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Tony Parsons (born 6 November 1953) is a British journalist broadcaster and author. He began his career as a music journalist on the NME, writing about punk music. Later, he wrote for The Daily Telegraph, before going on to write for Daily Mirror for 18 years. Since September 2013 he has written his current column for The Sun. Parsons was for a time a regular guest on the BBC Two arts review programme The Late Show, and still appears infrequently on the successor Newsnight Review; he also briefly hosted a series on Channel 4 called Big Mouth.
He is the author of the multi-million selling novel Man and Boy (1999). Parsons had written a number of novels including The Kids (1976), Platinum Logic (1981) and Limelight Blues (1983), before he found mainstream success by focussing on the tribulations of thirty-something men. Parsons has since published a series of best-selling novels – One For My Baby (2001), Man and Wife (2003), The Family Way (2004), Stories We Could Tell (2006), My Favourite Wife (2007), Starting Over (2009) and Men From the Boys (2010). His novels typically deal with relationship problems, emotional dramas and the traumas of men and women in our time. He describes his writing as 'Men Lit', as opposed to the female 'Chick Lit'.
Born in Romford, Essex, he was the only child of working class parents. He lived for the first five years of his life in a rented flat above a shop in Essex, before his family moved to their own council house in Billericay, Essex.
His father was a former Royal Naval Commando who won the Distinguished Service Medal in World War Two. After the war, he worked as a lorry driver, market trader and greengrocer. His mother was a school dinner lady. Parsons attended a grammar school but dropped out when he was 16 years old and worked in a series of low-paid, unskilled menial jobs. He then got a job with a city insurance company as a computer operator where his free time allowed him to develop his literary skills – publishing an underground paper called the Scandal Sheet.
Parsons married fellow NME journalist Julie Burchill – they had both answered the same advert in the paper requesting "hip, young gunslingers" to apply as new writers. He and Burchill collaborated on a book in 1979 – The Boy Looked at Johnny. After the collapse of their marriage in 1984, Parsons became a single parent caring for their four-year-old son, Bobby Kennedy Parsons. The experience of being a young man caring for a small child was to later influence his best-selling novel, Man and Boy. Parsons' father died of cancer in 1987 and his mother died of cancer in 1999, just weeks before the publication of Man and Boy. The book is dedicated to Parsons' mother.
In 1992, Parsons married his Japanese wife, Yuriko. They have one daughter, Jasmine. He lives with his wife and daughter in London.
In 1974 he began work in Gordon's Gin Distillery on City Road, London, where he developed an acute gin allergy and wrote his first novel, The Kids, published by New English Library in 1976. Parsons later said that he had imagined that if he could publish a book then he would be able to make a living as a professional writer. The £700 he made from The Kids was not enough to allow him to leave Gordon's Gin factory. However, when the weekly music magazine New Musical Express advertised for new writers in the summer of 1976 Parsons submitted his novel to the editor, Nick Logan, and was rewarded with a staff writer job. For the next three years he wrote about new music. He wrote the first cover story on The Clash, and features of the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Talking Heads, Ramones, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, New York Dolls, Buzzcocks, and Led Zeppelin among others.
For most of the 1980s Parsons struggled to make a living as a freelance writer. His career started to recover in 1990 when he wrote Bare, an authorised biography of pop-star George Michael. Despite the absence of a written contract with the singer, proceeds from the book were split equally between the two men. However, they fell out in 1999 after an interview Michael had given to Parsons was published in the Daily Mirror. In the 1990s, Parsons became a regular on the live BBC panel show Late Review. He also made a series of authored documentaries for Channel 4. When Piers Morgan became editor of the Daily Mirror, Parsons was poached from The Daily Telegraph as a columnist.
In 1993 he presented a film for the British television documentary series Without Walls, focusing on the controversy surrounding the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange. Director Stanley Kubrick and distributor Warner Brothers unsuccessfully sued broadcaster Channel Four in an attempt to prevent clips from the film being shown on television. In the programme, Parsons is seen taking a cross-channel ferry from England to France to watch the film, which at the time was still embargoed in Britain due to a self-imposed ban by the director.
Though it sold respectably on publication, the novel Man and Boy (1999) was a word-of-mouth success, and only reached number one in The Sunday Times best-seller list one year after publication. Despite the publication of a series of novels, Man and Boy remains his best-selling book, being published in 39 languages, most recently Chinese for its publication in the People's Republic of China (January 2009). Man and Boy won the British Book Awards' Book of the Year Prize in 2001.
In 2007, Parsons wrote a series of articles about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann from a beach in the Algarve in Portugal, in the Daily Mail. The tone with which these articles were written was later described as having a "touch of arrogant xenophobia" by The Guardian's Marcel Berlins. The Press Complaints Commission that year received 485 complaints, a huge increase in the number of complaints in comparison to previous years, his article on the McCann affair receiving the most complaints. In an article for the Daily Mirror in 2007, entitled "Oh Up Yours Senor", he said of Portugal's ambassador to Britain, Senhor António Santana Carlos, "And I would respectfully suggest that in future, if you can't say something constructive about the disappearance of little Madeleine, then you just keep your stupid, sardine-munching mouth shut".
In 2009, Parsons signed a three-book contract with HarperCollins for two further novels and a non-fiction book called, Fear of Fake Breasts. Parsons also writes a monthly column for GQ magazine and, until August 2013, a weekly column for the Daily Mirror.
Parsons has expressed in articles a strong loathing for tattoos. In the 1990s he wrote a story called "The Tattooed Jungle", suggesting that tattoos were symptomatic of the decline of the working class. In a 2012 article for GQ magazine, Parsons lamented the fact that in the last 20 years in Britain, tattoos have become mainstream, common among both sexes and to all economic classes. Parsons wrote that tattoos "remain ugly, hideous daubings that make my flesh crawl with revulsion every time I see one."
For a few years British magazine Viz ran a recurring feature entitled "Tony Parsehole", a parody of Parson's Daily Mirror column, in particular the pieces in which he pays tribute to the recently deceased. The end of his association with the Mirror came at the beginning of September 2013, with Parsons reportedly leaving the title after 18 years because of a cut in its editorial budget. Less than two weeks later it was announced that Parsons had joined The Sun on Sunday and that his previous paper was "dying" because it was giving away its content for free online.