I first came across Martyn Waites back in 2009, at the All Tomorrow’s Parties ATP Vs. The Fans weekend in Minehead. He was a part of Lydia Lunch’s literature readings in which he rendered a piece called Love. If you’ve already had any insight into Mr. Waites then you’ll know that there’s more than meets the eye when titles are concerned. Usually not for the better, either.
After hearing Love I made it a priority to delve into the works of Waites. As far as books, music, and film are concerned “priorities” can take the best part of a couple of years. Well, sometimes. One day at work early last year, I decided to break the mundane habits of nine to five and Google the very man himself (how brave of me). Cut a long story short, after having a thorough read of his website, what stood out the most was the Joe Donovan trilogy.
Without revealing too much insight into each book, Martyn Waites can write. He can really fucking write. His ability to flesh out a character really does hold no bounds. I’d even go as far to say that he accomplishes this facet of writing better than Elmore Leonard.
Then there’s the scene of his plot. Apart from a few dabbles down south, Newcastle is the epicentre of his creative hub. He romanticises with the place, bringing to the surface a true way of Northern life in Britain. It’s quite frightening the way he renders things with such aplomb. Who describes someone’s décor as “Argos chic”? - One of the many hidden gems throughout The Mercy Seat, Bone Machine, and White Riot. Notice the music references? They also drip off the pages.
His style is poignant, engaging and truly dark, almost to the point of making you squirm in your seat. His subjects pack an almighty punch, brimming with truths. His insight into racism and people trafficking and the way these subjects are depicted amongst the mass culture of Britain absolutely nail it.
Intertwining these themes into his stories makes for a fascinating sequence of events. I couldn’t put it any better than Waites’ contemporary, Mark Billingham. “It grips, squeezes and won’t let go”. As far as crime fiction goes, I’ve not been more gripped since reading a James Ellroy novel.
Neo-noir, crime thriller, lump it in with whatever genre that makes you get through the night. Just go and check the works of Martyn Waites. You won’t be disappointed.