Five Fascinating Facts About… Winston Graham

Compiled by Annabel.

1. Born in 1908 in Manchester, the Graham family moved to Perranporth in Cornwall when Winston was seventeen. He stayed there until 1959, eventually settling in East Sussex.

2. Although most famous for his Poldark sequence of novels, Graham was prolific, writing fifty books over his career. His first, The House with the Stained Glass Windows, was published in 1934, his last novel was Bella Poldark in 2002. His revised autobiography Memoirs of a Private Man was published posthumously in 2003.

3. His 1961 novel Marnie was made into a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It starred Sean Connery as the man who marries a thief, played by Tippi Hedren. There is a controversial rape scene in the book, which screen-writer Evan Hunter had problems with. In his book Me and Hitch, Hunter tells how Hitchcock visualised it:

Hitch held up his hands the way directors do when they’re framing a shot. Palms out, fingers together, thumbs extended and touching to form a perfect square. Moving his hands toward my face, like a camera coming in for a close shot, he said, “Evan, when he sticks it in her, I want that camera right on her face

4. There are twelve novels in the Poldark series, published between 1945 and 2002, plus a background book. Graham has said that the character of Ross is partly based upon a fighter pilot he met on a train during WWII. Demelza is an old Welsh name, meaning ‘Little fort on the hill’. The latest series was filmed in Cornwall, notably at Church Cove, Gunwalloe on the Lizard peninsula, Charlestown near St Austell which becomes Truro, and Bodmin Moor.

5. Graham’s legacy, supported by his family, has endowed a historical fiction prize. The Winston Graham Historical Fiction Prize was founded in 2008, and periodically awards £3000 for an outstanding published work of historical fiction based in the South West of Britain. It is run by the Royal Cornwall Museum. [The current round is open for submissions until 30 Jun 2020. To find out more, click here].

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Read Annabel’s appreciation of the first Poldark novel and the two TV adaptations in our Reprints section – click here.

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