Category Archives: Book Reviews

My Debut Novel Published in Paperback!

A legless veteran and his Vietnamese girlfriend embark on a cross-country journey through the dark heart of mid-1980s America to exact revenge on the loathsome Monsanto Corporation, whose Agent Orange decimated both their lives.

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From the illicit pharmaceutical underworld of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to the cocaine-dusted film set of amputee porn in booming Las Vegas; from the urban-industrial hideout of vegan militant black revolutionaries to a botched backyard lynching by Texas frat boys and the liberation of their chained, abused pit bull. . . Orange Rain hurtles from one stunning scene to the next, swaying between the hilarious and the hideous. Its humor is darker than the Marlboro Man’s coffee (and his lung cancer). A wildly twisted novel, but also one with undeniable heart and compassion. It is an ode to humans’ ability to endure in the face of horrific suffering. A celebration of feminine strength and spirit. You’ve likely never read anything quite like it.
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“The eco-warriors next door embark on a lightning round of vigilante justice. Orange Rain is what happens when the Monkey Wrench Gang goes Death Wish and moves from the scrubland to the streets. Literature that incites.” -Peter Young, former ALF prisoner, chief editor at Animal Liberation Frontline

http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Rain-A-Revenge-Novel/dp/0990360717/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407356480&sr=8-1&keywords=smitowicz

Thanks to my wonderful, egalitarian, vegan-owned, Eco-conscious publisher Trebol Press for taking this on! www.TrebolPress.com

“Orange Rain is not a politically correct novel—which is why it is so appealing . . . [the main] character has a clear revenge mission he never wavers from. Revenge is exacted on more than one oppressor, including two different rapists . . . [It’s] the type of book that could never be published by a mainstream publisher, as they would be too afraid to touch the taboo subjects it contains. Jan Smitowicz’s first novel . . . is fast-moving, fun to read, and isn’t the same old tired thing we see coming from traditional publishers.” -Kimberly Steele, author of Forever Fifteen and other novels

“A compelling, fast-paced adventure through some of society’s most intriguing subcultures . . . filled with incisive political commentary. This timely and important novel is a must read for anyone concerned about the state of the planet, or simply looking for a good read.” -Camille Marino, former political prisoner, founder of Negotiation is Over and Eleventh Hour for Animals

“An exciting new author with a new voice to bring to the world of fiction. The literary world is in desperate need of more writers like him.” Veronica Rosas, playwright

*FREE PROMO!* My Revenge Novel “Orange Rain”, Now Revised and Including Bonus Materials!

Orange Rain has been revamped: now professionally edited, with a new cover and bonus materials at the end!

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To celebrate this, I’m offering the book for FREE DOWNLOAD starting tomorrow, Tuesday, April 1 and ending Saturday, April 5, 2014!! After that, it will be available for the 50% reduced price of $2.99 for another five days!
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Click here to download ORANGE RAIN from Amazon.

 

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Max Wright is homicidally enraged with people who wrecked his life—people he has never met or even seen. The Vietnam War left him poisoned and cancer-ridden from the spraying of Agent Orange, legless, and addicted to heroin, forced to sell drugs to support his habit and suppress his pain. Now he’s kicked heroin, and burns for revenge on the loathsome corporation that manufactured Agent Orange.

With his Vietnamese ex-prostitute girlfriend Mai Linh, Max hitchhikes across mid-1980s America. Destination: Florida, where a university medical clinic is performing cutting-edge prosthetic leg implants. Only when he is able-bodied, Max reasons, can he attempt an attack on the corporation that ravaged his body, and decimated Mai Linh’s life. Hot on Max and Mai’s trail is Victor Wattana, the “Oriental Massage Parlor” owner whose money they stole and penis they snapped in half following a rape attempt.

From the illicit pharmaceutical underworld of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to the cocaine-dusted film set of amputee porn in booming Las Vegas, from the urban-industrial hideout of militant black revolutionaries to a botched backyard lynching by Texas frat boys, Orange Rain hurtles from one stunning scene to the next. It sways between the hilarious and the hideous, exploring myriad dark places in America where the two intersect. It is an ode to humans’ ability to endure in the face of horrific cruelty and suffering. A celebration of feminine strength and spirit.

 

NOTE: If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle app and read it on your phone or computer!

A Huey helicopter unleashing the “orange rain” on Vietnam.

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT ORANGE RAIN:

Jan Smitowicz is the Hunter S. Thompson for a new generation, and ‘Orange Rain’ is every inch the mind-bending ride you would expect from such an author. I guarantee you’ve never come across a novel like this before. The pace is fast and the the language is both inventive and obscene . . . If you long for a world where despicable behavior has immediate and devastating consequences, Mr. Smitowicz has your order up.”
-A.F.

“I’m always up for a plot in which the little guy fights back against the big guy. And you can’t get bigger than Monsanto. Go, Max!…Rapists getting beaten. Poisoners getting poisoned. Dogs getting liberated. That kind of justice is always so cathartic. I don’t read enough of it.”  -J.C.

Orange Rain is fast-paced and exciting . . . a tale of pure beauty.”
-M.N.

“You must read this, my peeps. You must relish the dark humor, the excitement, predicaments, the shredding of evil entities, the endings that make the world go ’round. I don’t care how the academics describe this book – I’m doing it my way: you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll be singing from rooftops. Oh, yes you will!”
-A.L.

A rollicking adventure in which a search for legs and revenge leads to a cross-country trip jam-packed with thrills, chills, and seat-of-the-pants escapes…Exhilarating, thought-provoking, and relevant, Orange Rain is worth your time!”
-J.

“I loved this book! I literally couldn’t put it down. It explores some really serious topics (veterans and PTSD, chemicals and the environment, fat corporate America) in a fairly dark but wildly funny twisted way that engaged me from the first page.”
-R.S.

My Revenge-on-Monsanto Novel, FREE for a 5-Day Promotion!

My revenge-on-Monsanto-novel Orange Rain‘s Amazon page.

One of the primary reasons that I write is to raise awareness about social justice issues. That is why, starting tonight (July 10) at midnight P.S.T., and lasting through midnight P.S.T. July 15, my novel ORANGE RAIN will be available for **FREE download through Amazon Kindle!!** If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle app and read it on your phone or computer!

orange rain 2

I am offering this free promotion in part to raise awareness about Monsanto and Agent Orange, in commemoration of the three year anniversary of multiple testimonies before the U.S. House of Representatives by members of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (Click on the group name to see a description) on the continuous toxic legacy left by America’s spraying during the war.

A Huey helicopter unleashing the "Orange Rain"

A Huey helicopter unleashing the “Orange Rain”

All I hope for in return is for you to do one or more of three things: 1) DOWNLOAD AND READ THIS BOOK, and increase your knowledge and awareness of the horrific nature of Agent Orange and Monsanto and the necessity of FIGHTING BACK against abusers 2) TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT IT / SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA 3) If you like the book, POST A REVIEW ON AMAZON, even if it’s just a quick paragraph about what you liked!

Here’s an interview with me on the Vegan Hedonists blog

Here are some things readers have said about Orange Rain:

“I’m always up for a plot in which the little guy fights back against the big guy. And you can’t get bigger than Monsanto. Go, Max!…Rapists getting beaten. Poisoners getting poisoned. Dogs getting liberated. That kind of justice is always so cathartic. I don’t read enough of it.” -J.C.

Orange Rain is fast-paced and excitinga tale of pure beauty.” -M.N.

“You must read this, my peeps. You must relish the dark humor, the excitement, predicaments, the shredding of evil entities, the endings that make the world go ’round. I don’t care how the academics describe this book – I’m doing it my way: you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll be singing from rooftops. Oh, yes you will!” -A.L.

A rollicking adventure in which a search for legs and revenge leads to a cross-country trip jam-packed with thrills, chills, and seat-of-the-pants escapes…Exhilarating, thought-provoking, and relevant, Orange Rain is worth your time!” -J.

“I loved this book! I literally couldn’t put it down. It explores some really serious topics (veterans and PTSD, chemicals and the environment, fat corporate America) in a fairly dark but wildly funny twisted way that engaged me from the first page.” -R.S.

My Review of “Love and Liberation” Published in the Peace Studies Journal

http://peaceconsortium.org/peace-studies-journal/archives/psj-vol-5-issue-3-2012

My review starts on Page 97 on the scroll-through thing on the bottom when you click on the issue.  Enjoy! ❤

Mainstream Writer Tribute: John Irving

Maybe you’re not ready for the radicalism of a Rod Coronado piece, or a militant anti-vivisection post by me, or my didactic dismantle-civilization-diatribes.  My most-highly-recommended reading on concrete strategies to save the planet, Decisive Ecological Warfare, may sound nuts to you (it’s not though!).  Maybe you just came here to check out the beautiful places I visit and try to capture with my camera–my nature photography.  I understand that my kind of militancy can be off-putting if you’re not already acquainted with these ideas, or if you haven’t quite realized the extent of the havoc that civilization is wreaking on our planet and the wild (and domesticated) animals who have every right to live here, too.

If any of the above apply to you, this post is for you!

This is the first installment of my new ongoing series (all will be included in the Too Radical? link above) of tributes to and essays on mainstream-ish authors–popular and successful writers–who nonetheless insert radical politics and/or social justice issues into their work, in a manner that is very accessible to the mainstream, and entertaining, too.  Entertainment most definitely has its place in our work; we need to reach everyone we possibly can with our messages of compassion, deep ecology, civilization’s inherent destructiveness, women’s rights, anti-police state/repression, green anarchism, reproductive freedom, LGBTQ rights, animal liberation, and most important of all, FIGHTING BACK against abuse and repression and planetary destruction!!  John Irving is my favorite novelist, so it’s only fitting that I start with him.

Irving happens to be one of the boldest mainstream writers.  He covers social justice issues and taboo, controversial topics in every single one of his novels (13 to date), yet he is a recognized literary figure; he has won the O. Henry Award, the National Book Award, an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (The Cider House Rules, 1999), and in 2001 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a very prestigious honor.

*SPOILER ALERT*:  I will refer to specific plot events in his novels, but I’ll leave them vague enough that the experience won’t be ruined if you read them.

He shoved on the envelope right away.  At the age of only 26, he published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears.  It is about two Austrian youths who dream of liberating the bears at the Vienna Zoo, and eventually hatch plans, finally executing not just a liberation of the bears, but all the animals.  Don’t fret, animal rights friends–it is done in a way that allows many of the creatures to escape into the countryside and thrive–Animal Liberation!

Irving deals with feminism and women’s rights in some fashion in nearly every one of his books.  He is most well-known for his fourth novel, The World According to Garp (1978), which the Chicago Sun-Times appropriately called, “The most powerful and profound novel about women written by a man in our generation.”  The main character is Garp, and his mother becomes famous for her precocious feminist manifesto, A Sexual Suspect.  Garp comes across a little girl being molested in the park; he eventually chases down and helps a policeman capture the pervert (hilariously, in the process, Garp pulls down the pants of a suspicious-looking old man and sniffs his “equipment” because, “There is no smell like sex…You cannot disguise it.  It is as rich and clear as spilled beer” (201).)  One of the main characters is Robert(a) Muldoon, a massive former pro football player-turned-transsexual.  Irving treats the subject of transsexuality with grace and compassion and understanding.  In the novel, Garp is a famous writer; he writes a short story–included in the book–in which a woman is getting savagely raped inside a pickup truck, but saves herself and delivers bloody, gloriously violent justice by finding a long, thin fishing knife under the seat and slashing his throat, severing his esophagus and vocal cords, then stabbing him in the ribs and driving the blade all the way to the hilt into his belly.  A fate well-deserved and masterfully rendered.

In his next magnificent book, The Hotel New Hampshire (1981), he treats the serious social issues of rape, racism, homophobia, and nationalism with typical Irving brilliance and compassion and accessible progressive-mindedness and moral didacticism.

In 1985 he published what is to me his finest masterpiece, The Cider House Rules.  It is in the broadest sense about a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.  One of the two main characters, Dr. Wilbur Larch (played wonderfully in the movie by Michael Caine, who won Best Supporting Actor for the role), is among the more beautiful and fascinating characters of 20th Century literature.  He runs an orphanage in small-town Maine, is a fiercely kindhearted obstetrician/gynecologist, and performs illegal abortions for many decades, starting in the 1920s.  He is also an ether addict.  A brilliant line from Larch helps sum up one of the book’s main, crucial messages:  “I do not even recommend [what the pregnant women who come to him should do].  I just give them what they want.  An orphan or an abortion.”

I feel those are John Irving’s most important novels in terms of social commentary and politics.  But there are others; A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989), which many fans consider his best work, deals with the Vietnam War and school bullying; A Son of the Circus (1994) discusses cruelty to children, dwarf-hating, and racism; A Widow For One Year (1998) covers women’s rights in the form of prostitution and the horrible abuse sex workers can experience.  The phenomenal Until I Find You (2005) involves child molestation; when the main character is 10 years old he is sexually molested by a middle-aged woman.  Irving later revealed that this was drawn from personal experience–an admission that takes real courage, especially as such a public figure.  When Irving’s youngest son Everett announced that he is gay to his elderly father, Irving replied, “I love you all the more” (Time Magazine, May 14, 2010).  It is partly this kind of empathy and giant-heartedness that makes John Irving so special.

I haven’t yet read his newest book, In One Person.  It was released in May of this year, about two months ago.  I have it on my bookshelf.  But I’m saving it, as difficult as it is.  I’m savoring this–the first time I’ve had a newly published Irving book (since I only became a huge fan two years ago in prison).  It’s a form of pleasure delay!–like waiting for weeks to have sex with a woman or man when you’ve both wanted each other since the first magical evening together.  The new novel is about a young man in the 1950s who is coming to terms with his bisexuality, and features many gay, bisexual, and transgendered characters.  I’m sure he treats them and their lives with the same kind of compassion and empathy he always has.  Time proclaims that In One Person “marks a return to politically charged form for Irving; the novel’s intolerance of intolerance is timely, its characters timeless.”

I cannot wait to read it.

Apparently this is actually a man cross-dressing 🙂

 

Concerning the “outsiders” about whom Irving commonly writes, he says, “There are so many people out there who fall through the cracks, so many people out there who are hiding in order to survive.”   Time writer Benjamin Percy responds to this with, “Empathetic narratives about them are necessary, revolutionary.”

I couldn’t agree more.  And that’s why I wrote this piece.  John Irving may be mainstream, but his subject matter and politics are not.  He is helping to make the world a better place with his work, and for that, I love and salute him.  Hope you enjoy his novels even half as much as I do!

Green Theory and Praxis Journal

Great news–the newly restarted Green Theory and Praxis Journal now has its website up.

And I am on the editorial board as their official book reviewer!!  We are all very excited about bringing this to you.  And since I am disabled and spent two years in prison, I feel like I’ll have a lot to contribute to the board.

“A multi-movement publication, GTPJ is a critical theory journal seeking scholarship in the areas of environmental justice, eco-ability, eco-feminism, eco-transgender studies, global justice, revolutionary environmentalism, critical race theory, critical environmental education, ecopedagogy, Earth liberation, etc. Further, the journal promotes deconstruction of oppressive binaries (culture/nature, wild/civilized, human/animal), real world application of critical theory, and a jargon-free rhetorical foundation supporting the abolition of all systems of domination. GTPJ is not a reformist publication. Rather, our mission argues for mass global transformation through the critique of systems, not individuals, that promote oppression.”

Stay tuned!

As the World Burns by Jensen and MacMillan

This book was released five years ago, but it’s still great and still very timely and I want to promote it, so this is my short review of it.

As the World Burns:  50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan, Seven Stories Press, 2007.

As the World Burns is a graphic novel about a world becoming increasingly unlivable.  Dams choke rivers and decimate fish populations, factories spew toxic garbage into the air and water and soil, and enormous swaths of open space disappear to the death-marching “progress” of industrial civilization (sound familiar?).  And we’re supposed to fight this death machine by recycling?  Taking shorter showers?  All the while, aliens from outer space have descended, and bought off the rights to what’s left of Planet Earth’s natural resources from the torture-loving, zombie-faced U.S. President in exchange for large amounts of gold.  The aliens begin gorging themselves—literally—on the forests, rocks, mountains, fish, and everything else in the natural world until almost nothing is left.  And the president’s corporate masters are not happy about it…

The novel traces the philosophical evolutions of many disparate human characters—young adults, mainstream environmentalists, a nature-loving wanderer who may or may not be Derrick Jensen—and how they come together, both conceptually and physically, to rise up with appropriate levels of resistance and stop those who are killing the planet.  For the nonhumans, there is never any question.  The crows, the polar bears, the raccoons and fish and one-eyed “vicious terrorist” bunny who escaped from a vivisection lab, don’t have the luxury of waiting patiently for the revolution to come, for the shackles of civilization to be gradually lifted.  They don’t have air conditioning, water filters, or laws to protect them; they feel the brutal effects of industry and human development every day, in their bodies, in their psyches.  For those with the steel-toed Shaq-boot of civilization on their necks, there is no tomorrow.

As the World Burns is a gripping, hilarious, heartbreaking tale.  I cheered and I cried when the one-eyed bunny returns to the vivisection lab and exacts revenge on his tormentors.  We could all learn something from the “terrorist” bunny, and the rest of the nonhumans in the story.  They never stop to question whether their actions are “moral,” legal, or fit into a rigid dogmatic philosophical doctrine (also a product of civilization, a concern that just doesn’t exist in the natural world).  Freedom is all that matters.

As the World Burns is rife with Jensen’s acerbic wit.  McMillan’s drawings are fabulous, too.  It is necessarily less in depth than Jensen’s usual long, winding, piercing analyses.  In a way, this is a blessing, since this makes it much more accessible to those not well-versed in anti-civ ideas.  Get a copy, spend a few hours being entertained and inspired, and then pass it around to your friends.  You just might plant the seeds of revolution.

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You can buy it from your local used book store, or directly from Derrick Jensen (and check out his great website while you’re at it!).

Support the ALF

Rikki w/ Stikki supports the ALF….

…And she convinced me too, as well!

ALF?  you ask.  Isn’t that the alien puppet from that horrible ’80s show?  Well, yes, but here is an introduction to who the Animal Liberation Front is and why they do what they do.

Check out Bite Back Magazine for an extensive list of worldwide actions.

Beyond that, I highly recommend reading Terrorists or Freedom Fighters:  Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, edited by Steven Best and Anthony Nocella, II, if you haven’t already.

My Review of Igniting a Revolution Published!

The Peace Studies Journal has just released their latest issue, and they published my review of Igniting a Revolution:  Voices in Defense of the Earth, edited by Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II.  Check it out!

Peace Studies Journal

Please support them, they have a lot of cool stuff!  Here’s a direct link to my review in PDF.

Maximum Instruction, Not Minimum Adage–Operation Bite Back by Dean Kuipers

The following is a book review of Operation Bite Back by Dean Kuipers about longtime ALF activist Rod Coronado.  The book came out about three years ago, but I still think it’s worth reading about; Rod to me is one of the most courageous, instructive, and effective activists this Earth has had in the last 50 years.

(For those who are not as obsessed with puns as I, but still interested, this one must be explained because it references something rather obscure;  one of Rod Coronado’s adages was “Maximum destruction, not minimum damage.”  So that’s right, I punned that in a way that actually fits.  BA-ZING!)

Article originally published in the Earth First! Journal

Operation Bite Back by Dean Kuipers is a biography of longtime Sea Shepherd, ALF and Earth First! activist Rod Coronado.  More specifically, it is a detailed description of his campaign to cripple the United States fur industry, and the radical environmental and animal rights culture out of which it arose.  Many of us know the generalities of what occurred during that time period.  But OBB gives us a whole new dimension of detail and flavor.  This alone makes it worth reading.

In it, we get to experience a level of complexity of emotion, as well as context, that is largely unavailable anywhere else.  I have read Memories of Freedom, the zine written if not exclusively by Rod, then with the assistance of other ALF comrades, and his own zine written during his four-year prison sentence, Strong Hearts, a number of times.  So I was already quite familiar with many of the events as described by the actual participant(s).  Even so, these descriptions had to necessarily leave out a lot.  So instead of the near-fearless bravado of communiques and zines, we see the full anxiety and trepidation experienced by those activists.  We find out about how the passion and fury and intimate knowledge that drove Rod to commit these audacious acts also drove him to bouts of recklessness, bouts that could have and sometimes did contribute to his eventual capture by the state.

That’s right.  Even the great Rod Coronado, one of the most successful and revered direct action activists of the 20th century, committed serious breaches of security culture.  OBB, then, is required reading for anyone interested in using direct action, or in being an ally to those who do.  We can all learn a lot from it.

Rod in his native southwest desert.

That is not to say Kuipers’ work is not without some serious problems.  Journalistic objectivity certainly has its place, but sometimes it’s okay to have a little bias—speaking as a person heavily biased toward life and the continuation of it here on this beautiful little blue gem.  In fact, if anything, the author is at times biased against Rod and his partners-in-righteous-crime.  He falls over himself a number of times to defend the hideous animal experiments performed by some of Rod’s targets.  In true “objective” fashion for a mainstream media journalist (Kuipers, after all, is an editor at the Los Angeles Times), he implies both that the experiments performed actually have application for humans, and that they are intended to and will in actuality help animals.  For anyone with half a brain and/or a third of a conscience, this is a nauseating and ludicrous premise.

He makes a number of factual and logical mistakes that only an outsider—and a negligent outsider, at that—could make.  These are so numerous and weighty that it almost seems as if they are done to intentionlly discredit a section of the radical environmental and animal movements.  For example, he mentions a car bombing done allegedly by the Animal Rights Militia in Britain during the 1980s.  He comes out strong against it, saying it is reprehensible violence and “murderous” (44).  What he fails to mention until several chapters later is that this car bombing has been widely discredited, and is now believed to have been the work of provocateurs.  Convenient ommission.  Similarly, he totes the mass media and vivisection industry’s rhetoric in calling the 2008 firebombing of a UC Santa Cruz vivisector’s front porch “attempted murder.”  Something tells me if those responsible were attempting to murder the vivisector, they would’ve done a lot more than leave a molotov cocktail on a fire-sprinkler-equipped porch.  He brings up the incident in 1987 where, at a Cloverdale, CA sawmill, a tree spike snaps a saw blade and severely injures the mill worker.  He does not mention that this tree-spiking was almost undoubtedly not done by an environmentalist, and therefore proper precautions were not taken.  Another convenient ommission used to discredit eco-radicals.  He calls Murray Bookchin a “green anarchist,” a laughable and foolish claim to anyone in the know.  Additionally, he revels in the fact that he’s witnessed Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society chowing down on steak a number of times.  Yet these days the lovably rotund Watson travels around the world heavily (no pun intended, ha!) promoting veganism for environmental reasons, and all current signs strongly suggest Watson now maintains a vegan diet.  Clearly Kuipers’ is speaking from very outdated experience here.

Despite these serious problems, Operation Bite Back is overall a very well-researched project.  It contains a bevy of information that is both interesting and very useful to all in the radical environmental or animal liberation community.  Read it with a dash of proverbial salt, but read it nonetheless.

Demonstrating the best way to consume one of his longtime favorite beverages.