie sequels to the “The Dirty Dozen,” which Nathanson said

didn’t compare to the original Lee Marvin version, and one truly

“awful” television series based on the book.

“The series was a caricature,” Nathanson said. “They filmed 12

episodes, but only showed about half of them.”

Even watching the first movie took some adjusting.

“I saw the rough cut in England and I loved what I saw, but it

wasn’t complete,” Nathanson said. “Then I went to the first full cut

about a year or so later and I hated it.

“I didn’t get to like it until about the third viewing. I paid to

see it and sat and watched it from the balcony with my son. It was

quite close to my work, although they threw away about half of the


Research for “Lovers and Schemers” started in 1978.

“It was finished in 2000,” Nathanson said.

The book covers 30 years in Orange County and its coastal towns,

mainly Laguna. It opens on the eve of the county bankruptcy, goes

back three decades, taking the characters through conflicts and

crisis in town and county from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s.

“It is a picaresque romp through suspense, drama and comedy,”

according to the Cliffs Notes by the author. Laguna Beach painter

Roger Armstrong did the jacket, a watercolor of the gazebo at Heisler

Park, and illustrations sprinkled throughout the book.

The 585-page “Lovers and Schemers” and a new 607-page edition of

“The Dirty Dozen,” which includes five pages of history on the book

and the author, were published by Nathanson’s company, Regenesis


“I got fed up with the New York publishing trade,” he said.

Mick, who has worked as a newspaper and magazine editor, also

edited the books, with some input from readers.

“But any errors are mine,” he said.

The book is not yet available in bookstores. It can be obtained

for $34.17, including sales tax and mailing costs through web site , e-mail or snail mail to E. M.

Nathanson, P.O. Box 9742, Laguna Beach, 92652-7729.

Nathanson was among the 18 authors who attended a book signing

sponsored in September by the Dana Point Friends of the Library to

celebrate the library’s 25th anniversary.

Authors T. Jefferson Parker, who set his first thriller, “Laguna

Heat,” here, and Woods Cover resident Ted Taylor, whose classic “The

Cay” is required reading in some elementary schools, also attended.

Parker will be the guest speaker at the Laguna Beach Friends of the

Library annual dinner Oct. 24 at the Hotel Laguna, to which Nathanson

has been invited.

Information: 497-7115.


North Laguna resident Bob Dietrich had a few sore muscles Monday,

but he figures it was worth the aches and pains to raise money for

people who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis.

Bob was among the 1,600 bicyclists who rode last weekend in the MS

Bay to Bike Tour. The tour stretched from Huntington Beach to Mission


Lagunan Josephine Moothart, who rode in the tour for the fifth

time said it’s the people who benefit that make the ride worthwhile.

Moothart rode with Team Uschi’s Gym, owned by Ursula Pfisterer,

who also cycled the tour.

KPMG, the company with which Dietrich works, sponsored jerseys and

energy bars for the 30-member team. Dietrich personally raised $725

from the community in flat pledges.

All told, about $1 million was raised.


Tuesday is the deadline to order tickets to the Coastal Family

Therapy Services’ T’was the Night Before Halloween Benefit Ball, set

for 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., Oct. 30 at Tivoli Too.

The services’ collaborates with the Boys and Girls Club of Laguna

Beach to prevent child, alcohol and drug abuse; domestic violence;

and violence among children.

Susan M. Jacob, formerly the clinical director of Brandy’s

Friends, is the executive director. The board of directors includes

retired Superior Court Judge Paul Egly, his wife Jane Egly, an

attorney and one-time City Council candidate; Sande St. John, and

Chamber of Commerce members Bonnie Macmillan and Pat Freeman.

The benefit will include dining, dancing, a costume contest and

silent auction.--costumes optional. Tickets are $75, tax deductible

to the fullest extent of the law.

Information: 851-5022.

* OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652.