BORN UNDER PUNCHES
Stephen Larkin Book 4
1984: Thatchers Conservative government in power. The miners on strike. Two Tribes going to war.
2001: Blair's Labour government enters its historic second term. The rail network is collapsing; the National Health Service is descending into chaos. Things can only get better?
Coldwell, a former pit town on the Northumberland coast, was once a cheerful and prosperous place. It now lies bleak and eerily empty. Moving seamlessly between 1984 and the present day, this tautly-plotted thriller involves five Coldwell inhabitants whose lives are radically changed by the strike: Tony Woodhouse, a professional footballer who cant escape his shady past; Tony Jobson, cruising the streets of Newcastle violently collecting debts; Mick Hutton, a striking miner, desperate to find ways to support his growing family; Stephen Larkin, an idealistic young journalist, determined to expose the truth about the strike - as he sees it; Stephens sister, Louise, in love with Tony Woodhouse, stalked by a shadowy figure from her past. As the lives of the five unfold, it becomes clear that the strike of 84 will have unforeseen and devastating repercussions - not only for those directly involved, but for future generations too.
This was the book I became a writer to write. Unfortunately I didn't think I was good enough initially; I needed a few novels under my belt before undertaking something as complex and ambitious as this.
The miners' strike of 1984 was such a pivotal moment for both the country and myself. It redefined (or undermined) the very definition of democracy in this country. It was also the one event that politicised me. The book itself is fiction, the events within are not. However, I didn't want to make it a dull, worthy, preachy book. I wanted a fast-paced crime thriller that readers could connect with. After the book came out, I was approached by an ex-miner who told me, 'You wrote my life.' That was, and still remains, the highest praise one of my books has ever had.
I wouldn't say this is my favourite book, because writers shouldn't pick favourites among their own work (if for no other reason that they're usually the worst judges) but I will say this. If a writer's books are all his children, then this is the one that got to university.
BUY THE BOOK (UK)
BUY THE BOOK (US)
'A novel that grips, and squeezes, and won't let go... Martyn Waites' lean, exhilarating prose is from the heart and from the guts, and that's exactly where it hits you.'
— Mark Billingham
'An ambitious, tautly plotted thriller... a stark antidote to the cosy world of middle-class murder.'
'Not so much a crime novel as a furious study of the social spoilage which makes crime inevitable... Waites' book has a reckless energy which demands attention and respect.'
'The novel weaves its tapestry of characters impressively through each other's lives. By contextualising them within the defeat of the Great Miners' Strike, it brings home the devastation Thatcher's victory wreaked on working class communities, and is a better explanation of crime and delinquency than Downing Street will ever manage.'
'An evocative, gripping and angry novel.'
—Newcastle Evening Chronicle
'Topical and thought-provoking... Waites is successful in creating a feeling of menace - of something manipulative and calculated out of shot: ordinary folk trying to live their lives are set up to be trampled on.'
— Weekly Worker
Pocket Books, UK paperback, March 2004, ISBN: 9780743449519
Mysterious Press/Open Road Media, US ebook, December 2011, ISBN: 9781453237564