Martin Roth was born in New Zealand in 1949. He graduated in law from Auckland University and then went to work as a reporter on the now-defunct Auckland Star. He followed this with 15 months on papers in the British West Midlands (the Express and Star in Wolverhampton and the Sunday Mercury in Birmingham) and six months working on kibbutzim in Israel, before travelling to Japan in 1976 for a short working holiday. He ended up staying there 17 years.
As a freelance journalist based in Tokyo his reports from throughout Asia appeared in leading (and not-so-leading) newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and The Guardian. He also became deeply involved in Buddhism, and in 1985 his first book was published, "Zen Guide," co-authored with noted Buddhist scholar Professor John Stevens.
His publisher then asked him to write the first English-language guide to the joys of saké (Japanese rice wine). And so together with one of Japan’s leading saké writers and judges he blissfully embarked on a drinking tour of Japan’s 1,300-odd saké breweries, only to see the project shelved when a rival publisher came out with its own English-language book on the subject.
In 1978 he wrote a lengthy article on karaoke, and today among his prized possessions (along with his collections of sumo magazines and saké bottle labels) is a letter from the editors of the "Oxford English Dictionary" stating that they will cite the article the next time they revise the karaoke entry in the dictionary. The earliest citation at present is from September 1979, so unless another writer steps forward with an earlier reference Martin Roth can claim to be the person who introduced karaoke to the English-speaking world.
During his final seven-and-a-half years in Tokyo he worked as a securities analyst with British merchant banks, and his next book was a concise introduction for foreigners to the Japanese stock market. It was conservatively written, but the publisher unwisely titled it "Making Money in Japanese Stocks," and with astute timing it appeared in bookstores in late-1989, right before the bursting of the Tokyo share bubble.
He came to live in Australia in 1993, and to his own surprise soon found himself a devout worshipper at his local church. He has written about his lengthy spiritual path to Christianity in his 1999 book "Living Water to Light the Journey."
In Australia, he worked for a year on the Sunday Herald Sun, then set himself up as a freelance author, with a string of non-fiction books, most notably the best-selling annual "Top Stocks" series.
In 2009 Ark House Press published the first novel in his Johnny Ravine series, "Prophets and Loss," followed in 2010 by "Hot Rock Dreaming (a finalist in the 2011 Australian Christian Book of the Year awards).