An Interview With Martin Edwards

Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, famous for his Harry Devlin series which take place in Liverpool. Like Harry Devlin, Edwards is a solicitor, but you’d be wrong in thinking Edwards is anything like his character, “in the first book, his estranged wife Liz is murdered; I wasn’t even married at that time, so I can’t be accused of wish-fulfilment!” It was after a nine-year gap when Edwards revisited Devlin, back in 2008, with Waterloo Sunset. Edwards said he, “watched Liverpool regain its pride and sense of purpose after long years of decline and it was fascinating to see.”  Whether Edwards will revisit the character, readers will just have to find out…

Truly excited! From childhood, my sole ambition was to become a published detective novelist, but even in my wildest dreams I never imagined that one day I’d take a place among many of my heroes, ranging from such previous winners as John Le Carre and Eric Ambler to P D James and Ruth Rendell.

You chose to set the Harry Devlin novels in and around the Liverpool area. What led you to choose this particular city as the location for the series?

Like Harry, I’ve worked as a solicitor in Liverpool, and although unlike him I wasn’t born in the city, I fell in love with the place and thought it would be a wonderfully atmospheric and original setting for a series of detective novels. The city is rich in history but what makes it really special is the character of the people – their wit and loyalty are virtues that I admire greatly and I have made many enduring friendships with proud Liverpudlians that I treasure. I’ve also been delighted with the hugely positive way they’ve reacted to my portrayal of the city, even though I haven’t flinched from exploring some of its darker corners.

After a nine-year gap, you revisited Harry Devlin back in 2008 with Waterloo Sunset. What do you think had changed most about both the character and Liverpool itself in that period?

I watched Liverpool regain its pride and sense of purpose after long years of decline and it was fascinating to see. The over-arching scenario of the series concerns the renaissance of one of the world’s great cities after a dark period. Improvements continued during the period I was working on other books, and the city’s Capital of Culture Year seemed like an ideal opportunity to revisit Harry’s world and see how much had changed – and how he reacted to those changes. 

…And do you think the changes to Liverpool and the world in general since 2008 have been as significant?

Yes, I do. Nothing stands still and if, as I hope, I return to writing about Harry Devlin in future, I’ll be looking to try to capture that continuing sense of change.

Being a solicitor writing about a solicitor, how much of you is present in the character of Harry?

Much less than you might think! From the start, I was very keen to differentiate his life from mine as much as possible. So in the first book, his estranged wife Liz is murdered; I wasn’t even married at that time, so I can’t be accused of wish-fulfilment! Professionally, his field is crime and divorce, two subjects that I’ve never dealt with in my own career (I’ve specialised in employment law and some commercial work), and our respective firms have always been very different. He is a native Scouser, whereas I come from Cheshire – not far away in terms of miles, but rural and a lot quieter. However, I wanted Harry to have a strong sense of humour, and he shares my love of football, detective fiction, and old crime movies. What’s more, I like him a lot.

I’m sure that in every interview you’re asked if you’d consider one more outing for Devlin; are fans going to have to live with the fact that the series is complete, or would you consider revisiting it?

I’m genuinely thrilled that people still love the character and the stories. The books mean a lot to me, and it’s very rewarding to hear that other people enjoy them. I loved writing them, and I do think there is further mileage in the character, because (though I say it myself) he has depth and untapped potential. So if the opportunity arises, I’d like to write more about Harry.

With the acclaimed Harry Devlin series celebrating its 30th anniversary, we spoke to bestselling mystery author Martin Edwards about the re-release of his books…

Read the full interview in AUK Studios December edition of Breaking Issue 2!