KIRKUS praises Smogtown as “colorful,” “a zany and provocative cultural history”

This colorful history of smog in Los Angeles begins in the 1940s and ends with a warning call for action. Self-proclaimed “survivors” of “L.A.’s greatest crisis,” journalist Jacobs (Wheeling the Deal: The Outrageous Legend of Gordon Zahler, Hollywood’s Flashiest Quadriplegic, 2008) and California Energy Circuit senior correspondent Kelly (Home Safe Home: How to Make Your Home Environmentally Safe, 1990) draw on newspaper articles, scientific case studies, policy books and oral-history archives to dredge up the story of smog in all its hazy—and sometimes humorous—permutations. It all began on July 8, 1943, when a blinding, “confounding haze” spread around unsuspecting Angelenos, birthing a decades-long battle against a toxic, shape-shifting monster. The side effects were sinister and wide-reaching: increased car accidents and cancer rates, ruined crops, suicides and even smog-induced mental conditions, like “globus hystericus,” the formation of an imaginary lump that aroused the need to swallow constantly. Most remarkable, note the authors, was the push to develop sprawling, car-dependent communities even while L.A. officials and scientists were trying to combat the deleterious effects of automobile emissions … In this tale of underhanded deals, gritty politics, community organizing and burgeoning environmentalism, the corruption is plentiful and the subplots replete with intrigue. Though the timelines are often confusing, the authors offer a zany and provocative cultural history.”

(Authors note: we drew on many more sources than Kirkus identified — and we promise the timeslines won’t make your head spin. We can’t vouch for the material we present.)

Library Journal gave the book high marks, as well, highlighting its “hip and lively” style and a content that produced an “intriguing social history of an environmental problem that won’t go away.”

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