Ronan Bennett was born on 14 January 1956 in Belfast, Ireland.
He was acquitted on appeal after a conviction for murder in 1974 but during his time in prison witnessed the burning of Long Kesh prison by republican prisoners and has described this in detail in radio talks.
He was educated at King’s College, London, and was a research fellow at the Institute of Historical Research in London from 1986-7.
His first novel, The Second Prison (1991), a thriller about a member of a group of Irish republican activists, was shortlisted for the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for First Book. His second novel, Overthrown by Strangers (1992), is set in Latin America. The Catastrophist (1997), the story of an Irish journalist working in the Belgian Congo in the 1950s, won the Irish Post Literature Award and the Belfast Arts Award for Literature and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award. Havoc, in its Third Year (2004), is an historical novel set in 17th-century England. It won the 2004 Hughes & Hughes/Irish Independent Irish Novel of the Year.
Zugzwang (2007), was published in serial installments in The Observer over seven months in 2006.
The author has also written screenplays for film and television, including “Face”, starring Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone, “Love Lies Bleeding”, starring Mark Rylance, and “Public Enemies” starring Christian Bale and Jonny Depp.
Ronan Bennett is a regular contributor to The Guardian and The Observer.
From an online interview
“I’m Irish and I’m a writer. But beyond that unexceptional and very unhelpful statement, I don’t really know what it means. I would say that my preoccupations as a novelist are intrinsically linked to my upbringing in Belfast during the Troubles - and perhaps the most prominent of these preoccupations is this dilemma: what does the just man/woman do in times of injustice? This question recurs in The Catastrophist, Havoc, in its Third Year, and Zugzwang. It’s the question St Paul asked: what do we do? I think my interest in this question can be traced back to the Belfast of the Troubles, when people had to make their choices. But I don’t live in Ireland any more; I have spent half my life in London. I remain fascinated by Ireland, but the world is a big, big place. There are other stories, and I have no interest in writing about priests.”
Stolen Years: Before and After Guildford (with Paul Hill), Doubleday, 1990
The Second Prison, Hamish Hamilton, 1991
Overthrown by Strangers, Hamish Hamilton, 1992
Double Jeopardy: the Retrial of the Guildford Four, Penguin, 1993
The Catastrophist, Review, 1997
Havoc, in its Third Year, Bloomsbury, 2004
William Harvey and the Human Heart, James Bennett Pty Ltd., 2004
Zugzwang, Bloomsbury, 2007
1991 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for First Book (shortlist) The Second Prison
1998 Belfast Arts Award for Literature The Catastrophist
1998 Irish Post Literature Award The Catastrophist
1998 Whitbread Novel Award (shortlist) The Catastrophist
2005 Hughes & Hughes/Irish Independent Irish Novel of the Year Havoc, in its Third Year
2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (shortlist) Havoc, in its Third Year
2008 Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year (shortlist) Zugzwang