Halifax hots up

Colin Burrow

  • Havoc, in Its Third Year by Ronan Bennett
    Bloomsbury, 244 pp, £16.99, September 2004, ISBN 0 7475 6249 0

‘I’m one of those writers who likes to stay with what he knows,’ James Gillespie, the persistently apolitical hero of Ronan Bennett’s third novel, The Catastrophist (1998), says. Gillespie, now a novelist, was once a historian. In his PhD he had argued that ‘the great political and religious upheavals of the 16th century owed little to ideological or doctrinal conviction, and everything to the Tudor state’s perpetual need for cash.’ At the end of The Catastrophist he digs out his old thesis notes in search of material for a new novel: ‘There was a very interesting infanticide case. Well-documented, too, for the times. I thought I could make use of the material.’

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