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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | THOUSAND OAKS

Writer to Sign Copies of Book on Region

September 06, 1998|HILARY E. MacGREGOR

During the past two centuries, Indians, hermits, explorers and military men have traversed the rolling hills and jagged rocks of the Channel Islands.

In his new book, "Charles Hillinger's Channel Islands," the former Los Angeles Times reporter relates the stories of the colorful characters who have lived on these rugged islands off the coast of Southern California.

Hillinger will hold his first book-signing at Borders Books and Music in Thousand Oaks today at 7 p.m.

The 256-page tome contains features Hillinger wrote during the past 50 years about people, places and happenings on the eight Southern California Islands--Santa Catalina, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, San Miguel, San Nicolas, Santa Rosa, San Clemente and Santa Barbara.

"Here are these islands lying so close to the mainland, with millions of people living within eyeshot, and yet not that many people have visited, even today, because they are not readily accessible," Hillinger said this week from his home in Palos Verdes.

His book is full of anecdotes and interviews with quirky island characters, Hillinger said.

There are stories about the incredible flora and fauna of the islands. Many of the island species are found nowhere else in the world.

There are also stories about the recovery of the pelican on Anacapa Island, and the largest known breeding colony of Xantus' murrelets in the world on Santa Barbara Island.

And there are the people.

Hillinger includes the tale of Juana Maria, the Indian woman who was the only human living on San Nicolas Island for 18 years, from 1835-1853. The children's book, "Island of the Blue Dolphins" is based on her experience.

Hillinger's book also includes Avalon Judge Ernest Windle's story of escorting William Wrigley Jr. on a boat ride to Santa Catalina after the chewing-gum king bought the island--unseen--from the Banning family for $3 million in 1919.

And in an island tale that is close to Ventura County, Edwin L. Stanton tells Hillinger that California planned to purchase Santa Cruz Island for use as a prison and how he, Stanton, came to purchase 90% of the island from the Gherini family for $1 million during the Great Depression.

Hillinger was a reporter, features writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Times from 1946 until 1992 and wrote nearly 6,000 stories from all over California and the world.

Hillinger also wrote "The California Islands," which was published in 1957.

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