For the Canadian politician, see Elizabeth Joan Smith.
Joan Alison Smith (born 27 August 1953, London) is an English novelist, journalist and human rights activist, who is a former chair of the Writers in Prison committee in the English section of International PEN.
Smith read Latin at the University of Reading in the early 1970s. After a spell as a journalist in local radio in Manchester, she joined the staff of the Sunday Times in 1979 and stayed at the newspaper until 1984, although Smith still contributes book reviews to the publication. She has had a regular column in the Guardian Weekend supplement, also freelancing for the newspaper and in recent years has contributed to The Independent, the Independent on Sunday, and the New Statesman.
In her non-fiction Smith displays a commitment to atheism, feminism and republicanism; she has travelled extensively and this is reflected in her articles. Smith has taken a strong anti-Iraq war stance. She is scornful of popular culture and once gave away her television set to her ex-husband, although she acquired a new set a decade later.
Outside the UK, Smith is probably best known for the Loretta Lawson series of crime novels. What Will Survive (2007) is a novel set in Lebanon in 1997 concerning a journalist's investigation into the death of a model and anti-landmine campaigner.
In 2003 she was offered the MBE for her services to PEN, but refused the award. Joan Smith is a supporter of Republic and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.
Joan Smith was married to the journalist Francis Wheen between 1985 and 1993. She is currently romantically involved with Denis MacShane, a Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom.
On 15 September 2010, Smith, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.