"Give me the comma of imperfect striving, thus to find zest in the immediate living. Ever the reaching but never the gaining, ever the climbing but never the attaining of the mountain top." -- Winston Graham
Winston Mawdsley Graham OBE (30 June 1908 — 10 July 2003) was an English novelist, best known for the Poldark series of historical novels.
Graham was born in Victoria Park, Manchester, England. When he was 17 years old he relocated to Perranporth, Cornwall. His first novel, The House with the Stained Glass Windows was published during 1934; his first Poldark novel, Ross Poldark, was published during 1945, and was succeeded by a series of eleven further titles, the last of which, Bella Poldark, was published during 2002. The series was set in Cornwall, especially in and near Perranporth, where Graham spent much of his life. The Poldark saga was made into a BBC television series during the 1970s and, with audiences of about 14 million viewers, was so successful that some vicars rescheduled or cancelled church services rather than try to have them when Poldark was showing.
Other than the Poldark series, Graham's most successful work was Marnie, a thriller which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock during 1964. Hitchcock had originally hoped that Grace Kelly would resume filmwork to play the main female character and she had agreed in principle, but the plan failed when the principality of Monaco realised that the heroine was a thief and repressed sexually. The leads were eventually taken by Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Five of Graham's other books were filmed, including The Walking Stick, Night Without Stars and Take My Life.
Graham was an accomplished author of suspense novels and during the course of his life wrote nearly thirty novels (in addition to the twelve Poldark novels). A 1941 spy thriller Night Journey set in the contemporary Nazi-occupied Europe preserves some of the opinion of the time, with the protagonist believing that Britain was perhaps going to lose the war but is determined to "go down fighting". Graham also wrote a history of The Spanish Armadas and an historical novel, The Grove of Eagles, based during that period. (The plural "Armadas" refers to a lesser-known second attempt by Philip II of Spain to conquer England during 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).
He married Jean Williamson during September, 1939, a woman he had first met during 1926 when she was 13 years old. She died during December 1992. During his youth he was a keen tennis player, recording in his diaries how many sets he played each day. He lived in Perranporth from 1925 until 1959, briefly in the south of France during 1960 and then settled in East Sussex. He was Chairman of the Society of Authors and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and during 1983 was honoured with the Order of the British Empire.
Graham's autobiography, Memoirs of a Private Man, was published by Macmillan during 2003. 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 2008, coinciding with re-publication of the Poldark novels by Pan Macmillan.
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 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 Institute 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.
"All I knew was that I was writing something out of my very guts, and that I was content.""I have been under considerable pressure to buy at least a laptop computer. I have always turned the suggestions down for the reason that I have never done creative work on a typewriter. There is to me a lack of empathy."