About the Author

Chip Jacobs is a Los Angeles-area author and journalist. Any questions so far? Beautiful.

His most recent book is Strange As It Seems: the Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler, the updated biography of a wondrous, little dreamer who existed joyfully, from Hollywood studios to globetrotting destinations, in a ticking time-bomb of a body. Publishers Weekly, in its review, called Jacobs an “exceptional storyteller” and said the “extraordinary life” being told was a “peculiar page-turner” rendered with an “imaginative” bent. It was an Indies Book of the Yer finalsit. His other books include the environmental social histories The People’s Republic of Chemicals and the bestselling Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles (both with William J. Kelly); the Fargo-esque true crime tale The Ascension of Jerry: Murder; the articles collection The Vicodin Thieves and; the privately issued biography Black Wednesday Boys. Jacobs’ profile of California political figure Richard Alatorre appears in two Greenwood Publication collections, and a long-form true crime story — about an idealist lawyer and a depraved cult — is featured in the bestselling anthology Los Angeles in the 1970s: Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine.. Jacobs’ books have been honored by the Independent Publishers’ Book Awards (IPPY), the Indies Book of the Year contest, Foreword and Booklist magazines (for starred reviews and top books in genre), The Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, the Southern California Book Festival, the Hollywood Book Festival, the Shanghai Book Awards, and as a Chinese “Most Influential Book” and “Outstanding Popular Science” work, among other recognition. He is currently writing a historical novel. If you enjoy his prose, please consider reviewing them at his official Amazon Author Page, at Goodreads and recommending them to friends.

On the journalism side, Jacobs’ work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, the Daily News of Los Angeles, L.A. Weekly, The New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg View, the Pasadena Weekly, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, newgeography.com and other publications. His specialities are investigative, environmental and feature writing, and his stories have had their effect. They’ve prompted investigations by the California Attorney General and other agencies, triggered Congressional action on environmental fraud, contributed to the prosecution of a Los Angeles Councilman, exposed graft at the region’s transit and redevelopment authorities, inspired laws relating to water pollution and state-owned housing, and re-opened the unsolved murder case of a former mayor. He’s also explored the Tommy’s Burgers empire, defense contracting abuses, neighborhood dumpsters, drug thefts at real-estate open houses, crusading grandmothers, and a dorky mogul’s revenge. For his efforts, he’s been honored by the Los Angeles Press Club, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and The Los Angeles Times.

Jacobs grew up in northeast Pasadena. In 1985, he graduated from the University of Southern California with BAs in journalism and international relations. In 1988, he earned his MA in international relations, emphasizing national security affairs, from The American University in Washington, D.C.. Jacobs broke into journalism in 1990 at The Los Angeles Business Journal. His passions include Trojan football, life as a Beatles/Led Zeppelin/Squeeze-maniac, electric guitar, forgotten literature, running and super-sugary breakfast cereals. He lives in Southern California with his wife, a USC public relations professor, and their two children.


Connect with Chip Jacobs: 

Books by Chip Jacobs


Bumbling hitmen. Burning corpses. Life in hiding. A threatened son. Jerry Schneiderman’s orderly world evaporated when his business partner was executed by an assassin in 1979 Los Angeles, and the buzzard-eyed ringleader soon came for him.

Though the killers behind this murder-for-hire corporation were nabbed, the trauma annihilated Jerry’s family and stripped his trust. Recovery only came years later with Jerry’s improbable rebirth as a prank-loving activist who defended the weak and made enemies with the rich and powerful.

The life of Gordon Zahler was simply so miraculous that it might as well have been science fiction. Born into an entertainment family in suburban Los Angeles in the mid-1920s, Zahler was a lovable prankster and class clown, exasperating his parents with his endless teenage feats of derring-do. But Gordon Zahler's promising career as a public miscreant went pear-shaped one day in 1940 when he and his buddies where fooling around in their high school gym with a spring board. An unsteady jump no the board vaulted Gordon on a deadly trajectory landing him squarely on his neck, severing his spine. He was 14-years old. That's when the miracles began.

Strange As It Seems: The Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler, the journey of a former nobody who defied the odds and biases racked upagainst him to frolic in Hollywood, is vividly retold by his nephew, writer Chip Jacobs. More than just a biography, Jacobs' portrait evokes an early, Day of the Locust Hollywood where art and fortunes were made by a colorful set of foreigners, weirdos, obsessives, and freaks. During the 1950s and 1960s, Gordon became a kingpin in this milieu, as his music/sound effects post-production house scored films for low budget sci-fi films, genre movies like Sam Fuller's Shock Corridor, Popeye and Bozo the Clown cartoons, as well as hundreds of other projects. Gordon, best known for his clever soundtrack on Ed Wood Jr.'s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space, was always a better story than the scripts he accentuated.

Eventually wealthy, with a house off the Sunset Strip, a devoted blond trophy wife and raucous, star-filled parties, Gordon – 95-pound dynamo – built an existence from scratch that mere able-bodied mortals could only dream about. How many of them could say Lucille Ball adored them, or they were partners with Walter Lantz, Woody Woodpecker's cartoonist and producer, or Ivan Tors, the brains behind Flipper, Gentle Ben and the nature-drama field still red-hot today? Bored confining himself to one area, Gordon tried developing futuristic concepts, from audible books to talking gas-station pumps. He kept a powerboat for boozy excursions, traveled from Beirut toThailand, was thrown out of moving cars, nearly died after being blessed by the pope and had a Forest Gumpian-knack for being in dangerous places at the wrong time.

Subscribe to our NEWSLETTER