Jay Waitkus was born in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, and grew up in the city of Mt. Clemens, just a few miles north of Detroit. His father, Jerry, was an architectural draftsman, and his mother, Sara, worked for the Chrysler Corporation, and later in the insurance and hospitality fields. As a child, Waitkus' verbal communication skills developed quickly, fostered largely by his mother, who read with him every day. Encouraged by his parents, his writing ability followed suit, setting the stage for his future endeavors from very early on.
Entering Chippewa Valley High School at age 13, Waitkus worked on the school's newspaper, The Trailblazer, and played baseball in a nearby church league. His teenage years, however, were interspersed with the illnesses and deaths of several family members, including Jerry, who passed away after a brief battle with lung cancer when Waitkus was just a sophomore.
Resolving to persevere, and to live up to his father's steadfast belief in him, Waitkus became editor-in-chief of The Trailblazer during his senior year, and graduated CVHS at the age of 17. Shortly thereafter, he left Michigan with his mother to move to the state of Florida.
As his education progressed, Waitkus completed traditional and online courses from six major colleges and universities, amassing over 200 undergraduate and postgraduate credits in several areas of study, including English, philosophy, religion, law, criminology, economics, science, and multiculturalism. In addition, he acquired numerous academic credentials through a lengthy string of colloquiums and public service projects.
Waitkus holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in literature from Charter Oak State College in New Britain, Connecticut and a Master of Arts degree with concentrations in literature and history from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He is also a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, whose honorary inductees include Ronald Reagan, Margaret Atwood, Elie Wiesel, and Desmond Tutu.
Over the course of the last three decades, Waitkus has written over 2,000 articles and edited hundreds more. All tolled, his work as a journalist has appeared in dozens of print and online publications seen around the world. Throughout his career, he has shined a spotlight on the illicit activities of terrorists, cyber criminals, scammers, and violent offenders of every sort, along with political corruption and misconduct on Wall Street. He has also covered natural disasters, elections, advances in science, and a litany of global events. In the process, he has interviewed lawyers, doctors, first responders, members of the military, business people, politicians, entertainers, and hundreds of others from virtually every walk of life.
In addition, Waitkus has reported on several politically-charged events, including violence in the Middle East, the Elian Gonzalez affair, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the longstanding debate over gun control. He has also covered the battle for the White House between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the administrations of former Florida Governor (now Senator) Rick Scott and former President Barack Obama, and the governments of Iraq and Israel. Along with these efforts, he has written retrospective pieces on historical events such as the Holocaust and the Korean War.
Waitkus' writing credits include South Florida's three major dailies, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, and The Miami Herald, along with regional publications in Illinois, California, and Washington, DC. He has also written numerous articles for The South Florida Business Journal and its North Carolina based-parent company, American City Business Journals. In 2016, he was named Senior Writer for The Daily Voice and its chain of online newspapers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Through Internet syndication, his articles have appeared at several international news sites, including Google News and World News Network.
For several years, Waitkus worked not only as a writer, but as an editor and publisher. From 2008-2013, he produced an online magazine called The National Times, which featured content of general interest from the Gannett News Service. From 2011-2014, he published and edited a military blog with reportage from sources at United States Central Command and its affiliates in Afghanistan and Iraq. During that time, he also served as a rotating panelist and interviewer on DoDLive! Bloggers' Roundtable, a Department of Defense/Pentagon Channel podcast featuring multifaceted discussions with journalists and top US military officials about the work of the nation's Armed Forces.
Although Waitkus is primarily active in the arena of crime thrillers, his fiction influences stem from a wide array of sources. Some of his earliest pieces came in the form of contributions to The Atlantic Unbound's Writers' Workshop and motion picture director Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Virtual Studio, online venues that provided aspiring authors and poets with networking opportunities and outlets to exhibit their work. His first major story, "The Session," was published in 2000 at Fatbrain (later re-branded MightyWords), a website that included contributors such as Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Romancing the Stone writer Catherine Lanigan.
Bolstered by initial success, Waitkus began churning out fiction on a far more regular basis. His short stories were soon appearing in a variety of print and online publications, including MysteryNet, FirstPrint, and The Magnolia Quarterly. The latter, a long-running literary journal published by the Gulf Coast Writers Association, would prove especially significant for Waitkus' development as a fiction writer. Edited by Victoria Olsen, a founding member and longstanding president of the association, the Quarterly printed nearly a dozen of Waitkus' stories, several of which were later expanded into e-books.
Waitkus' first novel, Tainted Monarch, was released by National Writers Press in 2001, the beginning of a lengthy affiliation between the author and publishing house. Garnering coverage from Florida-based newspapers like The Boynton Times and The Sun-Sentinel, the book went on to receive national attention and favorable reviews at GCWA.org and trade publications such as Authorship.
Waitkus' breakout work, In the Depths of Shadows, was an MTV.com featured general fiction selection and No. 1 bestselling police procedural at Buy.com. His next novel, Dividing Line, was among BestBookBuys' top 100 bestselling fiction titles of 2006. Both works were selections of the Forbes Book Club.
In the years that followed, Waitkus cemented his place in the mystery and thriller genres with a string of successful projects. In 2021, his entire backlist of e-books was reissued under his current publisher, Elizabeth River Press. His latest novel, Brood of Thieves, was released in 2022. In addition to his own writings, he is the creator of Jay Waitkus' Crime Chronicles, a series featuring works by important, though sometimes underappreciated, crime writers of the past. He is also a co-editor of novelist Terry Conrad's debut effort, Illusion of Grandeur, and the primary editor of his subsequent thrillers, Fugue, The Idealist, and The Asset.
During the last two decades, Waitkus has been the author, creator, or editor of 16 fiction titles available in more than 40 countries. He is also a contributor to The Annual, a literary anthology established in tandem by ERP and Arzono Publishing.
Hobbies and Interests
Over the years, Waitkus' leisure activities have included fishing in the Great Lakes region, climbing sand dunes in New England, airboating and hiking through stretches of wetland in South Florida, exploring caves in Arkansas and Tennessee, and a cross-country journey by railway.
For much of his life, Waitkus' favorite pastime was the game of pool. In recent years, however, he has become a serious chess competitor, playing under the banner of the International Correspondence Chess Federation and several of its affiliates. In addition to his solo efforts, he plays for the United States in ICCF global team competition.