As the recipient of the UC Irvine Friends of the Library's first Fiction Award in 1966, E.M. (Mick) Nathanson of Laguna Niguel jokes that "I was the only one around, so they grabbed me."
Actually, 17 books were submitted in three categories--fiction, nonfiction and juvenile--the first year the library support group honored county authors.
And it was Nathanson's novel, "The Dirty Dozen," that the Friends deemed "the most outstanding" in the fiction category. Also honored that year in nonfiction was UCI history professor Arthur J. Marder of Newport Beach for his history of the Royal Navy and Leon Ware of San Juan Capistrano for his book in the juvenile category.
The Friends' first annual authors recognition dinner was held at the Sheraton Inn in Huntington Beach in May, 1966, with TV personality Frank Baxter, professor emeritus of English at USC, as guest speaker.
Recalls Nathanson, who was presented a plaque and delivered a brief thank-you speech to the assembled crowd of 400: "I was elated to be noticed by my community, and I felt great joy that the Friends of the Library had taken note of this novel."
The UCI Friends of the Library is still taking note of Orange County authors.
After a number of years selecting "the most outstanding" among an increasing number of submissions, however, the library support group quit making individual awards and began giving equal honor to all Orange County authors who had books published the previous year.
This year, more than 50 authors who had books published in 1989 will be recognized at the Friends' 25th annual Authors Recognition Dinner at 7 p.m. April 29, at the Irvine Marriott. The keynote speaker will be literary agent Robert Gottlieb of the William Morris Agency in New York, whose impressive list of clients includes the best-selling Tom Clancy. (Gottlieb has described the megabuck sale of Clancy's next thriller to Putnam/Berkley as being no less than "the deal of the century.") Other Gottlieb clients include Stephen Coonts, Donald T. Regan, Caspar Weinberger and Alexandra Ripley (the author who is writing the sequel to "Gone With the Wind").
The event is open to the public and tickets ($25 each) may be obtained by calling the Friends of the Library office at (714) 856-5300.
During a social hour beginning at 5:30, all the honored books will be on display and guests will have an opportunity to chat with the authors in attendance.
As in past years, this year's crop of honored books and authors spans a diverse range: from William E. Dannemeyer's "Shadow Land: Homosexuality in America" to romance novelist Suzanne Forster's "Wild Honey," and from Jess J. Araujo's "The Law and Your Legal Rights" to E.C. Ward's Orange County mystery "A Nice Little Beach Town."
Theodore Taylor, who is being recognized for two novels published last year--his adult thriller "Monocolo" and his young adult thriller "Sniper"--is an old hand at the annual literary gathering: This will be the Laguna Beach author's eighth dinner as an honoree. "It's a nice social affair," said Taylor, whose book "Sniper" also has been nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. "You get a chance to schmooze with other writers in the county. You don't really get a chance to see them that often. I don't anyway."
Jean Femling of Costa Mesa, honored for her Newport Beach-set thriller "Hush, Money," is looking forward to the dinner for the same reason.
"I think it's fun to see the other authors in the county," she said. "One knows a few, but it's really interesting to see people who have just been names to you before."
For first-time honoree Jo-Ann Mapson of Costa Mesa, who is being recognized for her collection of short stories, "Fault Line," being acknowledged by the Friends of the Library is just plain "great."
"I feel delighted that they want to honor my book and I'm a little nervous," she said. "I'm excited to be going to the dinner, and I'm really looking forward to hearing Robert Gottlieb. Wow! Big time!"
The UC Irvine Friends of the Library is the university's oldest support group. And, with 2,700 members, it is considered the largest Friends of the Library organization in the nation. A $25 annual membership fee entitles members to a university library card, which, given its reputation as a research library, is an added bonus.
Over the years the Friends have made substantial donations to the library, including the purchase of a complete microform collection of the New York Times and London Times.
During the year, the group hosts various breakfasts and luncheons for members, but the annual author recognition dinner is the most anticipated event.
"It's really the highlight of each year," said John B. Cobb, a Newport Beach attorney, who is the group's current president. "It takes a lot of work, but it does bring us together and also it re-establishes our relationship with the authors."