New Redondo Beach author Ashton Politanoff chronicles town’s past

Ashton Politanoff, a former tennis player at Mira Costa H.S., publishes his first book in August. Photo courtesy of Dalkey Archive

by Garth Meyer

Grasshoppers blew in to Redondo Beach from the southwest. Young boys gathered and sold them for chicken feed. 

Whale meat was available too, the papers said. 

Almost a hundred years later, a young man sat in a car in a mostly empty parking lot of the former Columbia Pictures studios in Culver City. The dome light on, it was early morning, and he was writing a short story in a journal.

Once finished, he would go to his job as a production coordinator on Showtime projects such as “Californication.”

Ashton Politanoff wrote a series of short stories that way, got one published in 2014 and is about to have his first book published August 14, “You’ll Like it Here” (Dalkey Archive, Dallas, Dublin) which stems from items in South Bay newspapers from 1911-18. 

The experimental novel comes with a list of endorsements, including William Finnegan, author of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning surf memoir “Barbarian Days.”

Some of the incidents in Politanoff’s 218 pages are 100 percent true, some are half-true and other degrees.

A woman did find a dead bird with white plumage, for example, in 1913 on Redondo Beach, but her subsequent bird hat was not shot at on Palos Verdes Peninsula as she walked along a row of bushes.

“I changed (the news reports) to what I needed to do to satisfy me as a reader and an artist,” said Politanoff, a Redondo Beach resident and 2003 graduate of Mira Costa High School.

Sources for the book’s public domain material were mainly The Redondo Reflex, along with the El Segundo Herald, San Pedro Pilot and Torrance Herald.

Politanoff estimates he went through 3,000 (scanned)  pages of newspaper in his research. Added details came from Sears Roebuck & Co. catalogs of the era. 

“As a book is adapted to a screenplay, I was adapting these clippings to this experimental novel, in that same vein,” said Politanoff, who teaches writing at Cypress College. 

“You’ll Like it Here” opens in idyllic reports followed by a second part in which life ramps up, violence appears and in part three, Redondo Beach residents start to come across Spanish Flu.

For a time, before Politanoff married Mira Costa 2004 graduate Katie O’Connor, he lived in an old bungalow at 615 Emerald Street in Redondo Beach. 

“(During my research), it felt almost like I was moving back to Emerald, in a way,” he said. 

Once the manuscript took shape, he sent it to Diane Williams, editor of “Noon” literary magazine (New York), which had earlier printed Politanoff’s short stories.

“Noon” published an excerpt of “You’ll Like It Here.” 

That fact then made it into 10 targeted query letters Politanoff sent to literary agents. Nine of the 10 requested the manuscript.

He also sent the query to two publishers and went 2-for-2.

Politanoff and his eventual agent, Jackie Gilbert in New York, worked on the manuscript for five months. Gilbert then made a deal with Dalkey Archive in March 2021. 

“I loved the cover, it felt old but modern,” Politanoff said. “They’ve been really respectful in terms of asking my input.”

A former tennis player at Loyola Marymount, Politanoff graduated from U.C. San Diego with a degree in Literature. He later earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Cal State-Long Beach. 

He and wife Katie have two young sons. Politanoff has taught for three years at Cypress College – composition, literature, screenwriting and creative nonfiction.

Following the release of “You’ll Like it Here,” Ashton Politanoff will appear at Stories Bookstore in Echo Park Aug. 18 at 7 p.m., in conversation with author Kathryn Scanlan. ER


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