Winston Graham

Winston Mawdsley Graham OBE, born Winston Grime (30 June 1908 – 10 July 2003), was an English novelist best known for the Poldark series of historical novels set in Cornwall, though he also wrote numerous other works, including thrillers, historical novels, short stories, non-fiction and plays.[2] Winston Graham was the author's pseudonym until he changed his name by deed poll from Grime to Graham on 7 May 1947.[2]

Winston Graham
Born(1908-06-30)30 June 1908
Victoria Park, Manchester, England
Died10 July 2003(2003-07-10) (aged 95)
Buxted, East Sussex, England[1]
SpouseJean Mary Williamson (1912–1992)


Graham was born in Victoria Park, Manchester, on 30 June 1908. 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] Graham's father, Albert Grime, was a prosperous tea importer and grocer, but became incapacitated by a stroke.

When he was 17 years old, Winston moved to Perranporth, Cornwall, where he lived for 34 years.[2] He had wanted to be a writer from an early age and, following the death of his father, he was supported by his mother while he wrote novels at home in longhand and attempted to get them published.[1][3]

In September 1939, Graham married Jean Williamson, having first met her in 1926 when she was 13 years old. She often helped Graham with ideas for his books, and the character of Demelza, in his Poldark series, was based in part on her. Graham's daughter said, “Father was the author but my mother helped with the details because she was very observant. She saw everything and remembered it all."[4] Jean died in 1992.[2]

During his youth, Graham was a keen tennis player and recorded in his diaries how many sets he played each day. He lived in Perranporth from October 1925 until January 1960, then briefly, during the summer of 1960, in the south of France before finally settling in East Sussex. He was a member of the Society of Authors from 1945, chairman of the Society's Management Committee from 1967 to 1969[1] and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 1983, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.[2]

Graham died on 10 July 2003 at the age of 95, at his house, Abbotswood, East Sussex.[1][5] His autobiography, Memoirs of a Private Man, was published in September of that year.[2]

Remembrances and legacy

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 2008 to celebrate the centenary of his birth, coinciding with re-publication of the Poldark novels by Pan Macmillan.[2] Additionally, the Winston Graham Historical Prize was initiated as part of the Centenary Celebrations, 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.[6]

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 and elsewhere.[2]

Literary career

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 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 (1925–1960).[2]

Graham was also an accomplished author of suspense novels and, during the course of his life, wrote thirty novels (in addition to the twelve Poldark books) as well as a volume of short stories (The Japanese Girl, 1971) and three non-fiction works. Other than the Poldark novels, Graham's most successful works were Marnie, a suspense thriller published in 1961 and The Walking Stick, published in 1967.[2] In 1955, Graham's novel The Little Walls won the Crime Writers' Association's first Crime Novel of the Year Award (then called The Crossed Red Herrings Award, later The Gold Dagger).[2]

In 1972 Graham published "The Spanish Armadas", a factual account of the sixteenth-century Anglo-Spanish conflict. (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.)

Graham wrote at least four plays, three of which - Seven Suspected, Values and Shadow Play (renamed Circumstantial Evidence) - were produced, with the latter professionally produced at Salisbury in 1978 and at Guildford, Richmond and Brighton in 1979. According to Graham, it "missed London by a hair". Seven Suspected was first performed in Perranporth on 30 May 1933 with both the author and his wife-to-be Jean in the cast. Values was a one-act play performed by seven members of Perranporth Women's Institute at a Truro drama festival in 1936.[2]

Graham's books have been translated into 30 languages.[2] His autobiography Memoirs of a Private Man was published by Macmillan in September 2003, two months after his death.

Television and film adaptations of works

The first seven Poldark novels were adapted as a BBC television series broadcast in the UK between 1975 and 1977, which garnered audiences of about 14 million viewers.[7] The series was so successful that some vicars rescheduled or cancelled church services rather than have them clash with the broadcast of Poldark episodes.[8] Graham disliked early episodes of Poldark so much (because of the portrayal of Demelza as promiscuous and 'loose') that he tried to have the series cancelled, but could do nothing about it.[4][9]

The Poldark novels have been adapted for television on two other occasions.

Graham's novel Marnie (1961), a thriller, was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964, with Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery in the leads.[10]

Marnie (1961) was also adapted as a play by Sean O'Connor in 2001 and an opera written by Nico Muhly which premiered in November, 2017. Both the play and the opera retained the novel's British setting and bleak ending.

Five of Graham's other books have been filmed:


Poldark novels

  • 1945 – Ross Poldark (original U.S. title: The Renegade)[17]
  • 1946 – Demelza
  • 1950 – Jeremy Poldark (original U.S. title: Venture Once More)[18]
  • 1953 – Warleggan (original U.S. title: The Last Gamble)[19]
  • 1973 – The Black Moon
  • 1976 – The Four Swans
  • 1977 – The Angry Tide
  • 1981 – The Stranger from the Sea
  • 1982 – The Miller's Dance
  • 1984 – The Loving Cup
  • 1990 – The Twisted Sword
  • 2002 – Bella Poldark
  • 1983 – Poldark's Cornwall (non-fiction)

Other works

  • 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
  • 1952 – 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 – Angell, 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; posthumous)


  1. "Winston Graham obituary". The Independent. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. "In Profile ~ A Winston Graham Reader".
  3. "Winston Graham obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  4. "Poldark creator hated first TV adaptation". The Daily Express. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  5. Hunt, John. "lifeandtimes2".
  6. "Winston Graham Prize". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  7. "The Winston Graham and Poldark Literary Society". Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  8. "Winston Graham: 'I found the atmosphere and history exciting'". Cornish Guardian. 4 March 2015.
  9. "Why Poldark writer hated BBC's 'slutty' Demelza". Mail Online. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  10. Barker, Dennis (14 July 2003). "Obituary:Winston Graham". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  11. Graham, Winston (1967). Take My Life (Book Club (BCE/BOMC) ed.). Doubleday and Co. ASIN B0056OTX7Q.
  12. Graham, Winston (1950). Night Without Stars (Book Club ed.). Doubleday & Co. ASIN B000NPI97I.
  13. Graham, Winston (1953). Fortune Is a Woman. Doubleday & Company. ASIN B000QBA4GS.
  14. Carnival of Crime. IMDb. 1962.
  15. Graham, Winston (1956). The Sleeping Partner (1st ed.). Hodder & Stoughton. ASIN B0000CJG3U.
  16. Graham, Winston (1967). The Walking Stick (1st US, Book Club ed.). Doubleday. ASIN B002BXCSPE.
  17. Ballantine edition (1977), ISBN 0-345-27731-7
  18. Ballantine edition (1977), ISBN 0-345-27733-3
  19. Ballantine edition (1977), ISBN 0-345-27734-1
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