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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: September 2014

You’ve heard of “whales,” those pampered, high-stakes gamblers who fly into Vegas for the privilege of flushing hundreds of thousands of dollars down the gilded toilet of a modern casino. I’m the opposite of that. Read more...

Editor’s Letter: August 2014

We focused our attention on the kind of luxurious bites that can change lives. You know the feeling—almost primal. When the craving hits, nothing else will do. The moment you take a bite, the Earth stops spinning, the firmament opens, and the angels belt out the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” Read more...

Editor’s Letter: June 2014

I used to greet summer’s arrival with the same anticipation and fanfare I reserved for the ice cream truck. Three glorious months unfurled before me like a blank canvas, and it was my job to use the standard tools of boyhood—baseball bat and glove, bicycle jumps, a snorkel, model rockets, dangerous fireworks—to create something extraordinary. My career may have peaked on the Fourth of July when I joined a fellow 10-year-old in a successful bid to each eat a full-sized watermelon. Then I grew up.  Read more...

Editor’s Letter: May 2014

Lindsey Stirling was booted from “America’s Got Talent.” The judges felt the world wasn’t ready for the Santa Ana-born hip-hop violinist whose website describes her as “some strange, electro-pastoral rave fairy.” Read more...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Editor’s Letter: Order From Chaos

September 2013

I’m an obsessive list-maker whose iPhone includes, at this very moment, lists for “Christmas Gift Ideas,” “Artists to Buy,” and “Favorite Takeout Dinner Orders.” So yeah, I’m that guy. 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.