I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne. After leaving school I bummed around for a while doing the kind of jobs you're supposed to do to make for an interesting CV: selling leather coats on the quayside market, assistant bar manager in pub, stand up comedy, stagehand and teaching improvisational drama to teenage ex-offenders. Following this job I went to drama school in Birmingham where, three years later, I emerged as a professional actor.
Theatre was always my primary passion rather than TV or film so I sent six months in Hull with a community theatre performing an oral history play about Scunthorpe steel works then another year on the road playing the villain in Catherine Cookson's The Fifteen Streets. After that I went where the work was. Oldham, Colchester, Hornchurch, Westcliff on Sea, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, fringe theatres in Chelsea . . . anywhere that would employ me and give me a good part.
TV work started to come in too. I appeared in all the usual stuff: Spender, Inspector Morse, Badger, The Bill and probably some other ones I've forgotten about that keep UKTV Gold going. Also some low budget indie films and loads of commercials. I've advertised Bass beer, Marks and Spencer, The News of the World, Woodpecker cider, Kellogs Rice Krispie Squares, BT and loads of others that I've never seen. Probably the best TV job I had was in the New Adventures of Robin Hood for Warner Brothers TV in America. Wigs, leathers, overseas filming and possibly the only time the words "guest starring Martyn Waites" will ever appear on a TV programme.
All the while I was doing this I was telling people I was going to write a novel. I never actually did anything about it, but the thought was there. I had written a couple of awful plays that will never see the light of day but no prose. So I wrote a short story. Then another one. And they started getting longer and more involved. I figured I was ready to write a novel.
What to write about and how to write it was easy. The only thing that fired me up at the time was American crime fiction. This was the early Nineties, where James Ellroy, James Lee Burke, Andrew Vachss, Eugene Izzi, James Crumley, Walter Mosley and the like were all at, or getting to, their peaks. These writers (and others like them) had a vitality and involvement that was lacking in British crime fiction or indeed any fiction over here, the notable exception being Derek Raymond. I wanted to take some of what the Americans had and set it in a recognisably contemporary British city. The obvious place was Newcastle.
The result was Mary's Prayer, a noirish crime novel featuring the flawed but interesting Stephen Larkin. It was published five years after I started it. I followed it a year later with Little Triggers, again featuring Larkin, then Candleland and the Larkin trilogy was complete.
Born Under Punches followed, an ambitious novel about the miners' strike and its legacy. Then The White Room, a harrowing, fictionalised account of a child killer not unlike Mary Bell set in Sixties Newcastle. The Guardian named it as one of the books of the year.
After that I needed a change of direction so I created Joe Donovan and his Albion team and wrote The Mercy Seat. It was nominated for the Crime Writers Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for thriller of the year. Didn't win. But things were changing. I was also nominated for the CWA Dagger in the Library for best body of work and the CWA Short Story Dagger for 'Love', a story that had appeared in the anthology London Noir. Didn't win either of them, though.
The next Donovan novel was Bone Machine, a serial killer thriller set in Newcastle. The third, White Riot, was released in January 2008 followed by the most recent Donovan novel, Speak No Evil, in February of 2009.
I always thought I'd just stay in the crime genre. Especially the gritty, real, noir-ish urban end. It's where my imagination and talent lies, or so I always thought. But an incredible offer from Hammer Books to write the sequel to Susan Hill's novel, The Woman in Black, has me entering the horror genre with my newest work, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death.
In addition to writing the novels I have also held two writing residencies in prisons. One at Huntercombe Young Offenders Institution and one at HMP Chelmsford. I have also delivered drama and creative writing workshops to socially excluded adults and teenagers in South London and Essex. I was previously the RLF Writing Fellow at Essex University as well.
In April 2014 I won the Grand Prix du Roman Noir Etranger for Born Under Punches at the Beaune Festival International du Film Policier.
I have recently collaborated (with Mark Billingham, David Quantick and Stav Sherez) on Great Lost Albums, a serious work of musical archeology and scholarship tracing the recordings that slipped through the net on our trawler of popular culture. No it's not. It's a comedy book and a complete departure for at least three of us and probably the most fun I've ever had writing. Check it out.
And that's the story so far.