By the Bay

Milford-Haven lives on in Purl’s books

judysalamacha@gmail.comOctober 28, 2012 

Award-winning novelist and former soap opera regular Mara Purl recently celebrated with Central Coast friends the 20th anniversary of her serialized radio drama, “Milford-Haven, U.S.A.” Loosely based on the characters and settings familiar to folks in Cambria, the show aired first on KOTR-FM 94.9 before it became a hit on the BBC, exposing Purl’s fictional Central Coast community to 4.5 million listeners in the United Kingdom.

Tribune-Cambrian staff writer Kathe Tanner, who once operated a bakery, recalls: “Locals met Mara when she played in ‘Sea Marks’ by Gardner McKay at the Pewter Plough Playhouse. She came by our bakery regularly. Locals enjoyed the radio show to figure out which local was which character in the drama. I know the cinnamon buns came from our Upper Crust Bakery.”

Flash forward to Nov. 3, when Purl invites everyone to meet her at Coalesce Book Store in Morro Bay from 2 to 4 p.m. for a signing of  “Where the Heart Lives.” It is the second in a 12-book series based on the original characters placed in modern scenarios in and around Milford-Haven, Calif.

“Mara walked into the store in September to schedule a book signing,” said Coalesce owner, Linna Thomas. Purl’s first novel, “What the Heart Knows,” sold 15,000 copies in one day. Her website,, lists Coalesce Book Store as the fourth signing on the 2012 tour.

“She was here before and enjoyed our store and gardens,” Thomas continued. “She said she included us in this second book. We’re right there on pages 22 and 23. We had to get permission from the publisher to sell her book since the hard-copy version doesn’t officially come out until Nov. 5.”

Purl’s protagonist, Samantha Hugo, shops at Coalesce and another Morro Bay shop. She eats lunch at Dorn’s Original Breakers Café before returning to Milford-Haven.

According to the Oct. 12 review at, Purl’s latest “soap opera narrative” is “an eclectic cast of characters … filled with back stories — dark secrets, hidden agendas, failed romances and budding love.”

“Days of Our Lives” soap opera fans will recognize nurse Darla Cook when they meet Purl. Her novel-writing style models the day-to-day scheming and cliffhanging endings of the television genre. However, writing was her first career. She began as a journalist for The Associated Press and contributed to Rolling Stone, Working Woman Magazine, and others. Besides her fiction, she has written a play and several nonfiction books.

Purl has presented at the San Luis Obispo Library Book Festival, SLO NightWriters and the 2012 Central Coast Writers’ Conference.

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at or 801-1422.

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