“I kept search­ing any­where I could”

Sussex Life - - Front Page - By Tim Parker by Clif­ford Mewett

Lady Massey’s very busy day job as a Labour mem­ber of the House of Lords meant that she had to very reg­i­mented with her time when it came to writ­ing the novel – get­ting up be­fore 6am and writ­ing solidly un­til mid-morn­ing. She ini­tially pub­lished the story un­der a pen name but says “the cat’s out of the bag now” and has re­ceived lots of sup­port from her col­leagues in the House of Lords.

One well-qual­i­fied col­league to lend Lady Massey sup­port was Ruth Ren­dell. The late au­thor was her men­tor when she first joined the House of Lords and she helped her struc­ture the novel too. “She said to me: ‘I re­ally like this char­ac­ter Sam, you’re not go­ing to kill him off are you?’ And of course, I said yes be­cause that’s what re­ally hap­pened. But, she sug­gested that I give some hope at the end of the novel.”

Ruth’s good ad­vice was fol­lowed and de­spite the death and vi­o­lence of the time, the story has a hope­ful end­ing both on page and in real life too.

Tim Parker only dis­cov­ered by chance that his fa­ther had been a Ger­man called Sch­wabe. Grand­fa­ther Au­gust ar­rived from Bavaria in 1890 and mar­ried Kate Parker, a church or­gan­ist from Lich­field. They ran two Sus­sex ho­tels and had 11 chil­dren.

Although their sons served as English of­fi­cers in World War I, anti-ger­man hys­te­ria forced a name change and the suc­cess­ful, in­tel­li­gent and gre­gar­i­ous brood be­came the Park­ers.

There are fas­ci­nat­ing glimpses of Arthur Co­nan Doyle, Harold Macmil­lan and Ed­mund Blun­den but the stars of the story are Au­gust, Kate and their chil­dren. One be­came a con­cert pi­anist, an­other a Rus­sian se­cret agent, one died at the Somme and an­other be­came the Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Ce­cil Parker. A fifth be­came the au­thor’s fa­ther, Eric James.

He can be very proud of his son.

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