Winston Mawdsley Graham was born in Victoria Park, Manchester, England, on June 30, 1910, to chemist Albert Henry Graham, and his wife, Anne Mawdsley Graham. Because their son frequently suffered from pneumonia and was a sickly child, the family moved to Cornwall when he was a boy. During the thirty years that he lived there, Winston learned the region’s history and lore; he later used this knowledge as background for the Poldark novels that he began writing in the 1940’s. When Albert Graham died in 1929, the family was left in reduced financial circumstances, but nineteen-year-old Winston was able to indulge his desire to write because his supportive mother had a small annuity and was willing to finance him while he was establishing his lifelong occupation.
Graham began his career with two rejection slips (the only ones he ever received), before placing short stories in periodicals such as Windsor magazine. By 1934 his first novel, The House with the Stained-Glass Windows, was published, and during the next decade, he turned out more than a dozen novels in a variety of genres, including thrillers, mysteries, crime novels, gothic romances, and historical novels for London publisher Ward, Lock. In the London blitz of World War II, Graham’s copies of his early novels were destroyed, but the author was not particularly dismayed because, as he later admitted, the books were not especially noteworthy for the quality of the writing or...
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