Islander sparks writing career


Editor’s note: The following is part of a series this month celebrating the 100 years of the Catalina Islander’s publication.

Editor’s note: The following is part of a series this month celebrating the 100 years of the Catalina Islander’s publication.

In the novel “Throwback,” by Robert and Beverly Wilson, a scientist fed up with the direction of society sets out to bring back the world to an older and to him, a better time. In essence, he wants to “throwback” time to an earlier age when people didn’t exist. A fellow scientist finds a way to exploit his creation and now it’s up to both of his sons and several fellow scientist to stop them both in their mad endeavors before either can succeed and take mankind a step lower on the food chain…

Much of the Wilsons’ novel is based around Catalina, which is not surprising when you realize that Robert Wilson, much like The Islander’s “Mysterious Island” columnist Jim Watson, started his writing career with a column in the Catalina Islander.

“Writing for the paper was fun back then,” Wilson said. “Don Haney was the editor, when the paper was located at 615 Crescent Avenue.

Don helped me come up with my own logo for my column. Doing the short stories for the column was a challenge. We would end one story and begin with the first half of another story the column.”

Wilson explained that many of the Islander’s readers who would follow the series and would ask him each week how the last story was ending.

“It developed quite a following,” Wilson said. “We had two cartoon columns out in another paper, one was called, ‘Down at the pond’ and a second was, “Shoot & Hunter,” a single panel cartoon where the animals always got the best of the hunters who just never seemed to get off a shot.

Wilson said his wife recently suggested it might be fun to have a cartoon in the paper called “Under the Pier,” featuring single panel cartoons under the Avalon Green Pier. The location is where some of the longest-lasting relationships on the “Island of Romance” got their start.

“If you get me talking about the island, I’ll talk to you for hours,” Wilson said. “There are many stories from over there, like “Old Charlie,” I feature him in several of our books. He was a good friend of mine. He was also the brother of Roy Rogers, the famous movie star and singing cowboy.”

Wilson described his life on Catalina, which still figures into much of the writing that he and Beverly Wilson do.

“I lived on the island from 1980 to 1984,” he said. “My first experience of Avalon is a bit more unusual than most. I’m originally from Ohio and had been transplanted to California for a number of years. Tired of the state I’d decided to go back to Ohio and had informed my parents that I was leaving. They talked me into one more, ‘family outing,’ before I stepped on the bus to go back east.

“They said they were going over to Catalina Island and I should go with them. I asked them why would I want to go see a rock for? I’d been on the back of the island fishing many times and didn’t know that Avalon was there.

“When we pulled into the harbor I saw the most picturesque scene I’d ever seen personally. Pulling up to the dock before me was a scene I’d seen in pictures many times. It was a beautiful, Mediterranean like town that climbed up the hillside. Needless to say it was a short time later when I ditched my family and began a walk around the town by my self.

“With me I had a back pack with everything I owned and in my pocket was $400. I mention this because along with the backpack was a sleeping bag. It made a difference as to what my future was to be even though I didn’t know it at the time.

 “I spent the day walking the town. I went up Sumner Avenue, up past the golf course to the arboretum. I walked most of the arboretum. It’s a beautiful place that I would walk many times in the future. Back on Front Street (Crescent Avenue) I walked over to the Casino building and watched the boats refueling and all around me I heard laughter, saw smiles and felt welcome.

“As the day progressed I’d stopped at the hot dog stand on Front Street. I got a hot dog, a soda and more friendly conversation. Back at the Casino I again watched the boats come and go. As an avid fisherman you can guess that I was aching to be out there with them with a line in the water.

“One of the prettiest sights I’d seen were the Garibaldi as they seemingly swam everywhere around the harbor. They are beautiful fish that you couldn’t help but notice. From time to time a little Calico or Sheeps Head would swim out from the rocks to tease me.

“As the day ended I met my family back on the mole as they waited for the boat back to the mainland. You can imagine my family’s surprise when I told them that I wasn’t going and that I’d cashed in my return ticket, which I actually had done.

“I don’t think my mother believed me until they boarded the boat and I waved to them as they pulled out into the harbor.

“Once they’d left I headed up Sumner Avenue. I mentioned that I had a sleeping bag along with my backpack. Well, I’d heard about the camp grounds further up the road and figured that I’d spend a few nights there. Walking up the road I passed several different motels and the thought crossed my mind that I might want to see what the price of a room might be. I only had $400 and if it was expensive I’d be in trouble. “For some reason I walked on past several motels and for some reason a little green one caught my eye. At that time it was called the “Westbrook Motel,” and was owned by Milton, “Blackie” Schatan. Going inside, I saw the manager was at the desk. His name was Doug Adams.

The rest, Wilson said, is the history of his idyllic life in Avalon, following his dream of being a writer, doing a column for the Catalina Islander, and soaking up the island lifestyle.

Wilson and his wife currently live in a little town called St. Helens, Oregon. It’s about an hour out of Portland, Oregon.

“We’ve been writing for a number of years and like most have found that getting a book published is pretty much impossible anymore,” he said. “They don’t sell the books any more, now they sell the writers so it’s a hard thing to get included with the rest.

“The book ‘Throwback’ does have a base on the island. Anyone reading or hearing the audio on it will recognize many of the locations described in the story. Some of them include Abalone Point, Lover’s Cove, the Buffalo Nickel restaurant, Sumner Avenue, the Casino, these and many more are mentioned in it.

“The other books aren’t based there though a number of them could actually be done there. I know it’s a tourist draw to be based there so it wouldn’t be a hard thing to do. We have a police detective series called “Pete & Tulley Murder Mysteries,” they could actually be characters that live on the island and solve murders off the island. There are 5 books in the series already. Another could be a murder that wasn’t – one based there on the island. Having a murder on the island wouldn’t be a good thing actually but with the right twist in the story it could be a murder that wasn’t, per say.

Wilson described how his writing partnership with his life partner works.

“My part of the team is to put things down on paper, or computer actually,” he said. “We’ll discuss ideas that each of us will have and do a basic plot of how the story will go. As I’m writing I’ll run things past my wife and she’ll basically edit it as it goes along. Good idea, bad idea, it works well with her not knowing the story until I run parts that have been written past her. She can decide how it sounds without the bias of ‘It was my idea!’

“Fortunately for the two of us neither of us has that type of ego. If either of us has a better idea that’s the one that gets used. Not hers or mine, ours. As for titles, that’s all her doing. I’ve had a few titles for the books in the past though I’ll have to admit, her ideas were better than mine, and that’s an honest opinion.”

The following is an excerpt from the Wilson’s book “Throwback”

The little restaurant sat just above the beach. At the top of a six foot sea wall the little outdoor patio gave a dual view of both the beautiful harbor of Avalon and the Crescent, the long curved walk that ran along the beach front.

 The Six of them sat quietly at dinner. Their conversation more or less subdued as their own thoughts made their recent experiences large in their minds.

 James had eaten quickly and excused himself as the others ate. A short time later he returned and ordered another beer as the waitress passed.

 “Where’d you go?” Rachael asked.

 “Over to the pier to talk to the Harbor Master.” James answered as the waitress brought his beer.

 “Find out anything?” Dan asked. Pushing his plate away and picking up his own beer.

 “Enough to say we’re gonna stick around awhile,” James started, “seems there’s been eleven boats reported missing between the main land and the island the last two weeks. A dock down at two harbors, that’s a camping area down the coast, was destroyed night before last. They haven’t any idea by what and Old Charlie, that’s one of the locals. Says he saw a sea monster last night.” James finished, taking a long draft on the beer.

The Wilsons’ book, “Throwback” was published in 2013. It is available at Amazon and in kindle edition.

Islander sparks writing career