Life on the San Juan Islands wasn't always as idyllic as it seems now, as Mike Vouri points in his new book, "Outpost of Empire: The Royal...

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Life on the San Juan Islands wasn’t always as idyllic as it seems now, as Mike Vouri points in his new book, “Outpost of Empire: The Royal Marines and the Joint Occupation of San Juan Island (Northwest Interpretive Association/University of Washington Press, $15.95). Vouri, the chief interpreter and historian at San Juan Island National Historical Park, has followed up his earlier book, “The Pig War: Standoff at Griffin Bay,” with this account of the joint British-American occupation of San Juan Island from 1860 to 1872, while both parties awaited final agreement on the border between Washington and British Columbia.

Vouri offers a vivid sketch of this odd arrangement, noting the problems — alcohol, prostitution, desertion, runaway cattle — that had to be settled by British and American commanders working under uncertain conditions (including the outbreak of the Civil War, which resulted in no pay for the U.S. garrison for almost six months). Archival photographs and drawings complement the brisk, informative text. Vouri reads 2 p.m. next Sunday, at Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Seattle (206-624-6600 or www.elliottbaybook.com).

Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times book critic

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