Bill O’Jack’s, Saddleworth, 1832.
She bent over it. Him. Bent over him; her grandfather’s body, his nose and brow beaten into his face, a soft, bloodied mess. She stepped back; saw her grandfather’s shirt ripped open at the collarbone. She thought of the bright blood in the eggs she had cracked against the side of a bowl that morning and how she needed yeast. And teeth, teeth caught in the soup like tiny nuggets of stale bread. A faint whistle came from his mouth, the red stickiness bubbling. She crouched over him, grasped at his collar with shaking hands.
The bloody, battered, and unrecognisable bodies of an innkeeper and his son are found in their remote village. As gore-seekers travel from across the country to witness the sight, mill-worker Millie Bradbury, her family, and her discovery have become notorious, and the focus of unwanted national attention.
When I moved to Saddleworth, I learnt about the infamous Bill's O'Jack's murders. I'm not one for crime, blood and gore usually – I'd prefer to think these things don't exist – but I was drawn in by the folklore of this story, the stories that circulated and grew, the ephemera that was produced. For a time, the area was defined by Bill's O'Jack's. To some, it still is.
Then there was Millie – or Amelia Winterbottom, as history names her – a twelve year old girl who discovered the bodies of her grandfather and uncle in their isolated inn. That was it; I was hooked. Out of Human Sight is the story of Millie Bradbury, as I named her, and my reimagining of the tale. It was shortlisted for the NorthBound Book Award at the 2021 Northern Writers' Awards.
'Out of Human Sight is a historical novel with the grip of a thriller, steeped in atmosphere and psychological insight. Sophie Parkes brings 19th century Lancashire and Canada to vivid life. Millie is a brilliantly compelling heroine, and I followed her emotional and physical journey on tenterhooks.' Oliver Harris, writer of the Nick Belsey series
‘Parkes writes with clear-eyed empathy about working-class lives in nineteenth-century England, and the landscape that both sustains and punishes them. In a tale that transports us from a Yorkshire mill village via an arduous and viscerally-recounted sea voyage to Quebec, she weaves her narrative of murder, betrayal, and the journey from innocence to experience with quiet assurance. And, always, with an eye for the things that make even the harshest of existences bearable: family, home, friendship, and the hope of love.’ Karen Powell, The River Within
'Deliciously intense.' Yvonne Battle-Felton, Remembered
Dave Heeley OBE is a phenomenon, a never-ending engine of enthusiasm, stamina, and jokes. From the Marathon des Sables to Escape from Alcatraz, Dave has made his name from the unbelievable feats of endurance he has cooked up, and the hundreds of thousands of pounds raised for charities such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Albion Foundation and Macmillan. It was an honour to work alongside Dave to produce an autobiography of which he could be proud, which we both launched at Waterstones in Birmingham. Probably best known for his seven marathons in seven days on all seven continents, this triumph was later turned into the short film, Seven Days, which this book also inspired. The audio book is available on Audible and is narrated by Adrian Chiles.
Wayward Daughter: the official biography of Eliza Carthy (Soundcheck Books, 2012)
I not only met my hero – I got to write about her! My first book charted the rise and rise of Eliza Carthy MBE, the fiddle-singing maestro of the contemporary English folk scene. Through interviews with Eliza, her family and friends, her many colleagues and collaborators, including Stewart Lee, Billy Bragg and Paul Weller, I set out what it might be like to be the daughter of two of the folk scene's – the music scene's – biggest names, and forge your very own, very different and very important path.
Eliza later called her double album 'Best of' Wayward Daughter and her band the Wayward Band so I think she liked it!
'Sophie Parkes' Wayward Daughter: An Official Biography of Eliza Carthy is a beautifully crafted tale of one of this country's prized assets. Read the book, buy the albums and get off yer arses and go see Eliza Carthy live.' The Brighton Magazine
'You get hints of Parkes own feelings for Eliza and the respect she has for her and as such this book is a success in that it both educates the uninitiated and adds context to those already familiar with Eliza Carthy.' Louder than War
'A great read, and should inspire further interest in this singular, inspiring musician. Highly recommended.' Folk Witness