The miners' strike of 1984-85 was one of the longest and most acrimonious in Britain's history. Six months after it ended, Tony Parker travelled to the North East of England to speak to people on both sides of the dispute and discover the views and feelings of a colliery community contemplating the bitter end of a whole way of life. '[Red Hill gives a] powerful idea of the tribulations suffered by everyone affected by the miners' strike.' Today 'Here are men and women with all their quirks and oddities, their emotions and prejudices.' TLS 'The reader is allowed to enter a secret, remote world which is at times heroic, but more often poignant and lonely.' Listener
For his twelfth book, first published in 1985, Tony Parker was given near-unlimited access by the Ministry of Defence and spent eighteen months interviewing the officers and soldiers of a single British Army infantry regiment - as well as their wives. Both a pacifist and a former conscientious objector, Parker brought his singular perspective to the questioning of fighting men on what it means to bear arms for one's country. 'A unique picture of a social institution which is an exaggerated microcosm of society and yet set apart from it.' Scotsman 'A revealing glimpse into the lives and thoughts of the men in khaki.' Gerald Kaufman, Manchester Evening News 'Captivating bedside reading.' Sunday Telegraph
In 1970 Tony Parker was permitted by the Home Office to make a series of visits to HMP Grendon Underwood, the UK's first psychiatric prison, there to interview inmates and staff for a study of the institution and its unique community. 'Tony Parker deserves a place in any future history of literature for his contribution to the creative use of the tape-recorder... We can only guess at the qualities of patience and perceptiveness which have enabled Mr Parker to make of his material one of the most important studies ever to have been published of the habitual criminal.' TLS 'The reader will find himself as deeply involved with his characters as Mr Parker is himself.' Spectator
Few crimes provoke such outrage and upset as the sex offence, making the subject - including the problems it poses to our society and criminal justice system - a natural one for sociologist Tony Parker, whose work consistently shed light into dark corners of human behaviour. The Twisting Lane, first published in 1969, presents the testimonies of eight men aged between 20 and 70 who had been convicted - most of them repeatedly - for eight different types of offence, from assault or rape of adults or minors, to indecent exposure and 'living on immoral earnings'. Each man offers, in his own words, his personal story and self-perception. 'A remarkable achievement... almost every paragraph is poignant and revealing.' New Statesman
'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
Five Women, first published in 1965, was Tony Parker's fourth book. Its intended subjects had emerged from Holloway prison for women on the same cold spring morning in 1963. Between them they shared 73 criminal convictions and nearly a hundred years 'inside'. Parker intended to interview each of the women about their lives, hopes, intentions, fears; and to arrange follow-up conversations in due course. But one disappeared immediately, and six months later two of the five were dead, two more back in prison. The scope of Parker's project duly changed, but not its purpose - to record the experiences and thoughts of women mired in the cycle of habitual offences and custodial sentences.
'People of the streets... you become aware of them, and wonder who and what they are... what kind of lives they have, and what living them means...' First published in 1968, People of the Streets was Tony Parker's sixth book, for which he spent a year approaching and interviewing people in London who were living their daily lives on street corners, along gutters or in subways. With his usual skill he coaxed them out of their natural reticence, born of solitude, into an unfamiliar but hugely illuminating spontaneity. 'In [Parker's] books the strength lies in the interpretive mind of the writer... He is a sociologist studying single cases in some depth and shows qualities of imagination shared by the historian and the biographer - a mixture of intelligence, sympathy and empathy.' TLS
First published in 1967, A Man of Good Abilities was Tony Parker's fifth book, and told the story of 65 year-old 'Norman Edwards', a compulsive swindler-embezzler for his whole adult life, one punctuated by numerous ineffective terms of imprisonment. Using journals, letters, and interview transcripts Parker drew a finessing portrait of a man and a seemingly intractable problem that he posed to society. 'Tony Parker is a remarkably skilled and compassionate exponent of the documentary technique that he uses to illumine human character; with him, tape-recorded conversations are the stuff of art, not of mere photography.' New Society 'In his books the strength lies in the interpretive mind of the writer... He is a sociologist studying single cases in some depth and shows qualities of imagination shared by the historian and the biographer - a mixture of intelligence, sympathy and empathy.' TLS
'Those of you who have read Tony Parker's book The Plough Boy will be familiar with the story of Michael Davies. He was one of six youths concerned in an affray in which a boy was killed. Five of them received short terms of imprisonment, but Davies was condemned to death... The door to the execution shed was the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes every morning. That boy spent 92 days in the condemned cell watching that door before he was reprieved. I hope we can agree that torture of that kind shall never again be inflicted in Britain.' Baron Stonham, in the Lords debate on the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill, 19 July 1965
'Charlie Smith is only one of many similar men who are at this moment living unhappily among us, or are confined in prison now but must sooner or later be released.' The Unknown Citizen (1963) was Tony Parker's second study of a criminal recidivist. 'Mr Parker's very moving book tells what happened the day Charlie left prison and in his first year of freedom. Charlie himself contributes a pitiful attempt at a self-portrait. We have the author's conversations with the magistrate who sentenced him, with his sorely tried elder sister and with others who have come into his life in the last 18 months... The final chapter is masterly... This is literature, not just another book on crime.' D.L. Howard, Telegraph
Over a period of eighteen months Tony Parker interviewed the residents of an ordinary housing estate in South London. He listened to an assorted mixture of personalities - including a vagrant, two policemen, an often-convicted fence who was the mother of five children, a pro-flogging magistrate, a local doctor, and a 75-year-old widower who spent an hour or two in bed each week with one or other of about twelve different ladies I meet at our church . The inhabitants of Providence opened their hearts, revealing all their quirks, emotions and prejudices. These interviews prove that extraordinary stories are found not only in deserts and jungles: even amid the bleak sprawl of South London, Tony Parker discovered a community that is diverse and enthralling.
I want to marry a lighthouse keeper. And live by the side of the sea. So says the old song, but Parker's 1975 portrait of a handful of these men and their families shows it to be a hard and solitary existence. A vocation more than simply a profession. --Library Journal.