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From Top Boy to Jaq: Ronan Bennett’s Journey Through Crime, Politics, and Immersive Storytelling


Ronan Bennett, the visionary behind the critically acclaimed TV drama Top Boy, has ventured into the literary realm with his latest novel, Jaq: A Top Boy Story. Initially hesitant to embark on another novelistic endeavor following his previous work, Havoc, in Its Third Year, Bennett found inspiration in the character of Jaq and the untapped potential of the Top Boy universe.

Hesitation and the Quest for a Compelling Narrative

After the completion of Havoc, in Its Third Year, Bennett grappled with the challenge of finding a subject that resonated deeply with him. Determined to avoid writing merely for the sake of producing content, he sought a compelling story that would captivate readers and leave a lasting impact.

Jaq: A Tale of Resilience, Choices, and Destiny

Jaq introduces Jacqueline Lawrence, a resilient young woman who has shouldered the responsibility of providing for her family since her teenage years. The novel delves into themes of decision-making, the far-reaching consequences of choices, and the pivotal role women play in shaping their own destinies. Bennett emphasizes the importance of evoking emotional responses in readers through his writing, immersing them in the intricate lives of his characters.

Exploring Obsessions and Engaging Readers

Bennett believes that writers explore their deepest obsessions through their work, aiming to make them captivating for readers. His writing process involves plunging readers into the world he creates, allowing them to discover characters and the rules governing their existence as they delve deeper into the narrative.

Immersive Storytelling: Disorientation and Gradual Revelation

Bennett strives to create an immersive experience for his readers, transporting them into the heart of his stories from the outset. He intentionally disorients readers initially, allowing them to gradually learn about the characters and their surroundings as they progress through the narrative. This technique heightens the sense of discovery and keeps readers engaged.

The Longevity and Evolution of the Top Boy Saga

The Top Boy community has been an integral part of Bennett’s creative journey for over a decade, and he feels a deep connection to the characters and their world. After the initial cancellation of the series by Channel 4, Netflix revived it in 2017, granting Bennett the opportunity to further explore and develop the story and characters. Jaq serves as a synoptic gospel, offering a fresh perspective on familiar events from Jaq’s unique viewpoint.

Drake’s Fame: A Serendipitous Discovery

Bennett’s initial lack of awareness of Drake’s immense popularity was amusingly revealed when the rapper expressed interest in Top Boy. It was only through his children’s enthusiastic reaction to Drake’s name that Bennett fully grasped the extent of the rapper’s fame. This realization prompted him to acknowledge Drake’s status as a megastar, a recognition he had previously underestimated.

Synoptic Gospel Approach: A New Perspective on Familiar Events

Bennett’s approach to storytelling in Jaq resembles a synoptic gospel, presenting a distinct perspective on events known to the Top Boy audience. He aimed to explore how events might unfold from the viewpoint of a female character, particularly one who occupies a position of power but not the absolute pinnacle.

Belfast Legacy: An Indefinable Influence

Bennett acknowledges that his upbringing in Northern Ireland subtly influences his writing in ways that are difficult to pinpoint. He believes that the experiences and cultural influences absorbed during his younger years continue to shape his perspective and writing style, including the incorporation of Belfast humor into his work.

Adapting The Day of the Jackal: A Modern Retelling

Bennett is currently engaged in a TV adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s classic novel, The Day of the Jackal, reimagining the beloved story for a contemporary audience. The adaptation retains the DNA of the original tale, featuring the world’s most skilled assassin targeting a closely guarded individual. While paying homage to the original, the adaptation modernizes the setting and characters, aiming to captivate both long-time fans of the novel and new viewers.

Politics and Writing: An Intertwined Relationship

Bennett firmly believes that those who are genuinely interested in life must also be interested in politics. He sees politics as a reflection of the human condition and contends that writers should explore it in their work.

Call to Action

Ronan Bennett’s Jaq: A Top Boy Story promises an immersive and thought-provoking journey into the world of crime, politics, and the enduring human spirit. Delve into Jaq’s gripping narrative and discover the consequences of choices, the resilience of the human spirit, and the intricate web of power and influence that shapes our world. Immerse yourself in Bennett’s captivating writing style and become part of the Top Boy legacy