Winston Graham, the creator of Poldark:
Was He Any Good As a suspense Writer?
Until recently, I was only vaguely aware that this prolific author wrote another thirty books, mostly suspense novels. Several of them were turned into films and one of them, The Little Walls, won him a prestigious Dagger Award from the Crime Writers’ Association in 1955. I’d never read any of them until last year when, out of sheer curiosity, I started to download them onto my kindle. Worried in case I missed a gem – but also warily conscious that these were written for my grandparent’s generation – I systematically worked my way through them in order of publication.
Take my Life is a superb London-based thriller and courtroom drama about an intelligent and confident young woman determined to clear her husband’s name when he’s accused of murdering his former girlfriend. Meanwhile, The Forgotten Story is a historical novel set in the maritime world of Graham’s beloved Cornwall. It’s a gripping tale of murder, deceit and lost love with a full cast of heavy-drinking seafaring secondary characters and a strangely unsettling murderer who would give most of the protagonists of modern psychological thrillers a good run for their money.
Both books are rippling with tension and pace. The Forgotten Story contains a terrifying shipwreck and Take My Life includes a dramatic steam train dash from Edinburgh to London.
But the best bit about them for me is that despite their antiquity, they both feature clever, independent young female characters who ignore the restrictions of their era and are determined to control their own destinies. This modern attitude gives these seventy-year-old novels a contemporary feel which I appreciate. I probably should have expected this from the man who created Demelza Poldark. Winston Graham rivals Shakespeare with his vivid depiction of lively, confident and memorable women.
Anyway, I thoroughly recommend both these novels and commend them to your readers.
As for me, that’s eleven down with just another nineteen to go. I’m looking forward to the journey. See you on the other side.