A coveted writer and journalist has written a book about the colourful life of his grandfather from Abbots Langley.
Robert Nurden, a former journalist with the Independent, Guardian and Telegraph, has penned Between Heaven and Earth – A Journey with My Grandfather, a candid look at Stanley James’ life between 1869 and 1951.
In Robert’s words, his grandfather, who once lived in Long Dene Cottage, Bunkers Lane, was “a romantic adventurer in the Canadian prairies – cowboy, navvy, newspaper reporter and hobo – and a soldier in the US army in the Spanish-American War, a poet and actor.”
Robert added: “He was also, on his return to England, a nonconformist minister who scandalised his Walthamstow congregation when he became a socialist and pacifist, before converting and turning himself into a leading Catholic commentator.”
The biography is a culmination of Robert’s quest to answer the question: “Who really was he?”
The former journalist said: “He was, according to my mother, a good man, a paragon of virtue, a committed Christian, wise and kind, who worked alongside Bertrand Russell and was friends with G.K. Chesterton.
“It was my discovery of hundreds of secret letters and dairies of three women that first shattered this image. They showed that as a minister he had an affair and liaisons with members of his congregation while married to my grandmother. He was tyrannical to his own family. On converting to Catholicism, his admiration for Karl Marx morphed into admiration for Mussolini.
“My restless grandfather and I overlapped by only seven months, so I hardly knew him. I resolved to discover the truth about Stanley James, the 1890s hippy who ran away to the Canadian prairies to find himself; a complex man caught between heaven and earth. Like the man, my book is a hybrid: part-biography, part-family history and part personal quest, complete with triumphs, false trails and speculation.”