“I kept searching anywhere I could”
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.