Born Under Punches
When someone tells me I am missing out on an author I usually check out their bibliography and if they have 8 or 10 books and have really no following and poor/average Amazon ratings it is a good indication that I should just stay away. Music and writing are both arts forms, but I think it is far easier to be a misunderstood or undiscovered musician then it is an author. Music is so diverse and complex. While writing is simple, you string words together to form stories and some people and make beauty in their literary symphonies. Now this is not to say people don’t have opposing tastes in reading, science fiction may not be a subject you care about, but H.G. Wells is still a great writer whether you care about alien invaders or not. Good writing is good writing, its about the stories we enjoy.
As I digress, if I haven’t heard of a writer and they have a fairly respectable size catalog or their books have low ratings, it is likely the masses are right, the author is probably not very good.
Martyn Waites is an exception to that rule. Not because he has bad ratings or that he is misunderstood, but because he is British. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Not that there is anything wrong with that.” But here is a fact, British music across all genres invaded the U.S., authors, not so much. Sure you will bring up Shakespeare, Orwell, Dickens, even Austin, but those are classic authors, dead authors. Name me 5 living British authors not named J.K. Rowling, that sell atop the U.S. sales charts. I am not saying British authors are bad, just saying the transition to the U.S. has not been taken as openly as their music.
Into the forth paragraph and I have still yet to mention the book, that is because I want to make it clear, Martyn Waites is worth the time to invest in a new writer that you have yet to explore.
Born Under Punches is one of Waites older works finally released in ebook format for the new age of readers and hopefully a new generation of U.S. fans. This was my first delve into a non-Joe Donovan book which I believe is number four in the series. While you can read these books without the others I do wish I had actually readatleast the first title to get a better feel and background for the Stephen Larkincharacter who helms the series.
If by chance you have read the Donovan Series, and if you haven’t you should start, you will find Born Under Punches far grittier and blue collar focused than the sometimesupscaled lifestyles Donovan encounters. Bouncing from 1984 to present day (2001ish) the story begins with a once vibrant coal mining industry town torn apart by teamster strikes that planned to bring England to a standstill and resume a more lucrative profit margin, instead the government took their ball elsewhere and left the citizens jobless, poor and angry. Now controlled by gangsters, bookies and hooligans the town not only barely survives but similarly its residents hold on from day-to-day as it could be their last.
As it seems common in a Waites’ novel seemingly unattached storylines converge in the end to bring a larger picture to the reader. Instead of one storyline that follows a sole character, multiple angles converge and bring together what could be nearly multiple novellas with a single shared ending. Very much like the 6th Season of Lost, what could have been two separate shows that all tie up nicely in the end.
Waites has a way about his writing a raw, undisturbed talent to make you fear the dark alleys, quiver during the hooligan shakedowns and feel the flow of the football (soccer) match when Woodhouse takes to the pitch. His knack for dialogue givescharacters a voice that can identify individually and bring their personality closer to the page. Not as wordy as Stephen King, but what he does use to describe a neighborhood will give as vibrant an image in your mind, so much so you should need a passport to travel to Tottingham, London and Newcastle as you dart from location to location through the his stories.
Call me foolish, but romance, sci-fi and fantasy all seem to be not exclusive to, but very much do certain genders dominate the reader pool, not so with mystery and suspense. It is a genre with no boundaries, this book should be passed to your mom, brother, aunt, uncle and grandpa, it is a story that anyone old enough to enjoy a good ass kicking will say, “thanks, do you have any more of his books I can read.”
If you are going to start reading Waites books I really would encourage the Donovan series first, the writing is more polished and characters are just better. But a seasoned reader with an appetite for more will enjoy the new characters, new settings and and the same grainy tales expected of his work.
It is easy to call Martyn Waites one of the best contemporary noir writers in the business today, but I would go so far as to say Waites is on of my top five (living) writers in the business.