Martyn Waites has become a leading figure in British neo-noir since the publication of his first novel, Mary’s Prayer, in 1997. This subgenre consists of extremely dark, ultraviolent crime fiction influenced by such American writers as James Ellroy, Andrew Vachss, Elmore Leonard, and Walter Mosley; however, the British version of this subgenre is not without faint rays of hope.
Waites has staked out the city of his birth, Newcastle, as his fictional territory. Newcastle, in the northeast of the country in the enclave of Tyne and Wear County, is neither quite English nor quite Scottish and has both a contemporary face and a hidden past. Once a heavy-industrial area, it has become a modern service and call center with many new buildings, yet it retains a shadowy, seedy quayside district full of despair, desolation, and abandoned warehouses. Waites populates that milieu with a cast of colorful characters—criminal perpetrators, victims, crime fighters, and witnesses—whose qualities are neither all good nor all bad. He deals with disturbing social issues in a uniformly blunt and unflinching manner, and his depictions of horrific acts are not for the faint of heart.
Initially a writer with a cult status among cognoscenti, Waites has slowly achieved greater recognition for his work. Reviews of his novels have been overwhelmingly favorable. His Born Under Punches (2003) was listed among January Magazine’s best crime novels of the year. For his body of work, Waites was nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger in the Library Award. His first entry in the Joe Donovan series, The Mercy Seat (2006), was selected as the initial title released by the publisher Pegasus and was nominated for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award.