Chip Jacobs, Smogman

Feb 19, 2009

Bit by bit, we at Hometown Pasadena are connecting with the most interesting writers in the San Gabriel Valley, and I’m here to tell you, there’s a lot of ’em.

Chip Jacobs

Chip Jacobs

Our newest writer pal is Chip Jacobs, an Altadena native, Flintridge Prep alum (and current parent), USC J-school veteran (he was there just behind me), and Linda Vista resident. Over lunch at Little Flower, he talked about his years of newspaper journalism and his happy new life as a book author. 

Chip’s newest book, Smogtown (Overlook Press), co-authored with William J. Kelly, is a much-more-engrossing-than-you-might-think cultural history of smog — and the people who battled it — in the Los Angeles basin. One such battler was a Pasadena woman named Louise Duemler, a homemaker and the wife of a USC medical professor, who founded the San Gabriel Valley branch of Stamp Out Smog (SOS), an influential citizen’s group in the 1960s. She showed the world that Pasadena failed to meet air health standards on a staggering 299 days in one year, more than any other U.S. city — bringing our now-fairer town shame and inspiring eventual change.

The book’s a fun read, as evidenced by these bits from the first chapter:
The beast you couldn’t stab fanned its poison across the waking downtown…. Though nobody realized it then, the mystery cloudbank would rattle the planet—making “green” a cause, not just a color—but first there was the suffering, a city full of it. Inhaling the viscous stuff socked folks with instant allergies whether they had them before or not, eyes welled, throats rasped, hands grasped for hankies and for answers.

You’ll find Smogtown at Vroman’s. Chip’s working on a new book that he can’t say much about, except that it has a lot to do with the Arroyo and the Colorado Street Bridge. We can’t wait.

3 Responses for “Chip Jacobs, Smogman”

  1. That sounds like a wonderful book — Chip’s co-author is my old manager from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Bill Kelly, who is as knowledgeable about smog and its history as anyone I know. Makes me regret that Jack Nicholson and Robert Towne ended their plan to make three Jake Gittes films about the Southland’s politics, economics and ecology –water (Chinatown), oil (The Two Jakes) and the last was to be a about smog. Maybe there’s yet time to make it!

  2. colleen says:

    There may be a movie in Smogtown, and that’s certainly how Chip and Bill wrote it…. the people and the wheeling-dealing and all that.

    Love your site. You’re doing a wonderful job.

  3. Thanks for this, Colleen. I’m always eager to learn more about Pasadena-area authors. We have so many!



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