'A man, now, well sure enough, one of those you can forget; but a child is forever.' Kate Byrne
For No Man's Land, first published in 1972, Tony Parker persuaded six young unmarried mothers to talk frankly about their lives, their hopes and their problems. As ever Parker didn't impose himself upon the text: the women speak as and for themselves. As such No Man's Land is a precious sociological portrait of a Britain in which many believed that motherhood and marriage were subject to an umbilical linkage.
'Tony Parker is himself unique: Britain's most expert interviewer, mouthpiece of the inarticulate, and counsel for the defence of whose whom society has shunned or abandoned.' Anthony Storr, Sunday Times
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Tony Parker was born in Stockport on June 25 1923, the son of a bookseller. His mother died when he was 4. He began to write poems and plays in his late teens. Called up to military service early in the Second World War he declared himself a conscientious objector and, in lieu, was sent to work at a coal-mine in the North East, where he observed conditions and met people who influenced him hugely. After the war he began to work as a publisher's representative and, voluntarily, as a prison visitor - the latter another important stimulus to his subsequent writings. After Parker happened to make the acquaintance of a BBC radio producer and imparted his growing interest in the lives, opinions and self-perceptions of the prisoners he had met, he was given the opportunity to record an interview with a particular convict for broadcast on the BBC. The text of the interview was printed in the Listener, and spotted by the publishers Hutchinson as promising material for a book. This duly emerged as The Courage of His Convictions (1962), for which Parker and the career criminal 'Robert Allerton' (a pseudonym) were jointly credited as authors. Over the next 30 years Parker would publish 18 discrete works, most of them 'oral histories' based on discreetly edited but essentially verbatim interview transcripts. He died in 1996 (though one further work, a study of his great American counterpart Studs Terkel, appeared posthumously.)
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