Helion author interview: “The name’s Parker… Linda Parker”

Uncovering the adventuring exploits of Bond creator Ian Fleming and his all-action elder brother Peter

“Boys going on adventures – that’s the best way to describe it,” says writer Linda Parker speaking of her latest title ‘Ice, Steel and Fire. British Explorers in Peace and War. 1921 – 45’. ‘James Bond’ creator Ian Fleming may be more famous, but it’s his brother Peter, who also stars in my book, that’s the more interesting character. I think people are going to be surprised by the brothers’ exploits, as well as those of the lesser-known polar explorers featured.”

‘Ice, Steel and Fire’ will hit the shelves this summer. When we caught up with her in November 2012, Linda was hard at work on the finishing touches…

“My husband Nigel is at an air show raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund and my three-year-old rescue dog Jack is fast asleep. As for me, it’s only 11am but I’ve been sitting at the computer for several hours. It’s deadline day to get my photos in for ‘Ice, Steel and Fire’ and by the middle of this month I’ve got to put my draft PhD in. It’s a busy but exciting time!”

‘Ice, Steel and Fire’ gives a fascinating insight into the Fleming brothers’ adventures. What can we expect to learn?

“Peter was a ‘Spectator’ journalist who wanted to write adventure books while living the adventurer’s lifestyle. He travelled to Brazil and on to the Far East and India via Turkistan taking the infamous northern routes through the deserts. In the Second World War he was the first man to be sent into Norway to find out if the Nazis were there! Later he specialised in deception in the Far East where he would do daring things like stage a car crash and plant misleading documents in the wreckage for the Germans to find. His life was every bit as exciting as the ‘Bond’ series his brother Ian – who was the main man behind the creation of 30 Commando – would go on to write.”

Your first book ‘The Whole Armour of God. Anglican Chaplains in the Great War’ was published by Helion in 2009. How did that book come about and what did you learn?

“Deep down I’ve always wanted to be an author. I always envisaged that I’d write fiction, but when Nigel bought me a book for Christmas on First World War chaplains it triggered something inside me. I spent four years researching the subject myself – reading their diaries in the National Archives among other things. At the start of the war there were 89 Anglican Chaplains. As it progressed they moved closer to the Front; from working in field ambulances and hospitals to seeing action as stretcher-bearers. They were ordinary but very brave men doing their best. By the end in 1918 there were 3,475 chaplains from all denominations. Three Victoria Crosses were handed out – as well as a clutch of Military Crosses.”

How long did the research and writing process take?

“I pitched my proposal to Duncan at Helion and wrote my book in under a year. I was still teaching full-time back then and it was a case of ‘I’ve got an hour on a Saturday, I’ll do the book’. It was very much a labour of love – inspired in part by my own faith and that of my father who was a chaplain in the Territorial Army. The writer and historian Mike Snape – who had written his own book on the subject – was a big support too.”

‘Ice, Steel and Fire’ is your second title with Helion. What inspired you to write it?

“After I’d got the first book out of my system I knew I wanted to write another. I’d been interested in Arctic exploration for 20 years. What really fascinated me was that some of the lesser-known explorers of the 1920s and 1930s went on to do a lot of very exciting things during the Second World War. I knew their exploits would make a good book and thankfully Duncan at Helion agreed.”

What lessons did you learn from your first book that helped with your second?

“In terms of the writing and research aspect, the first book was self-taught. It felt like I was wandering through a fog and then I met Duncan, who was a real support through the publication process. Afterwards with Mike Snape’s encouragement I went on to do a PhD looking at those Anglicans who came back from the war and went on to change society. I’ve now learned how to research ‘properly’ and reference.”

What else did you learn while writing ‘Ice, Steel and Fire’?

“It fascinated me that this small group of men, including polar explorer Quintin Riley, all knew each other from the various far-flung expeditions they’d been on. They were able to pull strings that meant they got to work on the same assignments during the Second World War – using all those skills they’d developed as explorers to distinguish themselves in that conflict. I want passionately for people to read my book, which I have loved writing.”

Would you like a career in writing?

“I’ve got my dream job – teaching A-level History part-time to individuals and small groups at a tutorial college in Oxford. How long I’ll do that for I don’t know, but yes – writing full-time does appeal to me. I’m very grateful to Duncan at Helion for all his support, encouragement and expertise. We’re already discussing future projects so it’s a case of watch this space!”

Pre-orders for ‘Ice, Steel and Fire. British Explorers in Peace and War. 1921 – 45’ by Linda Parker are being taken at http://www.helion.co.uk/ice-steel-and-fire-british-explorers-in-peace-and-war-1921-45.html We will not charge your credit card until the day your order ships.

Michelle Corbett

 

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