Books

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Explore the oft-idealized and misunderstood landscape of the American Southwest with the author in an essay collection that chronicles in vivid detail the heroes, heels, and cultural spasms of an endlessly fascinating frontier.
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“Smith is the master of the essay and human interest profile form. Part of his talent in bringing nonfiction subjects alive may be the chops he’s acquired as a novelist; as well as the two books of pop culture nonfiction he’s written and co-written, he’s the author of five volumes of crime fiction. Central to what makes these pieces so compelling is Smith’s voice. With alacrity he mixes in dollops of humor, sweetening the facts, always with admirable restraint. It’s Smith’s compassion, coupled with his droll humor and his ability to go deep that makes Smith one of the best nonfiction writers today.”

Los Angeles Review of Books, Dec. 10, 2017

California’s Inland Empire is ruled by money, sex, and threats—but one murder investigation could bring it all down. Combining psychological cat-and-mouse games with a cast of broken, deftly rendered characters, “Combustion” plumbs the darkest, most twisted depths of greed against the wild, dangerous backdrop of Southern California.

“A page-turner with a kicker at the end—you can’t ask for anything better. That’s what Martin J. Smith delivers in Combustion. Intricately plotted and full of character, this is one great ride that burns with the intensity of a California wildfire.”

—Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author 

Follow Smith down the rabbit hole and into the peculiar world of competitive duck painting, and the vitally important but hopelessly obscure Federal Duck Stamp Program, which many consider the greatest conservation program in human history.

“The Federal Duck Stamp Program has deserved a book like this for a long time: well-written, insightful, and just plain fun to read.”–David Allen Sibley, Sibley Guides to Birds and Trees

A popular history of the fads, mavericks, inventions, and lore that shaped America, including cinematic zombies, pantyhose, Les Paul’s “Log,” the first diet doctor, Betty Ford’s intervention, and the improbable story of Alfred Kinsey’s honeymoon.

“All history should be this much fun.”–Publishers Weekly

A follow-up to “Poplorica” that extracts life lessons from the fiascoes that shaped America, with chapters on the the worst sports promotion of all time, the 1955 Dodge La Femme, the disastrous 1967 Monkees-Jimi Hendrix concert tour, Microsoft’s Clippy, and more!

“A hilarious look at human ingenuity gone horribly wrong.”New York Times Crossword Editor and NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz

A deadly puzzle’s missing piece lies buried in the darkest corner of a troubled young man’s mind. Until memory expert Jim Christensen can find it, an entire city remains hostage to a killer of infinite creativity.

“Time Release is a spellbindingly accomplished first novel.”–James Ellroy

From within the labyrinth of Alzheimer’s, an old woman remembers a long-buried secret that could topple her family’s political dynasty. And only memory expert Jim Christensen understands what she’s trying to say.

“Shadow Image hooks you … right through to the last page.”–Michael Connelly

She identified her attacker as a frightening and disfigured young man known as The Scarecrow. Now, eight years later, DNA tests prove her wrong and plunge memory expert Jim Christensen into a harrowing search for the truth. Don’t miss this Edgar Award finalist!

“The creepiest good time I’ve had in ages … a genuine page turner.”–Laura Lippman

A mysterious, long-ago military plane crash plunges memory expert Jim Christensen and his adopted daughter into a high-stakes search for the truth about her past that leads to a deep well of dark family secrets, and into the crosshairs of an international fugitive who’ll do anything to keep those secrets buried. Order today!

“Smith is at once a reporter and storyteller, weaving a gruesome wartime reality deftly into the lives of the most engaging characters. A terrific read for lovers of political suspense.”—Rebecca Forster

 

Smith introduces this eclectic mix of short stories by acclaimed authors inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s melancholy “Meeting Across the River,” edited by Jessica Kaye and Richard J. Brewer. Published by Bloomsbury in 2005.

“This has to be one of the most creative ideas I’ve ever seen anyone come up with, to take a song by someone so loved and invite so many different creative minds to elaborate on what they believe happened. I’m in awe of you all.” — Justine King

This 2010 collection from Akashic Books, edited by Gary Phillips, features all-new short stories by Susan Straight, Gordon McAlpine, and many other writers, and includes Smith’s “Dark Matter,” about a fading rock star at the end of his wild ride.

“This volume, like coming in from a sudden storm and then being gripped by a heavy riff from Bird’s horn, takes you on a hard-boiled tour behind the Orange Curtain. Among those you’ll meet are a reclusive rock star who has lived way too long in his twisted head.” — Gary Phillips, from the introduction

This 2017 collection from Heyday Books, edited by Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonkovich, includes an excerpt from Smith’s short story “Dark Matter,” along with works by Michael Chabon, Oakley Hall, Philip K. Dick, Edward Humes, Kim Stanley Robinson, and many more.

“This book excels by paying attention to all the quirks that define this place — including Disneyland, toll roads, endangered gnatcatchers, bikinied goddesses, killer cops, acid-loving hippies, and everything in between and beyond.” — Gustavo Arellano, from the foreword

Smith first wrote this essay for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and later expanded it into the self-published 2009 book “My Father’s Tuxedo: The Story of a Suit.” The book was intended for an audience of one, the author’s father, William L. Smith, but eventually found a wider audience.

“The story begins with George Leford Smith, my grandfather, who never owned a tux. But his son, William, spent $100 for one in 1954, two years before my birth. Its passage to my generation, and eventually to my own son, is the story of threads that link one family across vast stretches of space and time.” — Martin J. Smith