Graham, Winston (Mawdsley)

views updated

GRAHAM, Winston (Mawdsley)

Nationality: British. Born: Victoria Park, Manchester, 30 June 1910. Family: Married Jean Mary Williamson in 1939 (died 1992); one son and one daughter. Career: Chair, Society of Authors, London, 1967-69. Awards: Crime Writers Association prize, 1956. Fellow, Royal Society of Literature, 1968. O.B.E. (Officer, Order of the British Empire), 1983. Agent: A.M. Heath, 79 St. Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4AA. Address: Abbotswood House, Buxted, East Sussex TN22 4PB, England.



The House with the Stained-Glass Windows. London, Ward Lock, 1934.

Into the Fog. London, Ward Lock, 1935.

The Riddle of John Rowe. London, Ward Lock, 1935.

Without Motive. London, Ward Lock, 1936.

The Dangerous Pawn. London, Ward Lock, 1937.

The Giant's Chair. London, Ward Lock, 1938.

Strangers Meeting. London, Ward Lock, 1939.

Keys of Chance. London, Ward Lock, 1939.

No Exit: An Adventure. London, Ward Lock, 1940.

Night Journey. London, Ward Lock, 1941; New York, Doubleday, 1968.

My Turn Next. London, Ward Lock, 1942.

The Merciless Ladies. London, Ward Lock, 1944; revised edition, London, Bodley Head, 1979; New York, Doubleday, 1980.

The Forgotten Story. London, Ward Lock, 1945; as The Wreck of the Grey Cat, New York, Doubleday, 1958.

Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall 1783-1787. London, Ward Lock, 1945; as The Renegade, New York, Doubleday, 1951.

Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall 1788-1790. London, Ward Lock, 1946; New York, Doubleday, 1953.

Take My Life. London, Ward Lock, 1947; New York, Doubleday, 1967.

Cordelia. London, Ward Lock, 1949; New York, Doubleday, 1950.

Night Without Stars. London, Hodder and Stoughton, and New York, Doubleday, 1950.

Jeremy Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall 1790-1791. London, WardLock, 1950; as Venture Once More, New York, Doubleday, 1954.

Warleggan: A Novel of Cornwall 1792-1793. London, Ward Lock, 1953; as The Last Gamble, New York, Doubleday, 1955.

Fortune Is a Woman. London, Hodder and Stoughton, and New York, Doubleday, 1953.

The Little Walls. London, Hodder and Stoughton, and New York, Doubleday, 1955; abridged edition, as Bridge to Vengeance, New York, Spivak, 1957.

The Sleeping Partner. London, Hodder and Stoughton, and NewYork, Doubleday, 1956.

Greek Fire. London, Hodder and Stoughton, and New York, Doubleday, 1958.

The Tumbled House. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1959; NewYork, Doubleday, 1960.

Marnie. London, Hodder and Stoughton, and New York, Doubleday, 1961.

The Grove of Eagles. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1963; NewYork, Doubleday, 1964.

After the Act. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1965; New York, Doubleday, 1966.

The Walking Stick. London, Collins, and New York, Doubleday, 1967.

Angell, Pearl and Little God. London, Collins, and New York, Doubleday, 1970.

The Black Moon: A Novel of Cornwall 1794-1795. London, Collins, 1973; New York, Doubleday, 1974.

Woman in the Mirror. London, Bodley Head, and New York, Doubleday, 1975.

The Four Swans: A Novel of Cornwall 1795-1797. London, Collins, 1976; New York, Doubleday, 1977.

The Angry Tide: A Novel of Cornwall 1798-1799. London, Collins, 1977; New York, Doubleday, 1978.

The Stranger from the Sea: A Novel of Cornwall 1810-1811. London, Collins, 1981; New York, Doubleday, 1982.

The Miller's Dance: A Novel of Cornwall 1812-1813. London, Collins, 1982; New York, Doubleday, 1983.

The Loving Cup: A Novel of Cornwall 1813-1815. London, Collins, 1984; New York, Doubleday, 1985.

The Green Flash. London, Collins, 1986; New York, Random House, 1987.

Cameo. London, Collins, 1988.

The Twisted Sword: A Novel of Cornwall 1815-1816. London, Chapmans, 1990; New York, Carroll and Graf, 1991.

Stephanie. London, Chapmans, 1992; New York, Carroll and Graf, 1993.

Tremor. London, Macmillan, 1995; New York, St. Martin's Press, 1995.

Short Stories

The Japanese Girl and Other Stories. London, Collins, 1971; NewYork, Doubleday, 1972; selection, as The Cornish Farm, Bath, Chivers, 1982.

Uncollected Short Stories

"The Circus," in Winter's Crimes 6, edited by George Hardinge. London, Macmillan, and New York, St. Martin's Press, 1974.

"Nothing in the Library," in Winter's Crimes 19, edited by HilaryHale. London, Macmillan, 1987.


Shadow Play (produced Salisbury, 1978).

Circumstantial Evidence (produced Guildford, Surrey, 1979).


Take My Life, with Valerie Taylor and Margaret Kennedy, 1948; Night Without Stars, 1951.

Television Plays:

Sleeping Partner, 1967.


The Spanish Armadas. London, Collins, and New York, Doubleday, 1972.

Poldark's Cornwall, photographs by Simon McBride. London, BodleyHead, 1983.


Winston Graham comments:

I look on myself simply as a novelist. I have writtenalwayswhat I wanted to write and not what I thought people might want me to write. Reading for me has always been in the first place a matter of enjoymentotherwise I don't readand therefore I would expect other people to read my books for the enjoyment they found in themor not at all. Profit from reading a novel should always be a byproduct. The essence to me of style is simplicity, and while I admit there are depths of thought too complex for easy expression, I would despise myself for using complexity of expression where simplicity will do.

If there has been a certain dichotomy in my work, it is simply due to a dichotomy in my own interests. I am deeply interested in history and deeply interested in the present; and I find a stimulus and a refreshment in turning from one subject and one form to another.

I like books of suspense at whatever level they may be written, whether on that of Jane Austen or of Raymond Chandler; so I think all my books of whatever kind contain some of that element which makes a reader want to turn the pagethe "and then and then" of which E.M. Forster speaks. This can be a liability if over-indulged in; but so of course can any other preference or attribute.

Although I have always had more to say in a novel than the telling of a story, the story itself has always been the framework on which the rest has depended for its form and shape. I have never been clever enoughor sufficiently self-concernedto spend 300 pages dipping experimental buckets into the sludge of my own subconscious. I have always been more interested in other people than in myselfthough there has to be something of myself in every character created, or he or she will not come to life. I have always been more interested in people than in events, but it is only through events that I have ever been able to illuminate people.

* * *

Of the forty-odd novels Winston Graham has published over more than sixty years, many of the modern ones are in some way concerned with crime. But they are not, in the usual sense of the term, "crime stories." In them, crime is a kind of catalyst speeding and provoking action, rather than an end in itself or a sufficient reason for the story, as it is in thrillers. It is seen as an aberration in otherwise normal lives, something non-criminal people, generally respectable and middle-class, may slip into or become involved with, gradually, almost imperceptibly, for all kinds of reasonsgreed, love, loyalty, even a sudden impulse, but not through a "professional" criminal background. It is not surprising that his novel Marnie became one of Hitchcock's most successful filmssince Hitchcock too is interested in the way ordinary people may become entangled in the bizarre.

Graham has written straightforward thrillers, and what Michael Gilbert wrote in choosing The Little Walls for his "classics of detection and adventure" series applies to the other novels equally well. It was, he says, "the very best of those adventure stories which introduce what has come to be known in critical jargon as the anti-hero a useful portmanteau expression to describe someone who undertakes the hero's role, without the hero's normal equipment." The characters in all Graham's novels are, in fact, floundering and alltoo-human amateurs, realistically placed in a present-day life that includes jobs and domesticity well observed, and with a normal proneness to fear, indiscretion, and lack of nerve; caught in the end by their moral attitudes, by those who love them, by grief, conscience, and the realistic eye of their creator, who knows that their amateur status fails to give them the professional's coolness, his moral indifference.

Graham's sinners are nearly all racked by their sins, and he is fascinated both by the "congenital" liars and outsiders (Marnie, or the crook-lover in The Walking Stick ), who are conditioned by their past yet devotedly loved in the present, and by their victims, or the victims of circumstances, mistakes, impulses, devotions: the narrator of After the Act, for instance, who pushes his ailing wife off a balcony, then finds he cannot face the mistress he ostensibly did it for. Graham values suspense; and, for his own fiction, at least, believes in action rather than analysis as the means to bring his characters to life.

His novels can roughly be divided into two, the modern and the historical. To the historical novels he brings the same kind of realism that he does to the present day. Through Cordelia, the Poldark novels set in eighteenth-century Cornwall, or The Forgotten Story, another tale about ordinary people involved in murder, this time at the turn of the last century, one walks familiarly. Graham has the good historical novelist's ability to suggest, rather than describe, the physical surroundings; above all to avoid gadzookery and picturesqueness. As he can get the feel of an insurance office, a printing works, or an auctioneer's, so he can walk into the past, giving the sense and atmosphere of it rather than the physical detail, making one breathe its air.

Tremor recounts the story of a 1960 earthquake in Agadir, a Moroccan resort town, that killed some 12, 000 people. On the surface it is a disaster epic, but in Graham's hands it becomes much more: a penetrating examination of diverse lives brought together by disaster.

Isabel Quigly

About this article

Graham, Winston (Mawdsley)

Updated About content Print Article