Cloak billowing in the wind, tricorne hat perched proudly on his head, he galloped across my television screen and changed my life forever.
Hyperbole? Not by much.
|Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark|
|Aidan Turner as the New Poldark|
Fortunately, initial word on the new Poldark, which has already aired in the UK, has been reassuring. Winston Graham passed away in 2003 (at 95, a year after writing Bella Poldark, the 12th and last Poldark novel!), but Robin Ellis is still living and plays a cameo role in the new series. Several British newspapers have interviewed Ellis about both Poldarks, and he has had only positive things to say about his involvement with them. Ellis also told the Daily Mail, "The key to the enduring popularity of Poldark is the characters and the story and the writing . . . Winston Graham created this community where there is love, hate, poverty, riches, all human life is there. But he does it in a three-dimensional way so you fall in love with it. You care for the characters."
That particular quote gladdens my heart because I came to love the novels as much as the miniseries—and because Graham has been a huge influence on my own work. Waltz with a Stranger and A Song at Twilight are both set largely in Cornwall, though a century later, and I have striven to capture the same sense of place and community, the same wealth and range of emotions that Graham does in The Poldark Saga.
|Demelza tries to comfort a brooding Ross|
My books also contain what I think of as “Poldark moments”—scenes in which desire and attraction play out against the dramatic Cornish landscape.
Like this scene in Waltz with a Stranger, where the heroine, Aurelia—wading in the sea—first sees James in
his native element:
|Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail|
The wind off the sea whistled in her ears and flapped the wide brim of her hat. On impulse, she loosened the ribbons under her chin, took off the hat, and stood bareheaded in the sun, letting the breeze ruffle her hair, tease it loose from its pins. Her skirt billowed around her, and she stepped forward more boldly into the surf. The cold felt merely invigorating this time, and she stood with the sea swirling about her ankles, gazing toward the horizon, where the deepening blue of the sea met the softer blue of the sky.
She did not hear the hoofbeats at first, and even when the sound reached her ears, she did not immediately identify them as such. They seemed nothing more than part of the sea’s rumble. Not until she felt the ground quiver beneath her feet did she look up to see the lone horseman galloping toward her.
Beneath the open sky, horse and rider moved as one, the latter’s head gleaming with the same inky gloss as his horse’s hide, making his shirt seem whiter by comparison. Watching him approach, Aurelia experienced a jolt of recognition almost physical in its intensity. No London dandy, transplanted from his usual environs of Hyde Park and Rotten Row.
No London dandy—but James Trelawney, Earl of Trevenan, in his rightful place.
(From Waltz with a Stranger, Ch. 18)
Every grain of sand, every blade of marram grass matters in Graham’s world, and no character is too insignificant to have a backstory and an inner life. Whatever their station, Graham’s characters love and hate, work and dream, fight and make peace, and involve us—the readers—in their struggles. What more can one ask of any story? The family saga may be out of literary fashion at the moment, but I for one would love to see it revive.
|Winston Graham with "Demelza," "Ross," and "Jud"|
I have so far watched twelve instalments [sic] with hyper-critical gaze and have never seen you put a foot wrong.
You've played many parts and will have many more, but I doubt if you'll play another character in which you achieve a greater identity with what the author intended, or give him – and about ten million other people – so much pleasure.
Winston, Christmas 1975.
What particular authors or works have strongly influenced or inspired you?