The Green FlashBy: Winston Graham
THE GREEN FLASH
Winston Mawdsley Graham OBE was an English novelist, best known for the series of historical novels about the Poldarks. Graham was born in Manchester in 1908, but moved to Perranporth, Cornwall when he was seventeen. His first novel, The House with the Stained Glass Windows was published in 1933. His first ‘Poldark’ novel, Ross Poldark, was published in 1945, and was followed by eleven further titles, the last of which, Bella Poldark, came out in 2002. The novels were set in Cornwall, especially in and around Perranporth, where Graham spent much of his life, and were made into a BBC television series in the 1970s. It was so successful that vicars moved or cancelled church services rather than try to hold them when Poldark was showing.
Aside from the Poldark series, Graham’s most successful work was Marnie, a thriller which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964. Hitchcock had originally hoped that Grace Kelly would return to films to play the lead and she had agreed in principle, but the plan failed when the principality of Monaco realised that the heroine was a thief and sexually repressed. The leads were eventually taken by Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Five of Graham’s other books were filmed, including The Walking Stick, Night Without Stars and Take My Life. Graham wrote a history of the Spanish Armadas and an historical novel, The Grove of Eagles, based in that period. He was also an accomplished writer of suspense novels. His autobiography, Memoirs of a Private Man, was published by Macmillan in 2003. He had completed work on it just weeks before he died. Graham was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1983 was honoured with the OBE.
When he killed his father they sent him to a psychiatrist called Meiss in Wimpole Street. Meiss was a Swiss of late middle age who sometimes did work for the Home Office.
The boy came in that first afternoon in a grey flannel suit, with a scarlet and azure school tie, a small faded carnation in his buttonhole. Hair matted and needing a clip and a brush. He had a Renaissance look. You could see him among the frescoes in some dark Italian church. He looked Dr Meiss in the eye.
‘David,’ said Dr Meiss. ‘David, please sit down. No, over there, it will be more comfortable. Did your mother bring you?’
‘We came together, sir,’ the boy said.
‘Just so. She is in the waiting-room? I will see her later.’
The boy sat down, pulled at the knees of his trousers as if unaccustomed to their being long.
‘I will see her later,’ said Dr Meiss. ‘So far we have only spoken on the telephone. The arrangements, you will understand, were made by her solicitors.’
Meiss had a hawklike, sad face, as if rivers of other people’s troubles had run down his cheeks and left them furrowed and worn. His greying hair, thin on top, curled over elfin ears; his suit was shiny at the elbows.
‘How old are you, David?’
The boy bit the skin round his thumb. ‘Don’t you … won’t they have told you?’
‘I like to hear it from yourself.’
‘When were you eleven?’
‘And you are at school at …?’
‘Hartford Grammar School, sir.’
‘Is that a day school or boarding?’
‘Day school in Leeds.’
‘So you live at home.’
‘I understand you are entered for Loretto when you are thirteen.’
‘Well, yes. I suppose so.’
‘How d’you mean, you suppose so?’
‘Well, it will depend if I pass my Common Entrance, won’t it. I shouldn’t think I’ve much chance of that now.’
‘Who knows? In two years much may have changed.’
Meiss began to reread the report on his desk. For this he put on half-moon spectacles.
‘What I wish to do, just to begin, is to have a friendly talk.’
David had been looking round the room. ‘Are those ivory, those elephants, sir?’
Meiss glanced at the two ornaments on the mantelpiece. ‘They’re ebony, with ivory tusks.’
‘Are they yours, sir?’
‘Yes, I brought them back from Nigeria.’
‘Ah.’ The boy thrust his hands into his trouser pockets, feeling for the bit of cord, the stone, the handkerchief, the four pennies.
‘Talking,’ said Meiss presently, ‘you may think it is all talking. But sometimes, I assure you, it does help. If nothing else it will enable us to get to know each other. And that is the most necessary preliminary if I am able to help you.’ When there was no reply Meiss said: ‘What do you think?’
‘I don’t know, do I, sir?’