Bennett was born in 1956 and raised in Belfast by his Catholic mother; his Protestant father left home when his son was a few years old. Bennett went to St Mary’s Christian Brothers school on the Lower Falls Road, where he became politically active as he experienced what he later referred to as the “endemic violence and hatred” of Northern Ireland in the early 1970s. After his spell in Long Kesh, he left for England, where his friends were “voluble, if unsophisticated, young enemies of the state”: activists, anarchists, revolutionary socialists. “I squatted,” he recalls. “I worked in a bookies ... I went to Paris and hung around with Chilean refugees ... I demonstrated, talked a lot of bollocks and wrote articles I would never want to re-read now.” Before long, he was arrested again. Police raided his Bayswater flat and found a copy of THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK, along with wigs, false moustaches, balaclavas and false documents. Bennett was accused of leading a terrorist gang and charged with the legendary offence of “conspiring to commit crimes unknown against persons unknown in places unknown”. He spent 20 months on remand, sometimes in solitary confinement. At his 14-week trial at the Old Bailey - which became notorious as the “anarchists’ trial” and the “persons unknown trial” - Bennett took the unusual decision to defend himself. “I really enjoyed it and would have enjoyed it even more had I known we would be acquitted. The judge let me sit with the advocates, so it was Michael Mansfield, Helena Kennedy, Geoffrey Robertson and me. They were in full legal gear, I was in T-shirt and jeans.”Beware all enterprises that require new clothes, quoth HD Thoreau ...
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Havoc In Its 51st Year
Some writers are born to great plots; others have great plots thrust upon them. If Ronan Bennett (right) – author of Havoc In Its Third Year, and interviewed in The Guardian to promote his current offering, ZUGZWANG – ever runs out of story ideas he could always turn his hand to autobiography, to wit: