Why a Duck? Marty Smith's Wild History Decoy, Or: I Don't Know Much About Ducks, But I Know What I Like

Categories: OC Bookly
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Martin J. "Marty" Smith is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, an editor who has boostered smart writing and supported other writers, and also made a career himself as author of a popular mystery series and, because he is a gregarious and curious nut, a series of unlikely books which seem to have been produced for the happy simultaneous purpose of delighting you, the reader, and finding just the right holiday or birthday gift for the uncle or aunt or boss with whom you don't otherwise have much to talk about. Smith is editor-in-chief over at another magazine which has "Orange" in the name, and also a former senior editor at the benighted Los Angeles Times, where he led the doomed charge for quality, taste and local interest at its short-lived weekend magazine. His friends wondered what might become of ol' Marty with the layoffs and fool's-golden handshakes and other disappointments from the Old Gray Babe what with the Big Zell-Out, to pay the bills while he amused himself with writing another detective novel or something which might follow Oops: 20 Life Lessons from the Fiascoes that Shaped America and Poplorica.  Well, here it is, another sociological joyride with laughs, politics and seemingly useless knowledge for readers who know how to make use of it.

Why a duck?
Marty has done great work with the luxury lifestyle magazine--okay, it's Orange Coast--he steers through the no-doubt turbulent waters of slick ads for sexy cars, with sexy models and sexy real estate listings. Tough work, eh? Yet his website offering, "Will write for food," suggests humor and perspective, and solidarity with what some editors, managers and the suits call "content providers," i.e. writers. Over in the land of Benz and Bulgari, he's signed on terrific local writers to compose occasionally lovely short personal essays, meditations on life in our county, profiles and recollections, and not just about those areas of the OC where advertisers might imagine people read the mag.

Author of three crime novels (Shadow Image, Straw Men, Time Release) and, yes, those wonderfully bizarre collections (with co-content provider Patrick J. Kiger), Smith has won journalism awards galore, which maybe means he does what he wants--in this case, produce another odd, necessary, fun and smart book which, despite my otherwise excellent and discriminating taste, student papers to grade, a box of Santa Monice Review manuscript submissions to read, the deadline approaching on completion of my online traffic school requirement, not to mention my own terrific novel to work on, I picked up, begin reading and could not, as they say, put down. The Wild Duck Chase: Inside the Strange and Wonderful World of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest (It's just fun to say!) is a book with a gutsily obscure focus, exploring and teaching and offering its generous understanding of something you need to know, but maybe which you didn't know you needed to know.

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