Winston Graham

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Winston Graham
Born (1908-06-30)30 June 1908
Victoria Park, Manchester, England
Died 10 July 2003(2003-07-10) (aged 95)
London, England
Spouse Jean Mary Williamson (1939-1992)

Winston Mawdsley Graham OBE (30 June 1908 – 10 July 2003) was an English novelist, best known for the Poldark novels, a series of historical fiction set in Cornwall.


Graham's father, Albert Grime, was a prosperous tea-importer and grocer. His second son, Winston, was born at 66 Langdale Road, Victoria Park, Manchester on 30 June 1908, at 8 a.m. As a child, Winston contracted pneumonia, and on medical advice was educated at a local day school, rather than Manchester Grammar School which his father had in mind for him.[1]

When he was 17 years old, Winston moved to Perranporth, Cornwall. He had wanted to be a writer from an early age, and following the death of his father who had been incapacitated by a stroke, he was supported by his mother while he wrote novels at home in longhand and attempted to get them published.[1][2]

During his youth Graham was a keen tennis player, recording in his diaries how many sets he played each day. He lived in Perranporth from 1925 until 1959, and briefly in the south of France during 1960, then settling in East Sussex. He was Chairman of the Society of Authors and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1983 was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.[3]

In September 1939, Graham married Jean Williamson, having first met her in 1926 when she was 13 years old. She died in 1992.[3]

Graham died on July 10, 2003, in London at age 95. His autobiography, Memoirs of a Private Man, was published that same year.[3]

In 2008, to celebrate the centenary of his birth, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, Cornwall, had an exhibition devoted to his life and works (Poldark's Cornwall: The Life and Times of Winston Graham) from mid-June to mid-September, coinciding with re-publication of the Poldark novels by Pan Macmillan.[3] The Winston Graham Historical Prize was also initiated as part of the Centenary Celebrations.[4] Funded by a legacy from the author and supported by Pan Macmillan, it is awarded for a work of unpublished fiction, preferably with an association with Cornwall. Details can be obtained from the Royal Cornwall Museum.

The majority of Winston Graham's manuscripts and papers have been donated to the Royal Institution of Cornwall by his son, Andrew Graham, and daughter, Rosamund Barteau. Further papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

Literary career[edit]

Graham's first novel, The House with the Stained Glass Windows, was published in 1934.

His first Poldark novel, Ross Poldark, was published in 1945, and was succeeded by a series of eleven further titles, the last of which, Bella Poldark, was published in 2002. The series was set in Cornwall, especially in and near Perranporth, where Graham lived for more than three decades (1925-1959).[3]

Graham was also an accomplished author of suspense novels, and during the course of his life wrote thirty-two novels (in addition to the twelve Poldark books). A 1941 spy thriller, Night Journey, set in the contemporary Nazi-occupied Europe captures some of the spirit of the time, with the protagonist believing that Britain was perhaps going to lose the war, but remains determined to "go down fighting". Other than the Poldark novels, Graham's most successful work was Marnie, a suspense thriller, published in 1961.[3]

Graham also wrote a history of The Spanish Armadas, and an historical novel, The Grove of Eagles, set in that period. (The plural "Armadas" refers to a lesser-known second attempt by Philip II of Spain to conquer England in 1598, which Graham argued was better planned and organised than the famous one of 1588, but was foiled by a fierce storm scattering the Spanish ships and sinking many of them.) His books have been translated into 24 languages.[3]

Graham's autobiography, Memoirs of a Private Man, was published by Macmillan in 2003.

Television and film adaptations of works[edit]

The first seven Poldark novels were turned into a BBC television series first broadcast in the UK between 1975 and 1977, which gained audiences of about 14 million viewers.[5] It was so successful that some vicars rescheduled or cancelled church services, rather than try to have them clash with the broadcast of the Poldark series.[6]

Graham's Marnie, a thriller, was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964, with Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery in the leads.[7] The novel was also adapted as a play by Sean O'Connor in 2001, which returned the story to its original British setting and bleak ending. Five of Graham's other books were filmed, including The Walking Stick, Night Without Stars and Take My Life.


The Poldark novels[edit]

  • 1945 - Ross Poldark (original U.S. title: The Renegade)[8]
  • 1946 - Demelza
  • 1950 - Jeremy Poldark (original U.S. title: Venture Once More)[9]
  • 1953 - Warleggan (original U.S. title: The Last Gamble)[10]
  • 1973 - The Black Moon
  • 1976 - The Four Swans
  • 1977 - The Angry Tide
  • 1981 - The Stranger from the Sea
  • 1983 - Poldark's Cornwall (non-fiction)
  • 1982 - The Miller's Dance
  • 1984 - The Loving Cup
  • 1990 - The Twisted Sword
  • 2002 - Bella Poldark

Other works[edit]

  • 1934 - The House with the Stained Glass Windows
  • 1935 - Into the Fog
  • 1935 - The Riddle of John Rowe
  • 1936 - Without Motive
  • 1937 - The Dangerous Pawn
  • 1938 - The Giant's Chair (revised edition, 1975, as Woman in the Mirror)
  • 1939 - Keys of Chance
  • 1939 - Strangers Meeting
  • 1940 - No Exit
  • 1941 - Night Journey (revised edition, 1966)
  • 1942 - My Turn Next (revised edition, 1988, as Cameo)
  • 1944 - The Merciless Ladies (revised edition, 1979)
  • 1945 - The Forgotten Story
  • 1947 - Take My Life
  • 1949 - Cordelia
  • 1950 - Night Without Stars
  • 1953 - Fortune Is a Woman
  • 1955 - The Little Walls (Gold Dagger Award)
  • 1956 - The Sleeping Partner (filmed as Sócio de Alcova / Carnival of Crime)
  • 1957 - Greek Fire
  • 1959 - The Tumbled House
  • 1961 - Marnie
  • 1963 - The Grove of Eagles
  • 1965 - After the Act
  • 1967 - The Walking Stick
  • 1970 - Angel, Pearl and Little God
  • 1971 - The Japanese Girl (short stories)
  • 1972 - The Spanish Armadas (non-fiction)
  • 1986 - The Green Flash
  • 1992 - Stephanie
  • 1995 - Tremor
  • 1998 - The Ugly Sister
  • 2003 - Memoirs of a Private Man (autobiography)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Winston Graham obituary at The Independent. Retrieved 9 March 2015
  2. ^ Winston Graham obituary at The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 March 2015
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "In Profile ~ A Winston Graham Reader". 
  4. ^ "Winston Graham Prize". Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Winston Graham and Poldark Literary Society". Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "Winston Graham: 'I found the atmosphere and history exciting'", Cornish Guardian, March 04, 2015
  7. ^ Barker, Dennis (14 July 2003). "Obituary:Winston Graham, The Guardian, 14 July 2003". London. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Ballantine edition (1977), ISBN 0-345-27731-7
  9. ^ Ballantine edition (1977), ISBN 0-345-27733-3
  10. ^ Ballantine edition (1977), ISBN 0-345-27734-1