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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...

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...


August 2013

Son No. 1 recently pounced on a get-rich-quick opportunity. After he described the product (“healthy” energy drink) and the sales strategy (recruit collegians to spend $500 for a few cases, then have them recruit other collegians to spend $500, then have them recruit...), I offered that maybe multilevel marketing isn’t the best use of a $50,000-a-year business school degree. Read more...

My Treasure Map

July 2013

I moved with my wife to South County a few months ago to begin a new phase of life. Our kids had flown, and the 4,500-square-foot coop where we’d raised them was starting to feel like a blimp hangar. So we held the mother of all garage sales, divested ourselves of the detritus of three decades together, and set off for the unexplored South County frontier. Read more...


June 2013

We overuse words like that one, don’t we? An overpaid baller nails a three-pointer at the buzzer to win a crucial game. Gutsy! A politician defies a special interest to do the right thing, and we applaud. Bold! All hail the brave citizen who stands up to city hall! Read more...

Yeah, It Is

May 2013

You seem like reasonable, self-aware people who aren’t afraid to confront hard truths, and who no doubt have, from time to time, asked the very same question we pose on this month’s cover: Is Orange County worth it? Guessing here, but you probably asked it the last time you felt your soul die a little on the 405, or while gagging at a real estate ad for a million-dollar hovel miles from the beach. It’s OK. We’ve all been there. 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.