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Author Martin J. Smith

  • Martin J. Smith


    Smith is a veteran journalist and magazine editor who has won more than 40 newspaper and magazine writing awards. He became Orange Coast’s top editor in 2007 after nearly eight years at the grandly ambitious but ultimately doomed Los Angeles Times Magazine. He also spent nine years as a reporter and columnist for The Orange County Register. In addition to his 30-plus years as a journalist, he is the author of three crime novels (including the Edgar Award-nominated “Straw Men”) and two nonfiction books. Still, he’s most proud of his ongoing series of crank letters to inept service vendors and the makers of faulty home appliances. He considers “Re: Cuisinart Toaster Model CBW-177” to be his masterpiece.


Editor’s Letter: April 2014

The clip shows Mission Viejo botanist Robert Allen standing on a hill near Modjeska Peak. The co-author of a new and hopelessly obscure guidebook about local wildflowers has just found a rare and endangered plant named the Santiago Peak phacelia. Read more...

Editor’s Letter: March 2014

The coolest areas in this vast expanse of remarkable neighborhoods—places with a mysterious combination of distinctive homes, walkability, and safety; amenities such as matchless shopping, cafes, and restaurants; and what contributing editor Valerie Takahama calls “that innate wonderfulness.” Read more...

Solve This Mystery: "Ladies of Intrigue" Isn't Just For the Ladies

A day-long crime novel conference hits Huntington Beach

Which is why anyone who aspires to writing crime novels, male or female, should plan to be at the Hotel Huntington Beach (near Bella Terra) on Saturday, March 29, for "Ladies of Intrigue," a day-long conference featuring L.A. and O.C. writers such as the internationally popular creator of the Molly Murphy and Her Royal Spyness series, Rhys Bowen, shown, Death on Demand series bestselling author Carolyn Hart, and a dozen others. They'll reveal how they come up with murderous plots, villainous killers, and brilliant sleuths in panels such as “Down a Dark Alley: How Setting Shapes Story,” “Tough Cookies: Strong Female Protagonists,” and “Passport Required: Mystery Goes International.” Read more...

Editor’s Letter: February 2014

On a recent cross-country flight, I sat beside an Orange County man who operates seven Southern California burger franchises of a major nationwide chain. During our conversation, I mentioned that Orange Coast was preparing a cover story on Lynsi Snyder, the president of his local archrival, Irvine-based In-N-Out Burger. Read more...

Hey, all you lesbian cairn terrier owners, let’s ... Meetup

Pagans and witches and knitters, oh my. They’re all out there, sifting themselves into ever-smaller subatomic clusters on social networking sites such as Meetup. In the process, they’re also creating an online psychosocial X-ray of modern Orange County.

I was at my home computer scrolling through the staggering cross-section of humanity on a website called Meetup. Since relocating to Laguna Niguel a few months ago, I’d successfully mined the social-connection site for fellow soccer players interested in weekly pickup games. But while doing so, I stumbled upon what may be the most perfect spot from which to survey the curious breadth and depth of modern Orange County. Read more...

Editor’s Letter: January 2014

A good friend once had a potentially nasty cancer, a kind many people don’t survive. They caught it early. Now, years after that trauma, he talks about it with improbable humor and mostly in terms of its absurdities, such as the day his mother quietly slipped him some then-illegal marijuana to ease the side effects of chemo. Read more...

Local Producers and Menu Marvels in the Editor’s Letter: December 2013

Rancher Frank Fitzpatrick recently invited me for beef tacos, bone-broth chili, and beer. He’s lived in his Silverado house since he was 4, except when he was studying animal science in college and running his grass-fed herd in points north. Read more...

The Wild Duck Chase Continues

From the day in 2009 that I began work on a story for Orange Coast about the strange and wonderful Federal Duck Stamp Program, I've believed that the story someday should be told as a documentary film. First, I wrote it as a piece for the magazine, "The Wild Duck Chase." Then I wrote it as a book which is now available in both paperback and digital formats. (Here's the Amazon link.) Read more...

A nuclear reactor you can rent by the hour?

Editor’s Letter: November 2013

The most surprising of this month’s “Hidden O.C.” discoveries isn’t that UC Irvine is home to the county’s only nuclear reactor [Page 100], or that the 60-year-old, 250-kilowatt critter sits just a couple of miles from my desk. Unsettling sure, but I’m more surprised that it’s available to rent for $150 an hour. Read more...

Editor’s Letter: October 2013

To an editor, a story such as “Center of the Universe” by Jay Roberts is compelling—and incredibly frightening. Compelling, because Roberts’ claim to have once been seduced by Orange County’s most notorious serial killer offers a rare and chilling glimpse into a merciless mind, and it goes a long way toward answering a persistent question: How could this killer, Randy Kraft, render his victims so vulnerable, especially when so many were combat-ready U.S. Marines? Read more...

Pier Nostalgia

A Seal Beach artist reclaims wood

We’re always prowling for art by locals that speaks to something elemental about Orange County. So we were thrilled when long-time friend Lynne Cox, the cold-water marathon swimmer who trains off Seal Beach, mentioned during lunch on Sept. 16 that a local postal worker/artist was building some wonderful coffee tables, benches, and other furniture out of timber salvaged from the Seal Beach Pier. The artist is Gino Dominic Nardo, and you can at least see some of his creations (now, alas, mostly sold) at Read more...

TEDx Orange County

A few local standouts populate the TEDx Orange Coast lineup

Among the speakers scheduled for the TEDx Orange County event (Sept. 20-21 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts) are a couple of local standouts, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Kary Mullis of Corona del Mar and UC Irvine’s groundbreaking memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus. Read more...
READ NOW: Serial Killer Seduction

Our "Center of the Universe" story is being read all over the world right now. Click here for the story.


Who Did Randy Kraft Seduce?

Current photos of author Jay Roberts.


A Fact-Checker's Journey to a 1980 Afternoon

Our intrepid intern tracks down the details in Roberts' story.


Why Isn't Randy Kraft Dead?

Our original piece on one of California's deadliest and most depraved serial killers. 


Editor's Letter, October 2013

Our editor considers "Center of the Universe" to be compelling—and incredibly frightening. Click above to find out why.