Keeping It Moral

Danuta Kean talks with Martyn Waites in the Independent on Sunday and the conversation quickly turns to the question of violence in crime fiction, and why Waites blanches against its gratuitous use:

Waites’ insistence on detailing the pain is rooted in a strong belief

that authors of even pot-boiler thrillers should contextualise crime

and not portray it as an aberration created apart from society.





is why he regards many graphically violent novels as immoral. “A lot of

them are a modern version of the old puzzle novel where a murder is

done to provide a corpse to show how clever a detective is. There is no

real connection to the victim having any kind of inner life or there

being a sense of loss at their death.” He pauses and adds: “It is the

CSI-ification of society. We’ve become very good at looking at the

forensic detail but not very good at looking at the humanity.

“That is what many of the books that go into incredibly graphic

detail are about, and there is often a very reactionary conclusion

drawn: there is a monster loose and that monster must be eliminated. It

is never about understanding. It is about something that has been

created separate from us…” – here Waites draws quote marks in the air

– “…’The Decent People’, whose foe must be hunted down and killed. I

feel it is a pernicious and deliberate misunderstanding and quite


Not really a new sentiment, of course, but worth reiterating nonetheless.