Author looks to Balboa for inspiration

Supernatural thrillers feature local businesses as backdrop for heroine who shares some life experiences with author.

May 03, 2008|By Brianna Bailey

Author Toni Andrews remembers the dark corners and sticky floors of The Class of ’47 bar down the street from the Balboa Island Ferry as the place where she learned how to play pool and celebrated her 30th birthday. The walls are plastered with photographs of old patrons like John Wayne, an aging pinup girl and a bearded character who went by the name Sailor Ron.

The old bartender, who has since passed away, kept a photograph of Andrews behind the bar and gave her a dirty nickname after she handled a drunken patron’s unwanted advances with particular finesse.

The second book in Andrew’s Mercy Hollings series is out this week. Titled “Angel of Mercy,” the book and its predecessor “Beg For Mercy” both take place in and around the Balboa Peninsula.


Andrews has given the same name to the heroine of her series about a hypnotherapist with a supernatural power of persuasion, but changed the moniker of the bar to “Jimbo’s.”

People always ask Andrews if her paranormal-gifted protagonist Mercy Hollings is really her alter ego.

“She’s not me, but we share some of the same life experiences,” Andrews always says with a sly look.

A native of Connecticut, Andrews fell in love with the peninsula after staying at her boss’ beach house. She ended up living in Newport Beach for 15 years. Newport is the perfect backdrop for her series of supernatural thriller novels, Andrews said. Her publisher also likes the area for its picturesque costal settings, she said.

“You can do big-city things here, but Balboa is like a small town with its own character,” she said. “It’s also a good jumping-off point to go to other places like the desert or San Diego.”

“Angel of Mercy” features numerous other Newport landmarks and hangouts, including the Balboa Fun Zone, and the Balboa Island Ferry, which Andrews blew up in her first novel.

One character in “Angel of Mercy” craves the oyster kabobs at the Crab Cooker, and Mercy Hollings eats a grilled fish sandwich at Newport Landing at one point in the book.

For the most part, local businesses are taking their new status as literary landmarks in stride.

Class of ’47 manager Elaine McGrew, who has been tending bar at the Newport hangout for the past 10 years, hasn’t read Andrew’s books yet, but said she hoped the ambience of the bar comes across in the novels.

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