Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best of 2016: (Fairly) local history

Reviewed by Leslie R.,
reference librarian

The King and Queen of Malibu: The True Story of the Battle for Paradise, by David K. Randall.

This past year or so, I’ve found myself more satisfied with nonfiction books than with fiction. The King and Queen of Malibu is my favorite nonfiction read of 2016.

Newly married Frederick and May Rindge arrived in Los Angeles in 1887. Frederick was Harvard-educated and wealthy, while his wife was a Midwestern farmer’s daughter. Los Angeles was a frontier town then—complete with shoot-outs in the streets—but Frederick had vision, and with his wealth and connections (including Theodore Roosevelt) he was instrumental in the creation of institutions and buildings we know today. His history is the history of modern Los Angeles.

At one point the richest man in the city, Frederick bought a wild, natural getaway for his family—Malibu. They zealously guarded their paradise from others who would use, or even pass through, the land. After Frederick’s sudden death, Mary spent the rest of her life protecting Malibu and blocking travel on the coast. It’s fascinating, and amazing, to read the lengths she went to (in a man’s world) to stand up to the forces that wanted access to the coast of Malibu, which she considered her private property.

The issue of access is still in the news today, as lawsuits and penalties are brought against homeowners who don’t acknowledge easements for the public to reach the beaches on the coastline. I had no idea what an old and ongoing topic it was!

The King and Queen of Malibu reads like a novel, but is all the more fascinating for being true.

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