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Cara Massimina

“Tim Parks presents the real, virginal, boastful, cracked Morris lurking behind his own justifications as matters turn lethal and ugly. Clever, blandly humorous and utterly immoral.”

THE SUNDAY TIMES

Curiously, I really can’t remember quite when Cara Massimina was written, but I do know that it was before I had been published and before I’d written Loving Roger. Let’s say around 1982. I was pretty furious at the time, leading a rather dull existence teaching English to the well-to-do of Verona, under-achieving and underpaid. I wondered if, by writing a sort of comic thriller, I might have more success than with the more determinedly serious works I’d been sending off to London publishers. So enter Morris Duckworth, an underpaid English teacher (surprise surprise) who in his attempt to penetrate well-to-do Veronese society ends up pretty well destroying it. Basically he tries to marry his way to wealth, exploiting the affections of the delightful teenage Massimina who has unaccountably fallen in love with him. The family see through it. Morris is cast out. But Massimina wants to run away with him, and when she arrives at his flat she hasn’t told anyone where she’s going. Morris has a flash of inspiration, and is doomed. He’ll go off on a tour of Italy and start writing ransom letters to her parents. Is it an elopement, is it a kidnap? Certainly it turned out to be a dream of a plot. How it came to me I don’t know, but it cheered me up immensely. Anyhow, what came out in the end – I think this was the only book I wrote straight onto a manual typewriter – was a love story – for Morris manages to fall in love – a comedy of self justification, and a chronicle of appalling crime. When Morris is trapped, he fights…

I should explain that, much to my dismay, in the USA the book was called Juggling the Stars. An editor felt the American public wouldn’t understand the title Cara Massimina, as if one had to understand titles, as if the Americans were less sophisticated than the Brits…

Short takes from the reviews

Sharp and witty, expertly paced, frequently horrific and often very funny.

THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

An unusually classy thriller, true to life and not to be missed.

THE INDEPENDENT