Martin Roth – Insight

Rather than offer Martin Roth a standard interview, I asked him to share part of his life with us – either a story about how he met his partner, a story about how he became a Christian, or a story of heritage from his family’s past. Martin offered to share his testimony of faith. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

A Life of Searching

I was raised in New Zealand, in a family that was antagonistic towards all religion. Possibly that was why I often had inside me a sense of emptiness that made me restless and unhappy and feeling that something was missing in my life.

I graduated from university and became a newspaper reporter, then set off overseas. I worked as a journalist in England and then spent six months picking oranges on kibbutzim in Israel, where I have many relatives. Then I travelled to Japan for a short trip, and ended up staying there for 17 years.

In Tokyo I found that several temples offered instruction to Westerners in Zen Buddhism, and I became a regular participant. Zen, as I understood it back then, seemed to be teaching that the world and human beings were all pretty meaningless, which resonated with my own cynical worldview.

I started writing about Zen and got my own column in the Asahi Evening News, a Tokyo newspaper. I became friends with one of the leading Western Buddhist scholars, Professor John Stevens, who lived in Japan, and together we wrote a book, “Zen Guide”, which was a kind of manual for Westerners coming to Japan to study and practise Zen.

I took an interest in Shintoism, an animistic Japanese religion that worships nature, and I took part in a three-day Shinto group pilgrimage, trudging through snowy mountains, dressed in straw sandals and a white robe. Each day we walked into an icy cold river and stood under a waterfall, crying out to the local mountain deities.

But nothing left me with any real satisfaction. The emptiness and the feelings of restlessness remained. I was continually searching for something more.

Then I married Younju, a Christian from Korea, our first two children were born, and we decided to leave Japan and move to Melbourne. After that, things happened very fast. Younju had joined a local Korean congregation here in Melbourne but suggested we try to find a church near our home where we could worship as a family. I thought it wouldn’t be bad for our kids to go to Sunday School, and so one Sunday morning we all turned up unannounced at our local Baptist church.

Very quickly the pastor visited us and suggested that some church people come to teach me about the Bible. And there were no thunderbolts, no flashes of lightning, but one day, quite soon after, I just had no doubt at all in my heart that everything they were telling me was true. And so at the age of 44 I gave my life to Christ and was baptised.

Thanks Martin, for sharing this story with us. I reviewed Martin’s novel Prophets and Loss last week. You can read it here, along with more information about Martin Roth. For now I will leave you with the blurb of the second Johnny Ravine mystery, Hot Rock Dreaming.

Australia’s most famous Aboriginal painter is dead…supposedly killed when a heavy object tumbled onto him in his studio during an earth tremor. But then doubts arise. For a start, the police now suspect murder. And why was the victim heard earlier predicting his own violent death?

Enter private detective Johnny Ravine to solve the mystery…he suddenly finds himself thrust into a byzantine world of art and artists where questions are far more numerous than answers.

Where did the victim’s art dealer obtain the incredibly rare artwork that he was secretly selling? Is the controversial ‘green energy’ company Rokpower really going to harness power from hot rocks deep under the ground, and did it kill the artist’s Dreaming spirit when it injected water onto the rocks? And who is the beautiful and mysterious Asian lady who seems to be able to converse with the dead, and who says she knows how the artist really died?

A killer is on the loose and even Johnny’s own life is in danger. But first he needs to understand that the death of the artist has unleashed spiritual forces that threaten an entire community.

Martin Roth – Prophets and Loss

From the Back Cover:

Forgiveness is the most attractive of the virtues. Until you actually have someone to forgive. When Melissa Stonelea’s born-again Christian husband Grant is found strangled in the bondage room of the city’s classiest brothel, a page of the Bible stuffed in his mouth, she doesn’t need to hear more of her pastor’s sermons on the healing powers of forgiveness. She needs revenge.

Enter private detective Johnny Ravine, seeking the quiet life in Australia after more than twenty years as a freedom fighter in East Timor. The murdered man was his best friend. But, as he starts to investigate the slaying, a mysterious phone call and then a bullet through his window plunge him into the heart of a deadly terrorist conspiracy. Suddenly he finds himself locked inside a shady world of stock market manipulators, sex workers and underground militia, while desperately hunting the killers. But Johnny is concealing a violent past and demons of his own. Can he crack the mystery before he himself cracks?

Amanda’s Review:

When I first saw Prophets and Loss, I thought it would be a self-help book for financial prosperity, so I didn’t look twice at it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I had the benefit of meeting the author early this year, I learned it was in fact a murder-mystery novel. Of course, then I had to read it, and I am so glad I did. I loved it. It was Australian through and through — particularly Melburnian in flavour. Even Roth’s metaphors bore an Aussie feel, which delighted me no end.

Roth’s hero, an unlikely subject — being an illegal immigrant with a past which haunts him — was very believable. I almost felt as though I sat in the room with him as he unfolded his story. Johnny Ravine’s spiritual journey was interesting to follow as well, as he had plenty of questions of his own, and not all of them were answered, leaving the reader with something to seek.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It kept me turning pages, apart from a short part in the middle where I felt it slowed pace a little, but then it revved up again, keeping me up past my bedtime. I’m now looking forward to the next Johnny Ravine mystery… Hot Rock Dreaming.

About the Author:

Martin Roth is a leading Australian financial writer. After graduating in law from Auckland University, he embarked on a career in journalism, and has worked on daily newspapers in New Zealand, Australia, England and Greece. For seventeen years he lived in Japan, and as a Tokyo-based foreign correspondent his reports from Asia appeared in publications around the world, including the Guardian in the UK and the Wall Street Journal in the US. He has also spent six months working on kibbutzim in Israel, and was for seven years a securities analyst with British merchant banks. He now lives in Melbourne with his Korean wife and three sons, and is the author of many books.

For more information, go to, or see his author page at Amazon.