Life & Times
Novels & Writing
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Poldark on TV
Winston Graham Prize
Novels & Writing
Winston Graham is almost certainly best known for his series of twelve novels set in Cornwall at the end of the 18th and beginning
of the 19th centuries. They were televised as Poldark by the BBC in the 1970s. They starred Angharad Rees, Robin Ellis and Ralph
Bates in the main roles. In 2015 a totally fresh adaptation for the BBC was broadcast, starring Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson.
In 2015, new editions of the Poldark novels were published by PanMacmillan to coincide with the BBC1 TV series and similarly, in
2016 re-publications of further novels are available in from September (also available as e-books).
At the centre of the Poldark saga are five main characters: Ross Poldark, Demelza Carne, Elizabeth Chynoweth, Francis Poldark
(Ross’ cousin) and George Warleggan. Winston Graham once said he could have written the storyline on the back of a postcard. In
the end it took twelve novels written over a span of fifty-seven years to complete this fascinating and compelling historical story of
love and hate, poverty and riches all set in the alluring country and seascapes of Cornwall. In addition to their romantic power, the
novels depict with great accuracy the fluctuating fortunes of mining, the conditions of that time in the countryside and in the
fishing communities and the great rivalries between the competing mining and banking families (represented in the novels by the
Poldarks and the Warleggans).
Winston Graham wrote many other books, plays, short stories, and screen plays (over 50 works in all including the Poldarks). The
early books, written in the 1930s and during the war, were thrillers and Winston Graham often described them as ‘deservedly out
of print’. However an early novel, Cordelia (1949) was selected as a dollar book club choice in the USA which gave him particular
pleasure. Set in the late 19th century against the backdrop of the rising middle classes in the north of England, it was a milieu he
knew well from his mother and the stories she told him as a young man.
In the 1950s and 1960s Winston Graham started writing sophisticated suspense and contemporary novels. Many of these were
filmed, the most famous being Marnie directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964. Others included The Walking Stick (1967), Angell,
Pearl and Little God (1970) The Green Flash (1986) and Stephanie (1992). The writing of these more contemporary novels was
interspersed with succeeding ‘batches’ of Poldarks – the first four had been written in the 1950s, then a long pause before another
three came along in the 1970s, with three more in the early 1980s. A six year gap ensued before the next one in 1990 and then it
was twelve years until the last, Bella Poldark, which was completed in 2002, just a year before Winston died.
Gorse at West Pentire © Photo: Simon McBride
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